Orientation to the Retreat
Called to Care for Our Common Home
To everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven…
We, the global Congregation of Notre Dame, rejoice to celebrate the Season of Creation during a Season of Jubilee in honor of the 400th anniversary of the birth of Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys. Whether you know her or not, we are delighted to share the spiritual legacy and teachings of this remarkable visionary and world-builder who has entrusted her the charism to her Congregation of Notre Dame and the entire global Christian Community.
This year of favor arrives in a challenging season for our planet and for all living-kind; a time of crisis and decision that summons us to the greatest corporate awakening we have ever dared. The dream of a new world is already in process. With one heart and mind, we are welcoming it with a new hope for "the Earth and the Poor" and for each of us as we work at its realization. Therefore, we enter into prayer and reflection together to pray for the grace of "ecological conversion" and the discovery of our personal and communal ecological vocation.
Nearly four centuries ago, Marguerite Bourgeoys engaged in a mission to return to the Original Garden revealed to her in the wilderness of North America. Though she could not anticipate the devastation the coming European adventure would bring to the land and the peoples of the Western Hemisphere as the years went on, she herself came not for land, resources, or conquest, but to find a place to live into a dream of beginning the world again. She traveled as far from the religious conflicts, violence, ecological exhaustion, and social desolation as she could, in order to leave behind the ruins of an old world and discover the grace of a new world.
With only this dream - literally - she ventured all alone by ship to an impoverished new French settlement called "Ville Marie" - The City of Mary - to foster a new Christian community in the spirit of the new Church envisioned by the Catholic Counter Reformation. Tragically, she soon discovered that the violence of religious and political conflicts had arrived before her, and the enterprise of ecological and intercultural violence was simply being transplanted, taking root through ignorance and greed in the pristine forests of Canada.
Yet, like grains of hope, all that she carried abroad in her baluchon, in her heart and mind, were the heirloom seeds of the original Garden and of her own Gospel desire to renew the world in the Creator's vision. Hers were seeds of love and imagination, personal courage and ingenuity, creativity and daring, sustainable life-practice, feminist self-actualization, a desire to meet and to know “the other as other.” Hers were seeds of compassion and joy with and for others. Hers were seeds for starting over.
Eventually her earliest sisters’ seeds of promise bloomed in the soil of great generosity and faithful community. She and they fostered the conditions for making the world anew through multiple impossibilities. But her faith in the power of renewal and revival was more tenacious, her faith in the power of "the Lover" to restore the world awakened a new mission of what she and the authentic Christian community could be in the looming emergence of "modernity."
Now, in this Anthropocene - the climax of modernity, we her sisters and friends have re-discovered Marguerite's potent seeds for recovering "the Garden" of our Common Home that so inspired her life and legacy. Her wisdom and witness have become those heirloom seeds she leaves us for planting anew in this perilous season of Earth.
In fact, she composed the brief and radical rule for the Congregation from the pages of Genesis, or more accurately, from the Scripture of Creation:
The Rule for this community, and for everyone, is the one God gave from the creation of the world…“You shall love God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself.”
This word has gone out from all the Earth for it is said that God will send forth His fire winging to the ends of the world…that all creatures - Angels, Humans, Animals, Inanimate Objects will say each in their own tongue: “It is not we who have made ourselves, but God has given us being…” The Sun proclaims this truth, the smallest creatures repeat the same in a language which is mute to humans, but heard by their Creator that unless its Creator sustained it, it would fall back into nothingness.” Writings of Marguerite Bourgeoys, p. 180
Four-hundred years after the birth of this courageous, eco-zoic visionary, we, the CND Family, now in mission to the four-directions of our planet for its restoration and healing, live into a new vision with all our brothers and sisters who are inspired by Laudato si’ and are responding to “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor.” With all of you and all together we live in the season of the revitalization of our Garden home. Likewise, today, we attend to the mandate of Marguerite: “Be a little plot in the garden…” -
a vibrant plot in
The Garden of Our Common Home.
It is in this spirit that we desire to explore her ecological spirituality and mission and share her wisdom for the life of the world.
Let the Season of Creation Begin!