Coolock Window Pane

A portrait of Catherine McAuley
A portrait of Catherine McAuley
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By Sister Brenda Peddigrew

When Catherine noticed the crossed window pane
of her Coolock bedroom, no doubt staring out one long night,
lost in the meaning of her life – she saw, as though a portal opening to God,
what needed doing, what she longed to do
for the poor, the sick and the victimized women of her world.

She opened that door for thousands
calling us, through that window’s portal, to surrender to her vision
of allowing God to use our hands and feet, our eyes and hearts and souls,
to bring into being a new way of transforming the world.

The world? One person, one straggling group, one
long-lived institution in the world, which is, after all, a hologram:
change one small thing and the whole world changes.

With Catherine standing vigil in my praying heart,
I found my ministry of transformation.

Within and without,
while keeping my collaborating eyes
fixed on her crossed pane in the Coolock window,
I accompany people and groups
who long to bring into being
what cannot yet be seen,
who accept that transformation is God’s work,
not ours alone or even primarily,
and who are willing
to step out of the familiar, out of comfort,
out of security
into the dark unknown
with only God’s light.

Catherine knew she didn’t want her women
to live like all the other orders of her time.
She knew that something else was being born in her
and she trusted, through all her anxiety, she trusted –
without seeing much beyond one moment at a time.
She didn’t play the double-think games or take part
in the power-struggles of her time. Instead,
she acted on the elemental truth she saw
in the crossed pane of her Coolock window
or while sitting beneath the walnut tree
in the Coolock garden.

The ministry of transformation involves
much “tripping about” as Catherine experienced,
and – like her – I try to keep my heart
“always in the same place” as she so lightly said:
“centred in God, for whom alone
we go forth or stay back.”

Forms change, as Catherine saw. With or without us,
and even with our most careful planning, they change,
or – as Rumi said – “the lamps are all different
but the Light is the same.”
My ministry is to midwife transformation
to point out the Light
that might be lost in holding on to old forms
and to dance – as Catherine did –
with delight in the new.

Brenda Peddigrew, RSM (NL)
(while staring out Catherine’s Coolock window, July 2015)