Show yourself at all times glad and joyful, for almighty God loves a cheerful giver.
– Mary Ward 1609
Over four hundred years ago, Mary Ward, the foundress of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, left us a sure and certain pathway into authentic Christian spirituality and living. The Values she spoke of, and indeed lived, are a well-trod way into the heart of all that Jesus taught and invited us into. Those Values are Sincerity, Justice, Freedom, Verity and Felicity. This year all Loreto schools in Australia are celebrating the Value of Felicity. This means that as a Loreto community, staff, students and parents, we have embarked upon a journey into just what it means to live in the way of Felicity, as Mary Ward understood it and lived it herself. What a wonderful opportunity to reflect upon and deepen our Christian stance in life and our fleshing-out of what we are called to. I say this because the way of Felicity is firmly grounded in the Christian spiritual tradition, and following this path will surely take us into the heart of what it is to live a deeply Christian life.
Our Loreto Schools Mission statement has some wonderfully uplifting words about what Felicity is. Felicity, we are told, manifests itself in joy, cheerfulness, good humour, happiness, hope, friendliness, courtesy, positive thinking, inner peace, courage, optimism, open-heartedness, light-heartedness and self-acceptance. These are what we might call the symptoms of Felicity. They are attractive qualities, I’m sure you’ll agree. It’s easy to warm to Felicity! However, the more I reflect on Felicity the more I am aware that it is possibly the most demanding of Mary Ward’s Values because we can’t possibly sustain all that without something very primary and essential to us that we are rooted in and from which we draw, day by day, amidst the oft-experienced chaos, or mundaneness, or the surprises of life.
Life throws much at us. Things do not always go our way. Each one of us will surely know times of struggle, anxiety, fear, concern for loved ones, illness and loss. It can be hard to be cheerful at such times or to sustain inner peace. We only have to tune in to the latest news report each day to feel bombarded by the darker aspect of humanity’s choices. As I write this, I have just watched the evening news: stories of suffering, cruelty, injustice, desperation and utter sadness, one after the other. How do we remain open-hearted and hope-filled when we witness the tragedies befalling others? How can we feel light-hearted when we are anxious and fretful? In the face of so much pain and darkness in our world our default positon can all too often be a heaviness of heart, a gloominess. We can sink into a lacklustre way of living, into a closed-hearted self-preservation and a kind of ‘plodding along’. All these things are quite contrary to what Mary Ward spoke of and indeed the way she herself lived.
This coming week, on Wednesday 10 February, we celebrate Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent. On Wednesday your daughter will be participating in an Ash Wednesday liturgy in the school chapel. During this liturgy, the girls will be marked with the sign of the cross in ash on their foreheads.
All students, those who are Catholic and those who are of other Traditions, are invited to receive the ashes.
Ash Wednesday is also a day of fasting and abstinence. Catholic practice is that on this day no meat is eaten and that we fast by avoiding sweet treats and over-indulgence. It is recommended that meals be simple and healthy on that day. On Ash Wednesday our school campus will be meat-free: no meat will be served in the café, canteen or in the boarding school.
In keeping with the spirit of this significant day for our community, we ask that your daughter not bring meat for recess or lunch on Ash Wednesday.
Ms Kerry McCullough
Dean of Mission