Over the past few months as I have become acquainted with the members of the Seeds of the Word, I have come to see Our Blessed Mother in each one of them: a joyful young woman dressed in simple blue clothes, her life overflowing with the Life of God. The Seeds of the Word is a Brazilian contemplative and missionary community whose mission in Calgary began in 2014. Visiting their home, I have peeked into the community’s life of prayer, penance, and mission, which they live in cheerful hiddenness. Their contagious smiles reveal the treasure of their courageous hearts which have opened to receive and give the gift of God.
The focus of the community is intimacy with Jesus Christ through the Word of God. For them, Jesus is the Precious Seed, whom they receive in personal and communal prayer, and then share with the world. Christmas is the most important feast for the community because of the centrality of the Word of God in their spirituality. Sr. Ana Sophia shares her experience: “I always get emotional at Christmas time when we contemplate that Baby... the Word of God Who came to save the world. It is so powerful to look at Him.”
One of the newest sisters, Sr. Bridget, formerly Alissa Going, from Vauxhall, AB, professed her first vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience on December 3, the feast of St. Francis Xavier. Through these vows, she has made a commitment to her first year of consecrated life. As Sr. Ana Sophia explains,
“the call to consecrated life is a special call from the Lord, not to everyone, but just a few people who He separates from the world to Himself because these people need more than what the world offers us. That’s why we leave everything behind for Him: because those good things are not enough. We need more.”
Consecrated men and women show each of us, whatever our state in life may be, that it is only in giving ourselves to God that we can receive Him. At Christmastime, the Child Jesus reaches His sweet hands out to us in love. In order to truly hold Him in our arms, we must release our mortal grasp on all the things that pass away. If human weakness trembles at the prospect of such self-emptying, it is still when it senses the warmth of love shared in the manger.
Ana, one of the postulants said, “We do not lose anything. We just gain everything.” Sr. Mary Elisabeth remarked that as Sr. Bridget consecrated herself to God, “she was so happy, she was glowing!” It is nothing less than the radiant glow of heaven, in which consecrated people participate on earth.
The community follows Our Lady’s Christmas-time model in being both contemplative and missionary. After receiving the Word of God in her heart and in her womb, our strong and selfless Mother travelled with haste over rough hills to share the gift of God with her cousin Elizabeth. If it is contemplation to receive the embrace of God, it is mission to offer this embrace to others.
The community’s Rule of Life states that “there is no mission without contemplation.” The generous prayer lives of the Seeds of the Word overflow into their lives of mission. They are missionaries in everything they do, lovingly offering each moment of their day for the salvation of souls. “If during the day we don’t go anywhere, we are still missionaries in the house.”
The specific apostolate of the community varies based on the diocese they are in. In Calgary, the Seeds visit schools, parishes and groups to share the Word of God. Their sabbatical year program, which currently takes place internationally, is an opportunity for people of all ages to grow closer to the Word of God and to find their places in the Church. Sr. Bridget took part in the program as a way to take a step forward in discerning her call to the consecrated life.
Ana said of Sr. Bridget, “It was very beautiful to see her courage because if you want to follow Christ you need to be very courageous... to go to another place where God is calling you. It was very beautiful to see how she said yes to God’s plan, whatever it was, even if it was hard for her. We pray that many other people here in the diocese will also answer the call of God, even if it is difficult.”
Each sister in Calgary has left her family and country to share the Word of God in our city. Like Our Blessed Mother, they are eager to travel long distances and surmount tall hills for the sake of sharing the Gospel. I was blessed to be present to bid farewell to Sr. Bridget and Sr. Edith Mary as they left the St. John Paul II house in Calgary to go to the community’s new mission in the Philippines. As the door closed behind them, one of the remaining sisters said with a sad smile on her face, “this is the life of the missionary.”
“Religious life,” Sr. Mary Elisabeth insists, “takes courage to embrace, to say that I will say no to the things the world gives me and to say yes to a life that is hidden many times, a life with sacrifices many times, but a real life, a life with Jesus who is real. It's not a life of dreams. It's a real life in which you love God through people. It’s a life offered to others. It’s a life that is given 24/7.”
Regardless of the state of life to which God calls him or her, each Christian is called to a courageous life of contemplation and mission. As Christmas draws near, we are each invited to open our hearts to the Infant Jesus, that Adorable Little Seed, Who wishes to be planted firmly in our souls and to bear the fruits of love, peace, and joy in our lives.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers