Heritage and Spirituality
Marie France Correau RSHM
Our world is facing the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic aftermath. Our RSHM beginnings could very well help, in a modest way, to reflect on a new way forward.
Our founder, Fr Jean Gailhac was chaplain of the hospice in Beziers when a cholera epidemic broke out in that town in 1832. The epidemic was a huge challenge, given the increase in number of hospitalizations; up to 100,000 deaths were registered in France.
Relentlessly, and in spite of contracting pleurisy, Jean Gailhac continued to visit and care for the patients. Among the everyday patients, there was a group of women isolated in a special ward: women who were being treated for infectious diseases resulting from the practice of prostitution. Being the chaplain, he tried to help and encourage those who sincerely wanted to find a way of life where they were respected and could hope to rebuild their lives. He was under no illusion of the complexity of their situation; the socio-economic context weighed heavily on the future of these women. On leaving the hospice, they will have to be strong in order to commit themselves, often alone, to a different lifestyle.
Jean Gailhac: “I dream of an institution which would allow a larger number to experience the merciful love of God and nourish the desire to always live in the image and resemblance of the Creator.”*
To dream? How can we understand this word with all the power of transformation it contains?
In order to dream, we must first of all open our eyes to reality, listen, become vulnerable, and be conscious of what hurts and destroys life as we would like it to be for ourselves and for all.
To dream is to know one’s deep desire and have the will to participate in making a difference. It is to fight against the temptation of inertia; and to fight against the doubt: “what can I do on my own?”.
To dream is to discover and acknowledge your gifts and to add your personal imagination to that of others, to invent new life-giving responses together.
Jean Gailhac was deeply touched, in his youth, by Fr Martin’s personality. The faith and social involvement of his parish priest made him very enthusiastic. Thankful for his own gifts, he dreams and acts passionately for the Glory of God and the coming of the Kingdom. For him, to dream means to wish that others, especially those whom life has hurt, could live what is at the centre of his own existence: the transforming experience of the God of merciful love. It is his most intimate “yes” to God’s creative and recreative love that gives him strength and daring to open the Refuge and the orphanage in 1834.
The crisis context in which we live today reveals even more blatantly inequalities and accentuate anxieties as we face the future. Like Jean Gailhac, we dare to dream and to believe that each one can make a difference by introducing changes in our daily living.
Pope Francis urges us:
“We cannot stay untouched!
With our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hb 12.2) and in the conviction that his love is at work in the community of his disciples, we must ACT together, in the hope of giving birth to something different and better.
Christian hope, rooted in God, is our anchor.”**
*V. 1 A Journey in faith and time, Sr R do Carmo Sampaio
** Pope Francis public audience of 26 August 2020
Article in French: Qu’en est-il de nos rêves ?
« Quand le monde fait face aujourd’hui au défi de la sortie de la pandémie de la Covid 19, ce que nous connaissons de l’histoire de l’Institut des RSCM à ses tout débuts peut nous donner modestement à réfléchir. »
Groupe Héritage et Spiritualité
Marie- France Correau rscm