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Bringing it all into the silence of God’s compassion

Catherine Wood

I thought I knew how the day of making my first SCL vows was going to be on Dec 6 2013. The CSC Sisters I live with at Ham were happy for the service to be in their chapel, Bishop Christopher would receive my vows, Sue Hartley was preaching and others who have been a significant part of my journey were going to be there. Then it began to feel as though it were unravelling.

During 2011-12 I tested my vocation with the Community of St Francis. Even though I didn’t go beyond the novitiate the relationships with CSF Sisters are still warm, and I remain committed to the Franciscan path. One of my SCL intentions is Franciscan simplicity, and I was so glad when Sue (CSF Provincial) and Bev (novice guardian) said they would be able to come to my first vow’s service.

Sadly though, during my pre-vows retreat, Jenny, another CSF Sister died of cancer. When I phoned Bev, she had just heard that the only day possible for Jenny’s funeral was Dec 6. Neither of us could quite believe it – they wouldn’t be able to be at my service, nor I with them at the funeral. Then I had a text from another of the CSC Sisters with whom I’ve shared the journey to say that her surgery had been brought forward, and she would not be able to be there either.

Yet as I sat with the sadness of it all, for all of us, I became very conscious of my other SCL intention – an exploration of contemplative silence.

Bringing it all into the silence of God’s compassion, I thought again of a paragraph in Sara Maitland’s ‘A book of silence’ to which everything inside me had been saying ‘yes!’: “I started to think that perhaps silence is God. Perhaps God is silence – the shining, spinning ring ‘of pure and endless light”. God is silence, a silence that is positive, alive... infinite generosity, the self-giving abandonment, the kenotic love of God.”

Catherine Wood at her vows

Gently, the need to be with CSF at the funeral, and to have everyone at my service began to lift with the awareness that we would be there for each other at a very different level – within God, knowing that it is always God’s love at the heart of our closest relationships. My vows turned out to be all the more poignant for knowing we were all being held in that way. I was so grateful that Sue and Ann from SCL and my spiritual director were able to be there in person, and others were there, quite literally in Spirit, as I was with them. It was a wonderful day, and I’m so glad to have found my path within the religious life after so many years of searching. Thank you everyone that I can be part of SCL, and I’ll look forward to getting to know some of you better at our future gatherings.