↑ Return to Congregational Resources

Recollection Points

Recollection is a time to look back and change our ways…Recollection

Recollection Points for April 2015


“I would like to see my daughters always filled with joy. Not a vain and worldly pleasure, but a joy that proceeds from a pure heart devoted to God…”

(Bl. Brigida of Jesus)

We are entering the season of Easter when Easter Joy fills our hearts and our whole being. It’s a time to share the joy of resurrection through our life witness, through a life characterized by joy. Blessed Brigida, our Foundress exhorts us, her daughters, on Spiritual Joy. She says those who possess God’s grace, possess this joy. Joy is the fruit of the gracious presence of God with us and within us. Mother wants us to rejoice and to preach the spiritual life with joy like St. Francis of Assisi. We can never find genuine happiness except in a good conscience and a virtuous life.

Pope Francis’ message to consecrated men and women religious for the year of Consecrated Life is to be ‘Witnesses of Joy’. “I want to say one word to you and this word is Joy. Wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!” (Pope Francis)We are called to know and show that God is able to fill our hearts to the brim with happiness.We need not seek our happiness elsewhere; the genuine love and relationship in our communities should increase our joy and our total self-giving in service to others, brings us life-long personal fulfillment.As religious we are called to be contented and satisfied. Even in our troubles, disappointments and infirmities we should be able to discover ‘perfect joy’.For it is here that we learn to recognize the face of Christ, who became like us in all things, and to rejoice in the knowledge that we are being conformed to him who, out of love of us, did not refuse the sufferings of the cross.

According to St. Paul, joy is the fruit of the Spirit and a typical constant feature of the Kingdom that is strengthened by trials and tribulations. The source of joy must be found in prayer and charity. In his difficulties Paul felt full of joy and a sharer of the glory that we all await.  We know well that with Jesus life becomes richer and that with him it is easier to find joy and meaning in everything. Anyone who has met the Lord and follows him faithfully is a messenger of the joy of the Spirit.

The beauty of consecrated life is joy. It is the joy of bringing God’s love to all. Joy is not a useless ornament. It is a necessity, the foundation of human life. In their daily struggles, every man and woman tries to attain joy and abide in it with the totality of their being. As religious we are called to give witness to the joy that arises from the certainty of knowing we are loved, from the confidence that we are saved. We hear the Master Jesus say: ‘May my joy be in you and may your joy be complete’ (John 15/11).We are called to be bearers of this message of joy and  hope, giving serenity, God’s consolation, His tenderness towards all. But if we first experience the joy of being consoled by Him, of being loved by Him, then we can bring that joy to others. Let us fill our lives with joy so that we become  witnesses of joy, bearing witness to how Jesus lived on this earth. Today people listen to witnesses. ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’. They are sobering words  especially for us religious who are called to be joyful witnesses.


There is a parable about a young African called Kahua. Kahua lived in the hills above a vast grassy land in Africa. One day he came down to the plains and turned up at the catholic compound where he met the priest. Kahua asked for a job for six months and as the priest urgently needed someone, Kahua was given a job working closely with the priest. It turned out that Kahua was honest and industrious, imaginative and reliable and, above all, he got along with everyone. The priest came to rely on him and was shocked when just short of the six months Kahua came to tell him that the time was almost up and he would be leaving in a week. The priest said, “No, Kahua, you can’t go. I need you. I know I have been rough and difficult at times, and I haven’t paid you enough, but I promise to be better and make it up to you.”


Kahua explained it really was not about money. He told the priest that he lived in the hills and that one day as he was thinking about his life he had looked out on the plains below, where he saw the christian compound and the muslim mosque. He knew they were among the great world religions and thought they might have the answers for which he was searching. So he told the priest, “I thought I would go and work for you and the Imam for six months each, and then I would know which religion was best for me. Now it is time to go to work for the Imam.” “My God, Kahua, why didn’t you tell me.” muttered the priest.


The fact is most people do not tell us. They watch us. It is our witness, not our sermons or homilies that is important. People want to see, that in everyday life we are joyful, compassionate, patient, kindand not jealous, angry or petty. People do not expect us to be perfect, but they want to see that our commitment makes a difference. Kahua was smart in wanting to learn about religion  not from the sermons or homilies but from working with them. The quality of our works and lives speak more powerfully than anything we can say.


Pope Francis reminds us, “The consecrated life will not flourish as a result of brilliant vocation programs, but because the young people we meet find us attractive, because they see us as men and women who are happy! Similarly, the apostolic effectiveness of consecrated life does not depend on the efficiency of its methods. It depends on the eloquence of your lives, lives which radiate the joy and beauty of living the Gospel and following Christ to the full”.


Are we joyful witnesses? Do the young people we meet find us attractive, women who are happy?

Do we experience the Spiritual Joy our Foundress speaks of and radiate that joy; the joy of following Jesus?


Recollection points for March -2015

The Freedom of Evangelical Poverty

Examine the affections in your heart and see if there are any in which the Lord takes no delight. Attachments choke the heart and hinder its enjoyment of God, especially when God knocks with inspirations and the soul does not respond to His call.”

( Asc. Dir. p. 98 )

Mother Brigida followed and imitated Christ in his poverty, in keeping with the Gospel, as the best way of becoming conformed to His life and mission.  For us too, poverty is a demand of our missionary vocation. Mother Brigida had a special love for poverty, even as a secular, with a dislike for show and vanity.Once Jesus appeared to her stripped as on the cross but resplendent with great light and he said to her, “I want you stripped in this way and then I will cloth youwith splendor and radiance.” This vision stimulated Mother Brigida to love poverty. Like St. Ignatius of Loyola, she too believed that poverty was the protective wall for the religious and so she was most particular about its observance.

Our foundress wanted the house of St. Ursula to be founded on poverty so that God could provide for all its needs. She wanted to inculcate a similar trust and faith in Him in those called to this House so that it would be seen by all as God’s works and not ours.  She says, “Poverty should be very dear to us. As imitators of Christ, our leader, we should refrain from keeping superfluous items and much less, luxurious ones” (Asc. Dir. P.84).

We find our motive for professing lifelong evangelical poverty in Christ: in his person, in his conduct and in his teaching.Jesus lived the Spirit of poverty so radically in his life and it is to this he invites all who follow him.In the Gospels we see that when Jesus gave his apostles the power and authority to speak, to act in his name and do the works which he did, he also did something unheard of. He linked power and authority with love and humility. Jesus tells the apostles to ‘travel light’ with little or no provision (Mk.6:7-11) because ‘poverty of spirit’ would free them from greed and preoccupation with possessions and make ample room for God’s provisions.  The Lord wants his disciples to experience the freedom of evangelical poverty.

The demands of our mission, as well as the fact that the practice of poverty affects the deep-seated craving of our nature to possess things, make it indispensable for us to develop sufficient spiritual maturity to center our life in contemplating, loving and following the Poor Christ. The source of an authentic solidarity and of a true option for the poor springs from a heart that is poor and that follows the Poor Christ.

Our inner freedom is tragically compromised when we settle for little “pleasures” of possessing little things rather than embracing the true treasure of the human heart- God. There is a phenomenon of “collector syndrome” among some of us who tend to hoard all sorts of things, often unnecessary for our apostolate and personal life, and jam our rooms with these collections. There may be articles ranging from needles to electronic gadgets in thecollection.  It looks as if an empty heart compensates with a room jammed with things. Often “collector syndrome” is a psychological solution for some unhealed trauma of childhood which the person still keeps in his/her unopened psychic baggage. The religious spirit often gets suffocated under the weight of the baggage rendering fraternal life insipid and apostolate barren.

Some symptoms of “collector syndrome”

  • Presence of lot of things in one’s room or in custody (a personal mini general store).
  • Others in the community are not comfortable to ask for the use of them.
  • Urge to buy or have for oneself things even when they are of no immediate use
  • Getting the same or similar materials again and again.
  • Rationalization that these things will be of some use some day.
  • Buy and collect things just because they are cheap or on discount.
  • Sense of loss or emptiness when a collected material is lost, damaged or taken by someone else.

As the person gains inner freedom and spiritual and psychological maturity, the craving to collect usually diminishes. 

Some tips to address “collector syndrome”

  • Make an inventory of the personal collections in one’s room (“my” things) which does not belong to the “ours” of the community.
  • Awareness and acceptance of the addictive nature of the “collector syndrome” in one’s life.
  • Seek psychological and spiritual help to deal with thisproblem.
  • Consciously choose to give up things to meet the need of others and experience the joy of giving.
  • Occasionally (at least once a year) celebrate a “spring clean up” to get rid of things you have not used in the year.
  • Do some inner work to find one’s true self and inner security in the mystery of God, the foundation for religious life (to move from “having” mode to “being” mode).

Are you a “collector” in religious life? If so, celebrate a “spring clean up” to get rid of things you have not used in the year.During this holy season of lent, let us try to recover the freedom of evangelical poverty.


Story for reflection

Once a tourist visited the famous Polish rabbi, HofetzChaim. He was astonished to see that the rabbi’s home was only a simple room filled with books. The only furniture was a table and a bench. “Rabbi, where is your furniture?” asked the tourist. “Where is yours?” replied Hofetz. “Mine? But I am only a visitor here. I am only passing through,” said the tourist. “So am I, said the rabbi.

When a man begins to live more deeply within, he lives more simply without.


Recollection points for the month of February- 2015


          “A soul cannot be united with God unless it is totally detached from everything and from herself”. (Blessed Brigida)                         

 “Your heart must become a sea of love, your mind must become a     
                     river of detachment”.( Sri . Chinmoy)

Life is beautiful and yet so often we miss this beauty because of our attachments. Oxford dictionary defines detachment as the process of being detached from. Along our life we had become attached to different persons, things, position and power. Unconsciously we attached to these persons and things and were emotionally dependent on them. Often we try to rearrange the world around us so as to keep the object of our attachments. Buddha speaks of attachment and Jesus speaks of giving up all your possessions to be His disciples. St Ignatius prays only for God’s love and grace because he realized God as the source of his being. Once we are gripped by this love of God we surrender everything into God’s hands, all we need is His love and grace. Our Foundress Blessed Brigida of Jesus surrendered herself to God’s will. She realized that everything is a gift from God. We possess nothing for all is given by God. Her greater concern was finding God’s will and seeking to serve God in even relatively unimportant matters. She had become so sensitive to her attachment to God that she became very careful about the use of things .She did everything so far it helped her to serve God more faithfully.  Hence from the depth her being she was able to surrender everything to God. This is the key to the meaning of religious life.  In our world today with its values and norms of having, religious life make us aware that this having comes from God and if we have,  we need to share with the have ‘nots’ and not use selfishly. The deeper the truth that everything ‘I am’ comes from God sinks into us greater will be our surrender to God in everything we do.Then our greatest joy is when we joyously abandon ourselves in to God’s loving hands. This what our Mother Foundress did.

 Attachment causes unhappiness. It makes us insensitive to the wider reality of life. Our minds are filtering the data of reality according to our attachments, beliefs and fears. This is because of our distorted visions. Drop all attachments. And the process of dropping all attachment is a painful process. But the freedom and the joy we experience is tremendous..  When one possess a thing or person it becomes a nightmare and one realizes that the thing, position or person belongs to God and hence ultimately cannot be possessed one becomes free.  Jesus was a person who was free from all attachments. His love excludes no one and nothing. He sees persons and things as they really are. In other words, in order to follow Jesus we must detach ourselves from all worldly attachments (deny yourself); and detach ourselves from any fear over what it might cost to be a disciple (take up your cross). Sell all you have and distribute it to the poor and you will have a treasure in heaven. Then come follow me” (Lk 18:22). With spiritual detachment, we recognize the cost of discipleship but, at the same time, we acknowledge the promise of something greater, which might be freedom of heart, freedom to be one’s true self or freedom to love. Jesus wants us to be free from the burden of attachments so that we might be happy and enjoy life. That is why he said: “I came so that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10b) As we surrender control to God, we release anxiety and fear. As we release anxiety and fear, we come home to ourselves, to that place in our hearts where we know we have all we need in the present moment, that all is well and that life is good.   Spiritual detachment can help us find this holy place and self-discipline insures that we remain there for the remainder of this life and into eternity.

Question for Reflection:

  • How often have you willingly surrendered to the Will of God as revealed to you in prayer?
  • When you evaluate your life, can you honestly say that you are really  free from  your attachment to family, things, positions, persons and power etc to serve God.?
  • Ask for the grace to be totally dependent on God and to have a heart that is properly detached from everything that is unhealthy.

Suggested readings:

Ascetic Directory” Page: 31 – 32

Lk14: 25 – 33. Gen 12: 1 – 9

Sr. Merrine Jose

Vimala Province


Recollection points for January-2015

  “We Ursulines are to ‘belong to God with a total detachment,’ ‘attend to mortification and abnegation of our will and passion,’ love the Institute ‘as their mother, like real daughters,’ and ‘embrace the Cross’ with a generous heart.”
(Constitutions art. 7)


The Christian Life has two aspects, one ascetical, the other mystical. Both terms can describe the whole spiritual journey, but usually they are used in a restrictive sense. The word “ascetical” comes from the Greek askesis which means exercise, training, discipline. Ascetical practices are methods and programmes designed to restrain the influence of sin and maximize union with God. The whole work is under grace, and grace is the mystical element of Christian life.

Christian life is radically and ultimately mystical. But it is received and fostered in the personal engagement and struggle of asceticism. Ascetical practices are human strategies for spiritual living. They have elements of effort and method, deprivation and voluntary suffering. Asceticism addresses the effects and vagaries of sin, which in turn are the source of further sins. Effective asceticism is the work of grace, not heroic will power or high tolerance of pain. Christian asceticism is concerned with obstacles to the life of grace, but it is not anti-human, or anti –body or anti-world. The primary reason for asceticism is the kingdom, the call to transcendence, the demands of the eschatological reality of the Gospel.

Monastic asceticism:

Asceticism and monasticism are almost synonymous terms as the origins of the ascetical life are the origins of monasticism. The practice of seeking seclusion from the world in order to better practice ascetic ideals was not unknown in the third century but it was not until the conversion of Constantine that it became general. 

The rise of monasticism by the beginning of fourth century is attributed to the huge changes in the Church brought about by the Emperor Constantine’s Conversion. These included the acceptance of Christianity as the main Roman religion and the subsequent laxity following the realignment of the Church along material and political lines. The end of persecution also meant that martyrdom by blood was no longer an option to prove one’s piety and instead the long-term “martyrdom” of the ascetic became common. At the beginning of modern times the great heralds of contemporary spirituality-Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales-continued the strong tradition of asceticism. These eminent mystical persons asserted the necessity of asceticism and taught a rigorous practice .Suffering was a grace, not for its own sake but as a sign of identification with Jesus and a proof of Love for God.


By the mid twentieth century, in deviation from the traditional orders, many different expressions of the monastic ‘common life’ appeared. The founders of the the 20th century monasteries  saw asceticism in  terms of the daily spiritual discipline needed to fulfill the “one thing necessary ‘of seeking  God in the midst of life.

It is true in the lives of the saints we meet some very extraordinary and apparently extravagant mortification;   it must not be forgotten that these practices went hand in hand with the cultivation of the sublimest virtues, that they were for the moist apart performed in secret, and in no case for ostentation and display.The virtue of prudence is a part of asceticism. The reformation or abolition of certain orders because of corruption only emphasizes the truth that monastic asceticism means an organized effort to attain perfection. If that purpose is kept in view, the order continues to exist; if it ceases to be ascetic in its life, it is abolished.

Virtue of asceticism and detachment in the life of Blessed Brigida

Blessed M. Brigida our Foundress, being a mystic and prophet, it follows naturally that she was an ascetic too. Her biography and her writings give ample evidence to this fact. The seeds of mortification and detachment from worldly vanities were sown in her tender heart when Brigida was only 4 years old. She preserved the flame of divine graces in her from then onwards. Even as a lay person she abhorred vanity and used to keep fast on many occasions.

Brigida often came to love suffering that she began to say “to love and to suffer”(cfr. biography P.110) Besides suffering every cross cheerfully, she was eager to practice very severe penances voluntarily. She considered her body as the worst enemy of the spirit and she inflicted pain on her body with the permission from her confessor. She often fasted and on Fridays fasting was rigorous –on bread and water alone .with permission from confessor, she let wax fall on her hands, which resulted in blisters on her hand. Eventually it was noticed by the confessor and he withdrew the permission for such penances. She obtained permission to go barefoot in summer and winter for 3 years. Such was her inclination for bodily penances. In later years she was afflicted with severe illness which she bore heroically and cheerfully for 24 years –her ultimate act of asceticism.

She was very careful to instruct her sisters that they practice the virtue of detachment and grow in all other virtues.

For further reading: The beatitudes(Mt.5:3-12),Flesh warring against the spirit(Rom.8:5-13),The old man versus new man(Eph.4:22-24),Demonic struggle(Eph.6:12), Asc.Dir. various Souveniors NO.20, Asc.Dir.pages 32to 34

Points for reflection:

  1. What inspiration do I draw from the ascetic life of our Foundress?
  2. What place do I give to ascetical practices and other spiritual disciplines, to fulfill the “one thing necessary” of seeking God in the midst of my daily life?