Being in our MSSP mission in Arequipa, I have noticed that the elderly women of our Paulist parish particularly touched my heart. It was a joy to sit amongst them on Wednesday, after our meeting, unable to speak because of language difficulties, but sensing a real communion with them as women. It reminded me of an experience I had several years ago when travelling in the remote Vietnam province of Vinh.
The women of that village, particularly the elderly women, embraced me for the week that I lived, ate and worshipped with them. Just like the women of Arequipa, we too struggled to communicate because of language barriers. Yet, the simple gestures of hugging, smiling and holding each other and being present for each other, as women, had a profound impact on me. It was like a touch of Heaven on earth.
At the heart of the communion, what we share with each other is a deep sense and a growing realisation of God in our soul’s centre.
Being in a relationship with these women reawakened within me the sanctity of my own womanhood, at a time when it mattered most. The recognition that my womanhood was a gift from God resurrected a primal memory that I had once known but had long forgotten.
Through embracing me, at a time in my life when I needed to be carried specifically by women, these wordless, nameless, unassuming women, not only gifted me with their sisterhood, but were, I have since come to believe, participants in God’s grand plan, revealing the Mother-God who never stops giving Herself.
The time I have spent with our Paulist brothers and sisters and the beautiful people of Arequipa at the General Chapter reminds me that we are participators in these great and strange adventures of the Holy Spirit. At the heart of the communion, what we share with each other is a deep sense and a growing realisation of God in our soul’s centre. They bring me back to the gospel values, linking to the life of Jesus, as the purest example of a life lived in fellowship with Abba. And they affirm for me the idea that God’s aims in history are fulfilled by the common life of people.
That is church for me.