Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Little Sisters of Jesus

One of the little beacons of hope I encountered on my recent visit to Jerusalem was at the Sixth Station of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. At the Sixth Station we are asked to meditate on one of the non-biblically endorsed incidents on Our Lord's journey to Golgotha: when a woman called Veronica wiped the blood and dirt from Jesus' face with her veil only to find that an image of his face remained on the cloth.

The Church of St Veronica now belongs to the Little Sisters of Jesus, one of the numerous interconnected orders of brothers and sisters who follow in the steps of Blessed Charles de Foucauld.

I have been a quiet devotee of Charles de Foucauld since I read a biography in 1984. If there was ever a living embodiment of the 'poor in spirit' then it is surely he because his poverty of spirit is perfectly united with greatness of heart. His now increasingly well-known prayer extracted from a rather longer meditation continues to be a rich source of contemplation for me:-


I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do,
I thank you.

I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures.
I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul;
I offer it to you
with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord,
and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands,
without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.

The Church of St Veronica, like most ancient sites in Jerusalem, is down a steep flight of steps. It is an oasis of peace and stillness, almost miraculously insulated from the noise and bustle of the Via Dolorosa above. At (current) ground level there is a small shop and workshop where the sisters earn their living by assembling and selling icon copies. I dropped in on two occasions and although in neither instance was there any form of religious service, Our Lord's promise to be present where two or three are gathered together in his name was clearly fulfilled. On the latter occasion the two or three were one of the Little Sisters, a Palestinian woman with a nasty tubercular cough who was having a cup of tea and me. It seemed just right.

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