Sacred Spaces

by Susan Merritt, RDC

 

One thing I ask, this alone I seek, to dwell in the house of God all my days.

PSALM 27

 

Behold God’s dwelling is with the human race.

REVELATION 21:3

 

Dwell in God’s Love.

          THOMAS S. PRESTON

 

I

 

Among the most sacred of spaces are dwellings, spaces where we “live,” in fact or in spirit; in ministry or in prayer.

 

Dwelling places have a strong presence in the Divine Compassion story; they are spaces of love and also of empowerment.

 

Early on Mrs. Starr wrote that we “rescue children . . . providing a house . . . where such children may be gathered, sheltered and nurtured and receive instruction . . . to earn their own living” (1881).

 

Describing the purchase in White Plains Mother Mary Veronica refers to the space as “twelve acres of land and a dwelling house . . .” (1902).

 

She describes the new church as the place where “the Lord has chosen “to dwell . . . .”

 

Later Mother Mary Veronica notes that “. . . there is a tone in our houses that gives the keynote to a good life when they (girls) leave us” (1895).

 

So many stories attest to love and respect for the individual, to appreciation and expectation of goodness, and always to empowerment of the person. We and our extended community have “dwelt in the house of God,” attentive to our spaces; to their beauty, to their hospitality, to their compassion.

The recent pilgrimage to Good Counsel by a large Midwestern family continues the story. The grandmother in the group had recently discovered that her mother had been a young orphan at Good Counsel around 1900. The family was moved—young and old alike—to see the beauty of the place, the original buildings, the photographs and most of all the stories of love and compassion. They felt they had encountered a sacred space.

 

II

 

And we discover that our God dwells with us here on earth, our dwelling place, with all of God’s people. Our whole world is our sacred space.

We find that our traditional “home” and history of hospitality and empowerment of women and children might now extend beyond familiar faces and places to all of the women and the children who are most of the poor in our world, as well as the poor in our church.

These are the women and children who live in parts of the world in desperate poverty and despair; in cruelty and violence; in ignorance and abandonment. They are the women who are raped; the girls who are mutilated; the children who are sold. They are the homeless and the parentless; the uneducated and unemployed. They are the poor of our earth whom we are called to serve.

And their spaces are sacred too. As daunting as it may seem, we find ourselves always in partnership with our God who is with them, and with us, as we reach out in solidarity, in generosity and in prayer, all in our spirit of compassion.

 

III

 

In our compassion we do not just seek God’s love; we dwell in that space of love and compassion, moment to moment, day to day, year to year, decade to decade, in community and communion.

 

As our foundress and early sisters came to know a loving and compassionate God through prayer and faithfulness, so do we.

 

As they at times experienced suffering and loss and doubt in their midst, so do we.

 

Believing that God’s compassion could always be known and shared, and trusting their God, they moved forward into the future.

 

Now seems no different. We in the Divine Compassion continue to share the good news of a compassionate God among ourselves and with others, as we always have done. And our prayer, alone and together, enables the wisdom and courage and grace to move forward into the future.

 

We need only focus upon our breath and simply “sit” in the presence of our God. We might use a mantra such as “Dwell in God’s love” without movement, without thought, without intention.

 

Dwell in our hearts, O God,

That we might find spaces of silence

That we might discover spaces of peace

That we might make spaces of forgiveness

That we might know spaces of love

That we might build spaces of community

That we might encounter spaces of hope

That we might create spaces for the future.

 

Photo of a window view in our Spirituality Center by Theresa Young, RDC