Felicity! Such an old-fashioned yet beautiful word and made even more so as we delve a little into Mary Ward’s use of it!
As far as we know Mary Ward used the word just once, and that in a letter to her spiritual director, Fr Roger Lee SJ in 1615. Mary was 30 years of age and the insight she refers to in the letter we now call The Just Soul or The Just Person. This was the third of her insights and the one that gave her the most significant peace to answer her wanderings and wonderings – she was afforded an understanding of the way forward for her fledgling congregation and the kind of person best suited to carry out its purpose.
Mary Ward writes: The felicity of this estate… Estate? In this context the word means a way of life; choosing a way of life; a way of being; a way of appearing. And so felicity in this way of being a Mary Ward person becomes associated with good humour, hope and courage, inner peace and optimism.
I guess we all love such qualities and take time to nurture them in ourselves and in our relationships. Leaders in our schools, both student and adults, call them forth and admire them when they are displayed. The School’s Mission Statement says: felicity belongs to the open-minded and generous hearted.
Is it more though than being happy, being funny, being good humoured? I suspect so – for all of us have our high moments, we have our low moments, we have successes and failures, most days are ordinary and some days are extraordinary. The difference for the one living from a spirit of felicity is that her trust and faith in God’s presence and loving mercy ensures she can end each day and begin the next, popping upright with an open mind and generous heart.
Mary Ward, like Ignatius, followed two simple techniques to assist in this living with challenges and yet remaining felicitious, open and generous – the practice of discernment in choosing well by being attentive to what’s best and what’s not, and the 5 minute daily exercise of the Examen, looking back over the day to be grateful for the blessings, to note the bumps and our responses to them and then to seek the grace of a new day, having learnt from the lessons of the one just gone.
Author: Sr Sandra Perrett ibvm
Feature Image: Sunflowers growing near the place in Italy where Mary Ward prayed for the healing of a Cardinal (Painted Life #36)