I’ve been doing a lot of remembering lately, not unusual for one who has reached a milestone in life like 50 years as a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. I smile as I think of the three women who are celebrating 80 years in our religious order – all of whom “have their wits about them” and I wonder about the flow of their memories at age 98 and 99 years.
The first lectionary reading today is about the death of Sarah at age 127 years and Abraham’s concern about a wife for his son, Isaac, so that his family line should continue as God had promised him. Abraham had a lot to look back on at this juncture. The Scriptures say that he was already 75 years of age when he was called to leave his home and establish his family in a new place that God would show him, a move that would begin his life and that of his descendants anew. God promised that they would be a people uniquely (or particularly, in some translations) God’s own. Abraham kept that covenant with God and although his life was blessed, it wasn’t always easy.
This morning, in addition to those women who left their homes for the convent in the 1930s, not knowing how their lives would unfold but feeling God calling them, I think of my own mother and her mother before her. Actually, all four of my grandparents left Ireland at an early age to seek a better life in the United States of America. Having no idea what was in store for them, they trusted God to lead them. My mother was 46 years of age, having lived in the circle of her extended family in the same town all her life, when my father’s work necessitated a move to a new place that seemed like the end of the world for her. It was 8 hours away, if the trains ran on schedule, a rare thing in 1960. It took commitment and a love that would admit of no compromise to follow my father, who was himself in that same position of loss and unknowing, and it was their faith in God that led the way. As it turns out, we were the first in a majority of family members to “leave the nest” and who now are located all across the country and beyond.
This reverie brings me to the conclusion that whether our lives are lived in relative familiarity of all kinds or are disrupted by choice or necessity, it takes courage and a willingness to choose each day and what it holds for our growth. My mother’s pain at leaving her sisters and friends became the seedbed for her growth as a person in ways that never would have happened had she not leaned into the new opportunities and challenges afforded her in the second half of her life. Even should we ourselves not be the prime mover in change – rather like Sarah or my mother, moving as a spouse, or my siblings and myself as the new generation whose roots have been set on both coasts of the USA – we are all affected by change. I believe that our willingness to embrace it will always be the measure of the blessing change brings.