Being present to the future
Sister Joyce Lehman • President, Sisters of the Precious Blood
The phrase, most commonly attributed to philosopher and essayist George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” reminds us that it is important to be willing to look at history in order to learn from it. Albert Einstein’s saying that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” encourages us not to get stuck there. Though we may long for what made us comfortable in the past, we can’t help but to be drawn forward into the mystery that is the future, even when it is uncertain and sometimes downright scary.
Just like families keep heirlooms and photo albums of past days and generations, as a general rule most institutions have archives which hold the stories of their founding and progress, failures and successes. We are no different. We have letters, documents, photos and artifacts from various places and periods in our history. Today we can find pertinent historical names and places, see pictures and recall fondly (or not so fondly) events from our own past, and wonder at the bravery and courage of so many Sisters who answered God’s call. We admire our early Sisters who found themselves on foreign soil learning and speaking a different language and doing things they never would have imagined. Later generations went to other parts of this country and to other countries and did the same. As the stories unfold we see how they made do with very little for themselves and yet were able to build up schools, orphanages, nursing homes and networks of prayer and care.
While it’s fun to gather and tell stories of times gone by, to laugh at our blunders and missteps, and to wonder at how things happened and why, we are not meant to settle in the past. As our Community gets older (going on 179 years) and we discover that we are celebrating more diamond and platinum than silver jubilees, we can be tempted to yearn for the “good old days,” when we were young and vital and could make a difference in the classroom, in the parish, in the boardroom. Now looking behind us and seeing very few who are around to take our place, we can be tempted to circle the wagons and let the dreaming and imagining of a brighter future to others.
That temptation to self-absorption and gratification, along with all those other temptations that a self-indulgent culture tells us are ours by right of our age, needs to be exorcised right along with any temptation to “rest on our laurels.” The future begins every day we wake up, and it includes listening to what it is that God is asking of us for that day. One of the great gifts we have been given, and we are called to give in return, is our relationship to God expressed not only in action for the “least of these” but also in our daily prayer. While society values productivity, our Sisters value presence: to each person they meet and to the God they love and who loves them.
Our Sisters are powerhouses of prayer. At Salem Heights, just outside chapel, is a prayer board where Sisters and anyone else can put up the names and intentions of those who want us to pray for them. On the website, www.preciousbloodsistersdayton.org, is a place where those who visit can indicate their concerns and desire for prayer. The Sisters take these petitions seriously, bringing the needs to the attention of God. However God answers the prayer, the petitioner and the pray-er are changed by the very act of presenting the prayer and depending on God.
As we recall the past, strive to be fully present in the present and anticipate a future where the reign of God is revealed, let us present ourselves and the needs of others to God, holding an abiding trust in Jesus who shed His Blood that we might have life and life eternal.