The feast day for Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, foundress of the Religious of the Sacred Heart, is May 25th. However, she died on an Ascension Thursday, which is celebrated today. Here at school we are combining the two celebrations today and I am offering a reflection. I include here the text of what I will present.
Feast of Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat
Harmonic waves, the Ascension of Jesus, and a quotation from a Saint born 230 years ago. Hmmm. Let’s see what happens when we stir that all together…could be interesting.
I asked the choir director at my church one day about the notes that were coming from the piano. He began explaining that the music I heard came from the convergence, the coming together, of different sound waves emanating from the vibration of the hammer striking the wires in the body of the piano. Those waves vibrate in my ear and send a signal to the auditory nerve that produces sound in my mind. So, it really is all in your head!
This concept, waves coming together to make harmonic sounds, got me thinking about the voice of God and the waves that would come together to make that sound. I can imagine that the waves of sound that resonate into what I understand to be the voice of God come from the vibrations of laughter, the vibrations of wailing, and crying and living, the sounds of surprise, joy, and tenderness generated by all of kinds of creation. The sounds of wind and kittens and flowers when they bloom and children lump-thumping up four flights of stairs in the morning.
In her day, Madeleine Sophie Barat made a lot of noise of one sort or another. She challenged common practice by educating girls. She wrote more than 14,000 letters. She stood by her faith and her Sisters in the midst of religious extremism, and challenges on many fronts. This while always-always-always listening to what was being done, said, shown, lived and trying to discover and reveal the Love of God in all.
Also, she is quoted as having said…”I understand silence better than words…let us pray like that and we shall love.”
Being a wondering and somewhat imaginative soul, I can’t help but entertain the possibility that silence is what happens when all harmonic waves—all of them!!—somehow come together. So, perhaps silence is not the absence of anything, but rather the fullness of everything. Light is the fullness of color—broken apart by prisms and raindrops into component parts. Perhaps silence is the fullness of sound and it is broken into audible notes and noises by creation doing what creation does—live, breathe, have being-ness.
Sophie was talking about praying that fullness. Praying silence that leads to love…because love is about that fullness. Full knowing, full accepting, full discovery, full presence, fully real, living, breathing, and having being.
This is certainly not to say that words have no place in prayer or that words can not convey love…only that silence can be considered full rather than empty, available to us, waiting, in fact, to speak its piece within each of us.
Which brings me to the Ascension. The Acts of the Apostles puts the event this way– “As they were watching, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” The one the apostles had been listening to, the man who had already been crucified and raised from the dead, ascended to heaven right before them. His being was gone. Imagine the silence that remained…filled with awe. Wonder. Amazement. Sadness. A silence filled with…well, fullness. A fullness that includes the love Jesus modeled and preached, living on. The voice of love passed on and shared. Heard now not by listening to the voice from the man, Jesus of Nazareth, crucified prophet, Son of God but by learning to listen to one another…listening to the buzz of the bee…to the crash of a wave and the wind of the spirit…to our conscience…
Jesus did not leave the apostles, really. And he didn’t leave us. He made waves in his day. The vibrations continue. Madeleine Sophie made them too. We ride those waves still. We hear them. We feel them.
It is our call to share them…to see that they continue. Use your voice. Revel in silence. Love. Serve. Model. Teach. Learn.
Change the World.