Resurrection moments in Mary Ward’s life.

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The ‘Glory Vision’, late-1609.

There are moments for all of us in our lives that we might call ‘resurrection moments’ – when, very often after some demanding or painful experience, God gives us new life and strength, encouragement to move in another direction. We can recognise such times in Mary Ward’s life, which may bring insights for us, her followers, and for the people around us.

‘One morning making my meditation coldly, and not at all to my satisfaction, at the end of it…. going to dress myself according to the fashion of the country and other circumstances, whilst I adorned my head at the mirror, something very supernatural befell me…. I was abstracted out of my whole being, and it was shown to me with clearness and inexpressible certainty, that I was not to be of the Order of St. Teresa, but that some other thing was determined for me, without all comparison more to the glory of God than my entrance into that holy religion. I did not see what the assured good thing would be, but the glory of God which was to come through it, showed itself inexplicably and so abundantly as to fill my soul in such a way that I remained for a good space without feeling or hearing anything but the sound ‘Glory, glory, glory’.’

Mary Ward
Painted Life No. 22

At the moment when this vision came (and lasted, as she afterwards calculated, about two hours) she was in a state of uncertainty. Her deeply painful experience of being an out-sister in a French Poor Clare community, on the assurance of an English Jesuit that it was God’s will for her, had led her to found a new Poor Clare community for English women, where she was an enclosed contemplative. She was happy there, expected to stay for her whole life – but God showed her clearly that it was not to be. She returned to England, perhaps after hurtful comments about ‘spoiled nuns’, to see what God might show her there about where he was leading her. The ‘Glory Vision’, that experience in London, seems, from what we know of the next stage, to have been a ‘resurrection’ moment – perhaps not seen instantly as such, any more than the disciples’ experience of Easter Sunday brought instant recognition of the risen Jesus. In Mary’s case she was worried because of a promise to her confessor which seemed to conflict with the vision. But we know that the next thing she did was to collect a group of companions and return to Saint Omer to continue the search with them -and that was the turning-point in the story of her vocation. She was now positively on the way to finding the ‘some other thing’ that God wanted.

If I look back over my own life, perhaps I can see a similar ‘resurrection moment’, of new beginning, new search for God’s way for me, which might help others to recognise what is happening in their lives. Mary Ward’s search was lived with others – my search, also, is a journey not taken alone.

Sr. Patricia Harriss CJ

Carla Bellone