The Feast of the Sacred Heart (today) 8th June 2018, is a Feast of particular significance to Presentation Sisters and Presentation People everywhere. The text which follows is an extract from a talk given by Sr. Raphael Consedine, PBVM speaking at the Nano Nagle Bicentenary Seminar on 28th April 1984, in St. Patrick’s College Drumcondra, Dublin. She articulates a profound insight into the depth and breadth of Nano’s heart for humanity.
Nano Nagle, Spirit-led, Spirit-strengthened, was wholly woman in her response to God’s action in her life. For she lived fully the essence of womanhood – to be life-bearer, life nurturer among her people. She looked on the harsh reality of her ‘today’ … and did not turn aside from it. She did not spend her energies on anger or on violence in response to injustice, nor did she let herself be paralysed by the magnitude of problems around her. Accepting the suffering which her decisions entailed, she gave to others the gifts of life and of future.[…]
Just as in our celebration we cannot separate the human and the divine dimensions, so Nano in her life-giving, life-nurturing work did not attempt to separate human and Christian growth.
Speaking in 1984 – (but no less relevant for our times) Raphael Consedine said:
Nano Nagle seems given to us anew in these our times, when our difficulties seem so insurmountable that we are tempted, as she must have been tempted, to draw back and cry out:
“What can I do? What can one person do?”
Nano’s life shows us the answer – we can begin at our own door.[…]
If I were to attempt to sum up Nano’s spirituality – the whole of her response to God, to life, to people – in one phrase, that phrase would be ..‘hospitality of heart’. She was a woman of welcoming heart.
By these words I refer to something centuries old in Irish spirituality, something deeper and richer than any mere kindness to travellers, courtesy to strangers, something that goes beyond that valued tradition of the hospitality of the Great Houses, even beyond that well attested willingness of the poor to share their last crust, their last potato. All these are flowers from a more ancient tree.
All of these spring from a faith vision of reality in which the divine and human meet, calling forth a response of active love, of open hearted welcome to the world, to life, to every person encountered on life’s way, a vision powerfully expressed in the 8th century Irish poem which came to be known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Let me quote from the loved familiar lines:
I arise today through the strength of heaven,
Light of the sun, radiance of the moon, splendour of fire …
I arise today through God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me, God’s wisdom to guide me…
Christ with me …before me…behind me,
Christ within me… beneath me…above me…
Christ in my rising… Christ in my rest,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me,
Christ in the heart of friend or stranger.
Nano’s open-hearted, welcoming response to this faith vision of reality, was her most precious legacy to her Presentation family and to all whose lives have been touched by hers […].
This spirit of hers has been preserved, not like some lovely jewel to be admired and guarded, but like a living and life-giving tree, adapting itself to changing conditions and continuing to bear fruit.