Holy Week: The art of remembering

Global Sisters Report has enjoyed a partnership with A Nun’s Life Ministry since our site went live in April 2014. Srs. Maxine Kollasch and Julie Vieira share audio clips every week from their popular podcasts and now take turns writing a monthly column. Drawing on their experiences of online presence and using a lens of Scripture, they each will explore how social media offers new ways of witnessing Gospel values.

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Earlier this month, many of us in the online community grieved the death of one of our own — a vibrant woman who quite literally graced us with the gift of her presence and love. Her death has given Lent a particular acuity for me this season as I reflect on the meaning of the Triduum, the sacred journey from death to new life.

My reflection has taken the form of remembering. Remembering is a great word that is defined as keeping an image or idea in one's mind of someone or something. Usually we think of this as recalling something from the past, but our Christian tradition offers a deeper sense of the word. The Greek word ἀνάμνησις or "amamnesis" refers to remembering, but it also means making present here and now. This is what we do at the Eucharistic celebration when we "remember" Christ's saving activity — we don't experience Christ as a long-ago historical person or the Paschal Mystery as a past event, but we encounter the living God here and now.

Remembering is also the name given to a custom among my IHM Sisters. We, like many religious communities, have a custom of holding a "remembering" prayer service on the vigil of a sister's funeral. At the remembering, we pray with one another through Scripture, music, and readings that were meaningful to the sister. A sister then "remembers" the deceased sister, often quoting from her own words, key moments of her life and of her relationship with God lived in and through the IHM community and mission. These gatherings are at once heart-breaking for we so miss our sister and also joyful because we celebrate her life with ours — "dwelling now in light, yet ever near" as the verse to one of our IHM songs goes.

When our friend from the online community died, it seemed as though the Internet itself held a remembering for her. In the minutes, hours, and days following her family's status update on her Facebook page, the online community poured out its heart, grieving and celebrating a woman that many of us had only ever met through social media. Her social reach — and her warm sparkle, sage wisdom, and clever humor — was extensive. I continue even now to read the tweets and Facebook comments proclaiming how this woman had touched their lives — and these make present for me the gift of her presence and light in my own life. I couldn't help recall the words of Saint Paul to the Philippians:

"I thank my God every time I think of you. In every prayer I utter . . . I rejoice at the way you have all continually helped promote the Good News from the very first day. And I am sure of this much: that God, who has begun the good work in you, will carry it through to completion, right up to the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:3-6)

While it is not without sadness, there is something deeply consoling about being united with people throughout the world who knew the same person I did and who also have awesome experiences to share. Indeed, as a family member commented to the online community: her love lives on in all of us.

As this Lenten journey breaks open into Holy Week and the celebration of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection, let us sit vigil with one another and engage in "remembering," making present the Christ who unites us beyond death to new life.

[Julie Vieira is a member of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of Monroe, Michigan, and co-founder of A Nun’s Life Ministry, which was founded on the Internet in 2006 and is present at aNunsLife.org and in many social media.]

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