Ursulines speak often of St. Angela, our foundress, and her charism.  For almost 500 years, this charism—those special graces and gifts of a person that influence and inspire— has been shared with Ursuline sisters, collaborators, students and friends. When Angela said in her final testimony, “I am more alive now than while I was on earth,” she really meant it.  We feel stirred all the time by that which made her life glow.

Central to Angela’s charism is her contemplative spirit.  Over the next few weeks, Backlit With Joy will focus on this facet of Angela’s life. To start the discussion, I posed a few questions to some of Angela’s descendants today. I’m happy to share a sampling of responses now.  More will come in the weeks ahead.

What does “contemplative spirit” mean to you?

“To me, having a ‘contemplative spirit’ means that I live in constant awareness of the Presence of Holy Mystery in me, in those around me, and in every aspect of creation. This is not only when I sit in quiet with that Presence, but as I move through the activities of my day insofar as this is possible for me.  It isn’t about struggle to hang on to that awareness, but more about ALLOWING it to be a part of me wherever I am and whatever I do.”     —Sr. Chabanel Mathison, osu

What nourishes your contemplative spirit?

“As a volunteer pastoral care worker at a nearby hospital, my service involves visiting with patients and their families, often praying with them, giving them communion or simply listening to them.  Frequently, when we talk and pray together, I believe we sense the presence of the Holy Spirit leading us while we really do not know how to pray or even what to say about their most difficult situations.  These times nurture my desire to continue seeking the presence of God in myself and everyone I encounter.”—Russ Weil

What is one challenge you experience in trying to live a contemplative spirit?

“When I was thinking about a response, it was obvious that my biggest challenge to a contemplative spirit is cancer.  Yet, when I was looking at the other two questions, the word ‘cancer’ came up as the answer to both of them.  Why? When I have been able to pray, cancer drew me deeper into prayer.  It nourished me in a way I never thought it would.  Yes, anger, frustration, sadness, hurt, but I was also swaddled in God’s arms and held closely.”    —Sr. Ann Dumas, osu