Growing up in a Middle Eastern/Italian family in the northern suburbs of Melbourne, my treasured book at school was the religion textbook My Way To God. English was not my first language, even though I was born in Australia, so my favourite part was tracing the images. The books came with some beautifully written and scripted prayers, which grew with every book (Book 1 for Grade 1 & 2, Book 2 for Grade 3 & 4 and so on). However, now as an adult, as a Catholic nun, I have been blessed with faith formation of all kinds being made available – my own, as well as being involved in the faith formation of children, parents and adults.
If I look to the title of my treasured religion textbook, I think it might have got it a little distorted. Is it really MY way to God? Or is God already with me, all the time?
I often ask parents of sacramental aged children to give themselves a score out of 10 (one being the lowest and 10 being the highest) to the following two questions. 1. How close are you to God? 2. How close is God to you? The overwhelming response is that the answer to how close God is to them is always higher. Why? Because God is 10 out of 10 close to us.
It’s not like the song made famous by Bette Midler, ‘From A Distance’, where the lyrics ‘God is watching us from a distance’, doesn’t make sense to us.
God is in our world
God is involved in our world and in God’s creation. I don’t have to struggle to get to God. I don’t have to win God’s approval or do anything to be worthy of God’s love. I grew up thinking that God is like Father Christmas and they God kept a naughty and nice list. It’s not a pathway to seek God, but the pathway is to discover God in all things. This is my spiritual journey. This is our spiritual journey.
Our pathway is to discover God in all things, and our stepping stones are sharing what we know about God (evangelisation) as well as loving and serving others (mission).
Undeniably for me, the journey to discover God in all things, led me to enter the Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. The charism of the Sisters is to be women of healing and hope in all situations. This journey has taken me to places where I would not have imagined. The path to teaching primary aged students, and working in secondary Catholic schools, combining the aspect of the love of my faith and the acts of service.
What continues to inspire me and compel me to continue this journey to discover God in all things? The foundational scripture passage of Micah 6:8: to live justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.
Long, loving look
One of the most important aspects of discovering God in all things, is the time spent in reflection and prayer. A way of prayer that works for me, is the Ignatian theme of having a “long, loving look”. That could be a long loving look at experiences in my life, or have had in the day, or a conversation with a friend, or just time spent in nature. Most of the time, I take these experiences to a deeper place in my being, the place where God is within me.
To become a better person, I take these experiences and explore them with a spiritual director, who enables me to walk around the experience, and to discover what God’s call is for me within them.
So, my way to God these days is through being the best person that I am called to be. Remembering that I am created in the image and likeness of God (imago dei).
In the encyclical, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis expands this thinking and takes us back to the image that we are all brothers and sisters, to each other and to all creation.
We are all interconnected, interrelated and interdependent. Through our actions we can diminish or strengthen the other.
We are called to respect the unique dignity of the other, and do what we can to change our own world and form a new humanity, and a new creation. I discover God in all things.
The challenge is for the foundational passage of Micah to become the guide and inspiration for our contemporary lives: live justly, love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.
By Sr Rita Malavisi rsj. Reproduced with permission from Madonna Magazine, a publication of Jesuit Communications Australia.