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Spirituality of Catherine McAuley

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1 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
By David Adams-Jones

2 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
Spirituality of Catherine McAuley is woven through three sections Section One: What is Spirituality and its relationship in Catherine McAuley life. Section Two: How Catherine Lived out her Christian Discipleship. Section Three: Linking her gratitude for the Mercy of God to her practice.

3 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
Section One: Catherine McAuley’s life in relation to the Old Testament. (40 minute.) Section Two: Identifying with the life of Jesus - How Catherine Lived out her Life. (40 minutes.) Section Three: Catherine’s Gratitude for the Mercy of God. (40 minutes.) The series of workshops will be shared over three RE staff meetings. During Catherine’s childhood and teens she constantly referred to the Bible as a source which in turn provided her with strength and understanding of where she was going. This was reinforced during her early years through her father and her life living with the Callaghan family. Section two highlights Catherine’s devotion to live out her life as Jesus did. Section three refers to Catherine seeing herself as one who received everything from God. She felted obliged to be a conduit of Mercy to others, steering her sisters on a compassionate and redemptive love of God.

4 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
Outcomes: Participants will gain - An understanding of the term Spirituality. A knowledge and understanding of how Catherine McAuley’s spirituality permeated through her trust in the God’s Providence and her commitment to imitate the life of Jesus Christ during her earthly presence. An understanding of Catherine’s conviction and heartfelt gratitude for the Mercy of God. Throughout this series of workshops it is envisaged that participants will gain the following outcomes: An understanding of the term Spirituality and its reference to Catherine McAuley’s discipleship. The thread of spirituality will be woven through the three distinct themes around which Catherine’s spiritual life revolved. Theme One: Catherine’s Trust in God the Father’s Providence Theme Two: Catherine Identified with Jesus in his Mission Theme Three: Catherine’s Heartfelt gratitude for the Mercy of God.

5 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
A Snapshot of her life. Catherine McAuley lived from In 1827 Catherine opened her first house in serving the poor that was the heart of the Christian Bible. In 1831 Catherine McAuley founded the Sisters of Mercy Order in Dublin Ireland. This was to become one of the biggest religious congregations founded in the English speaking world. (Rouleau rsm 2003) Catherine was thoroughly a woman of her time and culture. On one hand she was Irish Catholic, early 19th Century, upper middle class living in a time where being Catholic was improper. There were few priests and no religious schools for Catholic adolescents. Church bells and steeples were banned and the Church did not hold title to its own cathedrals, whilst at the same time she adapted creatively to the new direction in which discerned the spirit moving in her. Sheridan,(Michigan 2005)

6 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
Catherine’s Life in Reference to her Trust in God the Father’s providence. Dublin was one of the biggest cities in Europe and to be Catholic in Dublin was to be poor. Little tolerance for Catholicism, lack of education and the Church did not seem to hold a title. From an early age, Catherine focused on the needs of the poor and destitute. Her father in his compassion not only set an example that would not only lead Catherine on her journey but Dublin was environment that strengthen her faith in God. The first theme in which revolved around Catherine was her belief that God would always provide. With this trust so entrenched in her, Catherine embarked on a journey, living out the Gospel. Catherine’s indisputable concern for the poor is one of her strongest convictions that is linked back to the Bible. Catherine had developed this energy at an early age from her father. Catherine’s father had taught her a different pattern in dealing with the poor from which prevailed in upper class society. For example, as Rouleau rsm (2003) notes that James McAuley gathered the children of the poor in his home and extended them good manners, treated them kindly, taught them about the faith and he ministered to their needs by reading the Bible to them and sharing the word. This kind of behaviour imprinted on Catherine for life.

7 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
Defining Spirituality in Reference to Catherine’s life. Spirituality is about what we do with our lives, what keeps us going, it is the fire within us, our craving, our desire and how we channel this fire in our everyday lives. (Rolheiser 1999:11) Religious people name this eros as God’s Spirit or The Mystery of God at work in our lives. Spirituality is a wellspring of our sense of meaning and our will to live. (Mystery). (Liddy 2002:14) Catherine’s spirituality is reflected in God’s presence in her life, was shaped by the ordinary influences of the time. Her Irish piety of her day boasted centuries of fidelity to the faith, a deep sense for scripture and communion with Christ through prayer and the Gospel. Hence, Catherine’s father and his commitment to faith became instrumental in Catherine’s formation and devotion to her trust in God. This was further to develop during her teen years when living with the Callaghan family. It is was becoming clearer, that Catherine’s eros – the Mystery of God, was at work in her life. Rolhesier(1999:11) goes on further to say, that spirituality is linked to how we choose to live and that choice governs or leads us to either greater integration or disintegration within our bodies, minds and souls and in turn leads to our association in the way we relate to God and others. Catherine through her journey was always focussed and makes many decisions that bring her closer to the mission of God’s work. In essence, by relating this definition of spirituality, one can note a strong life force that is grounded in strong values and commitment. In the following slides we will see Catherine McAuley as being touched, entrenched in the mystery of Divinity and that divinity is called God.

8 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
God’s Love and Mercy for Us. Through her shared experience with her father and commitment to prayer through the Bible Catherine developed a solid understanding of God’s own love towards His people. Ps 103:13 “as tenderly as a father treats his children, so Yahweh treats those who revere him: ( Holy Bible: New International version p736) Isaiah 49: 15 Read verse. Discuss God’s commitment to never forget his children- this captures the depth of God’s love and mercy. Catherine never forgot the poor and the destitute as God never forgot his children. When Catherine’s father and mother died, she was orphaned and eventually lived with the Callaghan family. During this time, Catherine learnt many strong values that in time became the foundation of her conviction. The Callaghan, with their Quaker sense of practical concern for everyone in need, reinforced and encouraged Catherine’s compassionate desire that led her onto providing service to the needy. Her continuous reflection from strong spiritual sources as outlined by (Rouleau 2003) that included the Imitation of Christ, Francis de Sales on the love of God, writers such as John of the Cross, the French Jesuit School of spirituality were all part of Catherine’s spiritual diet. This with her twenty year association with the Callaghan’s transformed and shaped Catherine’s mercy for others. For example Catherine acted out her life value of sharing what you have with those less fortunate. Catherine’s interconnectedness to God, gave her a sense of meaning and purpose, a sense of self where her deeds were evident and greater than the self. Bowe (2003:10) refers to this self connectedness as an authentic growth and unconditional love for others.

9 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
A Biblical Perspective ( Old Testament). The Old testament is a reflection on the nature of God. A Caring God: an inviting God who takes the initiative. A saving God who brought Israel up from Egypt. (Jer.2:6) In reference to the Biblical God, God is referred as a calling God, an inviting God who takes the initiative, and acts in history as a saving God who brought Israel up from Egypt. The idea of saving, concerned God. In this, we see Catherine coming from a caring home, a compassionate father (James McAuley) where he entertained the poor and needy on Sundays and holidays. We see Catherine developing a sense of wanting to do what her father and adopted family did. As God led the people out of Egypt – Catherine with eventual support from the Callaghan’s charitable works lead people on to a better life. Catherine displays acts of kindness to those less fortunate, hence she was a caring person much like God.

10 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
A Biblical Perspective A Compassionate God: An insight of a compassionate God is provided by the prophet Hosea. (Read Hosea 3:1-3:4) Hosea helped us to see that God’s love was a love based on generosity and forgiveness. Amos helped us to see that the test of a compassionate society was in the way we treated the poor. (Am 9:1) In small groups make links to what we know about Catherine McAuley’s life in relation to the Old Testament. Read Article Let Loose the Charism of Mercy by Anne Hannon rsm Hosea, from his own marriage experienced a wife who betrayed him. He found he still loved her and wanted her back. He applied this experience to the relation between God and his people. Hosea notes that God’s attitude to his people must be greater in love than his own. In essence, Deuteronomy would insist that to love God with all one’s being was the only adequate response which man should make to God. As Amos would insist that the Hebrews should respond to God’s choice with responsibility by creating a just and compassionate society. This is a story of how the Hebrew people failed to be in God’s image, to be just and a compassionate society. This is a story of how a people can be lost in the practice of their ideals. During Catherine’s time, the practice of Catholicism, her limited religious education and lack of support meant that she was often put to the test much like the people of Hosea’s and Amos’ time. However, the environment of Catherine’s time did not distract her from her vision. In fact, her time in Dublin was a testing time where her faith held strong and true. During this time, Catherine gained an insight of being compassionate to those around her.

11 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
Biblical Perspective Old Testament: A Caring God. Catherine’s explicit Faith / Trust in God was drawn from biblical readings such as when Yahweh had revealed himself as a God of the oppressed, a God of the needy, a powerful God of Compassion. Example: Catherine’s work to provide a house that included schoolrooms and dormitories for the poor in order to guide people to happiness is what Yahweh who gave dialogue that lead his people to happiness. It is interesting to see the similarities here, where Yahweh wanted to lead his people out of darkness to a new land. God is viewed here as a compassionate God, caring for his people, wanting them to be happy. Catherine McAuley too, lived in a time of despair, where being Catholic was considered vulgar and poverty was widespread. Catherine sought to incarnate the Mercy of God. To do this, she chose the practical and womanly environment of a home. There, she and her Sisters instructed hundreds of poor children and housed distressed women. From there her Sisters went forth to nurse the sick in their homes and in the public hospitals and to perform the various corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. In essence, Catherine had revealed herself as an instrument of God, working with the oppressed, the needy and being compassionate to all.

12 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
Catherine built Baggot Street House of Mercy in a fashionable quarter of Dublin to bring to the door steps of the wealthy consciousness of the lives of the suffering and the poor. Bolster (1982) When the Callaghan’s died, they gave their entire estate to Catherine. It was with these funds that she was able to improve the living conditions of children through the education of the poor, the visitation of the sick, the training of young women and the protection of women. Catherine McAuley believed it was important to respond with a focus to the needs of the poor, the homeless, the sick and impoverished.

13 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
Samples of Catherine McAuley’s Spirituality. Her concern for the poor which she had learnt from her father. Every Sunday James McAuley gathered the poor into their home. Her belief system reinforced from readings of the Bible. Her strong faith in times of dispair when her parents died and living in places where being Catholic was challenged. The way she expressed her values and the choices she made in ordinary living in caring for the poor, the destitute and sick was not only by the building of Baggot House but in providing a service for the needy. At all times Catherine maintained a balance in the early years between her corporal works and her desire to respond to the needs of the poor and destitute. When Catherine became an heiress, she was determined that schools would be built as well as refuges for women in need. She was also concerned that women be given the kind of education and training that could change them to improve their potential for good employment and thus improve their life situations and their ability to provide for their families. Catherine was also concerned for their instruction in the Faith. As the works of the Mercy Order continued the Sisters opened academies and day schools for middle class young women.

14 Spirituality of Catherine McAuley
Do not be concerned for your life, what you are to eat, or for your body, what you are to wear. Life is more important than food and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they do not sow, they do not reap: they have neither cellar nor barn-yet God feeds them. How much more important you are than the birds. Luke 12:22-30 Catherine’s confidence in her faithful provider continued to be a source of serenity and hope throughout her life. Her conviction to provide for the needy became the foundation of Catherine McAuley’s spirituality. Catherine always believed that her circumstances in her life were guided by a providential God. Her reference to the Charleville foundation which was in danger of closing due to financial hardship, it is reported that Catherine never lost sight of the fact that while she judged all events from a standpoint of the Father her faith was that God would always provide. What Catherine was referring to was the notion, that you must trust in God. One letter about Charleville House concluded with the words, “I have made every effort, and praise be to God, all will come around.” another letter to the Sisters of Charleville House was, “ The Lord and Master our of House and Home is a faithful provider.” She never lost sight of her mission in providing for the poor. Wheeler (1991)

15 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Mercy Embodied in the Life & Ministry of Jesus Catherine’s spirituality is accentuated in the words of and imitation of Christ. The aim of Catherine’s work was to lead her sisters in a way that imitated Jesus in charity, humility, meekness and simplicity. Hannon (2003) Hannon rsm, (2003:2) reveals to us that Catherine taught her sisters that the life of Jesus is like an open book that should always be open. It is from this book that we are able to learn all that is necessary. Hannon goes further to say that, Catherine was referring that their lives be a mirror of the earthly life of Christ and in tough times where our faith is consistently challenged, do not fear. The Christian scriptures and prayer keep Jesus in our everyday lives. For the virtues of the Gospel and Jesus’ life, are the cornerstones of love, equality, justice and compassion which in turn embody spirituality.

16 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Mercy Embodied in the Life & Ministry of Jesus There are many accounts in Christian scriptures which illustrate the depth of compassion that Jesus had for those in need. So too, for Catherine. There are many accounts documented, in her many letters in which she wrote, in her prayers and in her actions. Catherine had a clear insight in the devotion to the Passion of Christ. Here we see Catherine clearly forming her vision believing her journey is on course or integral to the imitation of Christ. His thirst for justice became her emphasis on the importance of social conscience. Catherine, by word and deed, led her sisters to live his way (Jesus Christ) of mercy, his courageous service in truth and justice and his gentle but strong stance on dignity. Jesus and Catherine could be both viewed as liberators, people wanting change from within in a society that in both their times was volatile. Jesus as with Catherine’s spirituality is likened to Rolhesier’s definition where both integrated their desires through strong values and action. Jesus and Catherine’s spirituality is evident in the way they lived, according to the knowledge that God was always present and that their mission was part of God’s plan.

17 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
The Outcast Luke (7:36-50) The women in the House of Simon. Many women during Catherine’s time suffered psychological and emotional abuse, were trapped in degrading and violent relationships which in turn eroded self-esteem. (Sullivan 2007) Catherine and her sisters in their work restored their dignity and gave women hope by reaching out to those who were outcast in society. In Luke’s reading the Pharisees are horrified of a woman from the streets who comes in a house where Jesus is dinning. She knelt by Jesus and wept at his feet, wiping away her tears with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is –that she is a sinner. (Luke 7:36:50) Catherine, like Jesus constantly reached out to those who were outcasts, the poor and the destitute. Catherine, taught the grace of vocation which carried serious obligations that in turn required the Sisters in earnest to form themselves according to the image of the divine Model, Jesus Christ.

18 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Serving the Poor and Sick Read these two readings. Discussion Matthew (15:32-39) The Feeding of the Five Thousand. Luke (13, 10-17) A Crippled Woman Healed on the Sabbath Personal Reflection: How would you treat the poor or sick? Do I try and understand the causes to their poverty and suffering? Great numbers of people follow Jesus listening to his teachings. With pity on the crowd, who had a physical hunger, Jesus provides them with loaves and fish to eat. In sharing the little food they had the disciples find there is sufficient to feed the multitudes. Catherine’s treatment of the poor such as Mrs Harper as told in Anne Reid’s book, informs us that Mrs Harper hadn’t seen soap and water for about fifty years but Catherine treated her as if she were a queen. Mrs Harper was not an easy person to love, as she was at times unkind, and abusive. Catherine could see beyond the abuse and beneath it. With Catherine there was always an urgency. This behaviour of urgency can be traced back to Catherine’s early days when she saw her mother die at the age of thirteen and later nursed Mrs Callaghan in her illness and was present at her death and later the death of Mr Callaghan. Catherine also nursed her own sister, Mary in her terminal illness. Hence, when she established the Sisters of Mercy she saw an urgency to visit the sick, poor in their homes and to assist the dying to die in peace. Wheeler (1991:5) notes that one of the first collection of prayers hand copied were prayers to be said at the bedside of the sick and dying.

19 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Restoring Dignity (Matthew 20:29-34) The Healing of the Blind Man. Catherine restores dignity to women who in turn take up their vocation to religious life. Catherine insisted that the Sisters imitate Christ’s love be humble of heart and show dignity to every one of the human family. As the works of Mercy expanded so did Catherine’s determination to provide beyond the poor. Matthew (20:29-34) –To the annoyance of the crowd following Jesus, two blind men sitting on the side off he road began crying out “Lord have pity on us! Jesus called them over and listened to their plea for healing. Jesus displayed compassion and restored their sight and their dignity. Then they followed him. Catherine restored dignity to many people, particularly women. In restoring their dignity they too followed Catherine and became Sisters of Mercy. A story of a young woman who came to Coolock House, is told by Wheeler RSM (1991:4). A young servant girl was in danger of sexual abuse. While Catherine tried to find a place of sanctuary for the young woman around Dublin, the young servant girl was abused. Such bureaucratic red tape disturbed Catherine. When she became an heiress, Catherine was determined to build a refuge for women not only in this kind of need but to restore dignity to women.

20 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Combining the Physical needs with the Spiritual One of Catherine’s primary concerns was that she was always worried for the poor, for women and for the sick and dying whilst also concerned for people’s spiritual well being. Catherine saw the physical and spiritual needs as inseparable.-She saw the face of Jesus in everyone. Wheeler (1991:5) points out that at hospitals Catherine comforted the dying, especially those who were Catholic, as a Catholic priest was rarely granted entrance. Only the upper class were given permission to enter Sir Patrick Dunn’s Hospital. In reflection, it is interesting to note, that what flows from Catherine’s deep faith in the sick and poor was the recognition of seeing the face of Jesus in other people, especially in the poor and suffering. Hence, the physical and spiritual are inseparable. We note that in the Hebrew Scriptures, (Micah 6:8) “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love tenderly and to walk humbly with your God.” This scripture challenges us all to recognise as Catherine did the dignity and respect due to all persons. In a spirit of love for one another, we, as was with Catherine, are invited to build a just society where the needs of the disadvantaged can be addressed.

21 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Catherine’s spirituality was drawn from three aspects of devotion 1. Devotion to Jesus through Prayer. 2. Devotion to Jesus through the Eucharist. 3. Devotion to the Sacred Heart. Devotion to Jesus through Prayer was a foundation rule or focal point of Catherine’s spirituality. Her life quests were drawn from the strength gained from devotion practices which were linked to her boundless compassion for God and others. In the Passion of Jesus the Sisters learnt as directed by Catherine, that the congregation was founded on Calvary and their mission was to serve a crucified Redeemer. Rouleau RSM (2003:2) notes that each daily prayer must reveal or occupy Jesus as a central figure. Rouleau goes on further to note that Catherine urged the novices that Christ’s suffering and wounds on the cross be written on our minds and hearts. Catherine believed that entering in to the mystery of the redeeming Jesus was an experience of the depths of God’s own compassion which in turn impelled her to be love and to love others.

22 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Devotion to Jesus through the Eucharist Ever since her early childhood days, Catherine knew that the source of her conviction was through the Eucharist. Catherine wrote –Jesus Christ really present in the most Holy Eucharist shall be the constant object of their affection and devotion….. Rouleau (2003:3) As the Eucharist was the focal point of the Mass, Catherine held strongly that through the Eucharist, a union was formed. This union with Christ was central to her daily rituals. Catherine believed that the Sisters should visit Jesus everyday, as he was present in the Blessed Sacrament. Rouleau notes Catherine’s stance on the Eucharist was beyond all the riches in the world- priceless. his presence is beyond words. The Blessed Sacrament and the Mass fuelled Catherine’s compassion for those she served.

23 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Devotion of the Sacred Heart Jesus is to Catherine, “ the fount of every grace, and object of our most tender love.” Catherine believed that Jesus was a refuge from the dangers and temptations of human imperfection within their own hearts. Catherine learned throughout her life experiences that provided her with a strong disposition and a natural instinct that seemingly became cemented on virtues which were characteristic of the Heart of Jesus. They included self denial, sweetness of manner, patience, humility, graciousness, and meekness, modesty and much more. She knew well that by imitating Christ’s love in the face of contradictions would be challenging, and that through this devotion to the Sacred Heart she would draw strength. Wheeler, (1991:7) makes reference to a story where Catherine displayed genuine affection and respect and held no bitterness when she lived with her Protestant relatives, and interacted with her sister’s husband who all were vehemently hostile to Catholicism. Her composure in the face of adversity and her grace in the face of opposition are now legendary in the tradition of the Mercy Order.

24 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Summary The Imitation of Christ Imitation in the religious sense or in the mystical tradition of the Church has a different meaning to the modern day term that is referred to as being fake. In reference to Catherine McAuley, mystical tradition is based on a view of reality in which creation mirrors its Creator, Catherine as the human person was an image of God. Catherine McAuley was a pioneer of her time. She was truly a human person in the image of God. Through her journey she established authentic relationships with fellow pilgrims who together lived out a spiritual reality that displayed an ability to be tolerant, to forgive, to see a greater common good, to live out the gospel values as Jesus did during his earthly presence. Catherine was a unique and spiritual person who mirrored her Creator. This was central to Catherine’s spirituality, as Rouleau (2003:5) notes in one of Catherine’s records in teaching mistresses that the congregation is founded on Calvary, there to serve a crucified Redeemer. This devotion that was pivotal in her personal spirituality.

25 Section Two: Identifying with Jesus
Prayer of Catherine: - Morning Offering “O compassionate Jesus, look on me today with tenderness and give me the grace to walk on the path of mercy marked out for those who follow you. May all that I do today reflect your merciful love.” Amen Sullivan rsm 2003 In conclusion: Downey (1997:31) states that those who profess faith in Jesus Christ and follow him in discipleship, living in the power of the Holy Spirit are living a Christian spirituality. During Catherine’s life, she not only professed a faith in Jesus Christ and followed him in discipleship through her deeds and her interconnectedness with God, but her life force was embedded deeply in a genuine relationship with God. Task: Think of a story from your own life that reflects your understanding of participating in the Passion of Jesus Christ. Write a letter to Jesus about his passion and yours.

26 Section Three: Heartfelt Gratitude for the Mercy of God
Catherine viewed herself as one who received everything from His divine bounty. Hence, Catherine felt obliged to be a channel of Mercy towards others. In every sense, Catherine had a deep heartfelt Gratitude for the Mercy of God, and shared her own experience of God’s Mercy with others.. We now notice that Catherine had a strong heartfelt gratitude to her Creator, God. This gratitude that Catherine experienced resounds from her own experiences in life. Catherine’s personal qualities such as her courtesy, charm, graciousness, her sense of humour, wit and lightness of heart were constantly illustrated by her behaviours. Whilst living with her Protestant relatives who were noted as being hostile to Catholicism and her twenty plus years living with the Callaghans who did not truly understand her devotion to her Faith are examples where Catherine displayed as Wheeler RSM (1991:7) points out, a genuine affection and respect for the people she lived with. Wheeler, goes on further to say, that her composure in the face of adversity and her grace in the face of opposition are noted and legendary. As God displayed Mercy to his children so did Catherine.

27 Section Three: Heartfelt Gratitude for the Mercy of God
As Catherine threw her heart open to God, the Father and her hands out to the poor, she joyfully spread the good news of God’s steadfast love for his people. Over time Catherine developed a strong desire or compelling energy to guide people towards being compassionate and to the redemptive love of God. This became the principle reason why they were called Sisters of Mercy –It was to serve God in person. Catherine McAuley never intended to form a congregation or be involved in religious life. The congregation of Sisters of Mercy was eventually conceived under Catherine McAuley and her two companions with the support of Archbishop Dr. Daniel Murray. Once the Sisters of Mercy were established, Wheeler (1991: 4) notes that Catherine declared their principle reason was not only to serve but to walk in the very same path which Jesus trod. She wanted the Sisters to be merciful as the heavenly Father is merciful. To fulfil this, Catherine led by example.

28 Section Three: Heartfelt Gratitude for the Mercy of God
In being Merciful, Catherine McAuley was a courageous person. Catherine and her companions dressed in fashion and gained admittance to the prestigious Kildare Society to learn about their schools and the Sir Patrick Dunn’s Hospital. She sent her Sisters into the streets to where people needed them in a time when religious women were secluded. She risked irritation of the wealthy by bringing the poor into their midst. She decentralized in a time of centralization trends. She started a religious order so that her work would continue. Catherine McAuley penetrated every facet of society by engaging in acts of mercy. Through these acts of courage, Catherine was able to establish not only schools for middle class children but placed the schools under the Board of Education believing that students would achieve much more through board examinations, by dressing in fashionable clothes they looked like upper class Protestant women, which in turn, gained them access to the needy and dying. By sending her sisters out in to the streets in areas where women were at risk, not only earned them the reputation of “The Walking Nuns.” but penetrated the very heart of poverty, Rouleau (2003:3). Yes, Catherine McAuley like Jesus, was courageous and a person who dared to make a difference in people’s lives.

29 Section Three: Heartfelt Gratitude for the Mercy of God
Biblical Understanding of Mercy Mercy was a word affectionately used by Catherine McAuley. She often was quoted as saying “The Mercy of God comes to our assistance and renders practical His love in our regard.” Sisters of Mercy should be the kindest people in the world. Hannon rsm (2003) This trust in God is reinforced by her understanding of the Bible and her devotion to prayer. Catherine allowed the compassionate Christ to transform her life to the degree that she was ever ready to respond in loving kindness to the needs of others. Hannon RSM (2003:3) notes that this transformation in her life led Catherine along the path of Mercy to found her Congregation of Sisters.

30 Section Three: Heartfelt Gratitude for the Mercy of God
Gratitude for the Gifts of God’s Mercy. – Is Catherine’s hallmark. One of the richest aspects of Catherine’s life, was her act of true merciful love. Underlining merciful love is a virtue of gratitude. Gratitude actively reaches out to the other, regardless of personal feelings or desires- It’s the condition for any kind of spiritual life or Christian love. This was Catherine’s hallmark. Wheeler rsm (1991) There are many examples in Catherine’s life where she openly displayed acts of merciful love. After her father died, her mother squandered all the money and exposed her children to non Catholic influences. Shortly after the death of her Mother, Catherine lived with the Armstrong family who opposed Catholicism and tormented her openly about her faith. Throughout these experiences, Catherine did not let personal feelings get in the way of her work. She displayed acts of mercy and compassion by caring for her terminally ill mother until she died. Catherine whilst living with Protestant relatives continued to work with the poor and eventually the Callaghan family tolerated her going to Church where she devoted her love for God through prayer and the Eucharist. The building of Baggot House enabled Catherine to cater for not only the poor but provide shelter and food for women in need. Wheeler (1991: 8) refers to Catherine’s consistent gratitude as bottomless hospitality. Hospitality that was rich in mercy!

31 Section Three: Heartfelt Gratitude for the Mercy of God
Gratitude –The Foundation of Hospitality The Parable of the Good Samaritan Luke (10:33) Read and discuss the parable. The story of the Good Samaritan reaches beyond the bounds of race and prejudice. Catherine in her life, reached out to other human beings regardless of who they were, she created equality between people and restore dignity to all. Establishment of Schools –Outreaching to the Middle Class Catherine’s spirituality throughout her life was continuously unfolding and giving purpose to life. All of this unfolding carried with it an innate fire within, an eros. This eros within Catherine is interrelated and connected with the divinity, the mystery of God in her life, the mind, the soul, and the heart. During Catherine’s journey she and the Sisters of Mercy constantly reached out beyond the bounds of race and prejudice. The hostility that confronted her during her time of building Baggot House which in turn housed unmarried ladies who were not religious, the opposition she faced when Charleville House closed twice due to finances and the antagonism by the wealthy by bringing the poor into their midst are just a few examples of how Catherine reached out to other human beings. The establishment of middle class schools with her friend Frances Warde was very purposeful as it not only provided equality for women and restored their dignity but was strategic in that such middle class schools provided a link between the high and the low classes

32 Section Three: Heartfelt Gratitude for the Mercy of God
Summary Catherine saw herself before God as one who received everything from his divine bounty. She felt gratitude. Catherine channelled Mercy towards others. God is forever merciful and so was Catherine. Her vision of Mercy embraced justice. Catherine maintained an unshakeable optimism based on her infinite goodness, mercy and the power of God. Through her gratitude Catherine McAuley’s spirituality was consistently active in making the rich conscious of their obligation to help the poor and to make the healthy aware of the sick and to make the literate help the illiterate in a time when people were hungry, marginalised, alienated and sick.

33 Section Three: Heartfelt Gratitude for the Mercy of God –Mercy Magnificat
Sweet Mercy-soothing, patient, kind- softens the high and raises the fallen mind: Knows with just rein and even hand to guide between false fear and arbitrary pride. Not easily provoked, she soon forgives: feels love for all, and by a look, relieves. Soft peace she brings wherever she arrives, removes out anguish and reforms our lives: Make the rough paths of peevish nature even and opens in each heart a little heaven. The Mercy Magnificat 2003

34 CONCLUSION Catherine’s faith in God is likened to a child who has faith in her father. By imitating Christ’s love, Catherine became an image of God. She penetrated the heart of poverty and was truly a Jesus person. Catherine saw herself before God as one who received everything from His divine bounty. For this she gave heartfelt gratitude.

35 Conclusion Catherine’s legacy now spreads across many continents
Catherine’s spirituality enabled her to break through the heart of misery. Her courageous concern for the spiritual and physical welfare of the poor, the sick, and the ignorant enabled many to follow her. Catherine connected the rich to the poor, the healthy to the sick, the educated and skilled to the uninstructed and the influential to those of no consequence. This is how she lived out her discipleship.

36 Conclusion Catherine’s spirituality was always evident as she lived according to the knowledge that God was always present and that her mission was part of God’s plan for her purpose on earth. Catherine’s spirituality as Hall (2000:18) refers to Jesus’ life is very similar. A life as people who both loved, worked for humanity as liberators, as both who wanted to change from within a society that was volatile . Catherine integrated her desires through her values and actions. This energy and connectedness was her spirituality. Catherine died six weeks before knowing that the Mercy was confirmed by Pope Gregory XVI on June Catherine’s final requests as Sullivan (2007) points out was that the Sisters always preserve union and peace amongst each other. In 1990, John Paul II recognised the profound charity of Catherine McAuley – and declared her Venerable., -“ the Servant of God.” Catherine McAuley, practiced to a heroic degree with them the cardinal virtues of Prudence, Justice, temperance and fortitude. (Sullivan rsm 2007).

37 References Bolster, M. (1982). Catherine McAuley: The story of a woman of prayer and compassion. Cork: Maries of the Isle. Bowe, B. What is Spirituality? In Biblical Foundations of Spirituality. (pp 9-21). Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. Downey. M (1997). Spirituality today. In Understanding Christian spirituality. (5-29). New York: Paulist. Hall. G. (2000). Jesus the Christ. A Christology Course. In Australian Catholic University. Jesus The Christ Book of Readings. Modules 1-7. Catholic Unversity Press Aquinas Campus. Liddy, S. (2002). Children’s Spirituality. Journal of Religious Education, 50 (1) Wheeler. C (1991). Catherine: A Reflection on Values from the Mercy Tradition (1-13). Baltimore: Mercy High School.

38 References The Holy Bible ((1987). New International Version. Great Britain. International Bible Society.

39 References: Websites Johnson, A. rsm (2007). Irish Origins: Catherine McAuley ( ). Retrieved May 17,2007, from The Mercy Heritage Centre. Website: URL, Sheridan, M. rsm (2005). History of Venerable Catherine McAuley.Retrieved May 7,2007, from Religious Sisters of Mercy, Alma, Michigan. Website: URL, Sullivan, M. rsm (2007). The Life and Work of Catherine McAuley, Retrieved April 24,2007, from Mercy Foundress. Website: URL,

40 References: Articles Hannon, A. (2006). Let Loose the Charism of Mercy. The celebration of 160 years of Sisters of Mercy. England, November Hannon, A. (2006). The Spirituality of Catherine. The celebration of 160 years of Sisters of Mercy. England, November, Rolheiser, R. (1999). What is Spirituality? In The holy longing: the search for a Christian Spirituality. (pp. 3-19) New York: Doubleday. Rouleau, M. (2003) The Prayer of Mercy: Rhythm of Contemplation and Action. My God I am Yours: Exploring Catherine’s Suscipe. Bardon Queensland.

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