Today the image of blood is hardly attractive. On the news we see bloodshed in violence in every part of the world. We hear violence promoted as a reasonable response to perceived injuries. People work hard to stop the bloodshed. So why would anyone want to devote themselves to blood that was shed in violence, even if that blood is the blood of Jesus?
As a response to that question, it helps to look at the foundation of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. It began with a Swiss wife and mother, Maria Anna Brunner. As a widow she made a pilgrimage to Rome where she heard the Missionaries of the Precious Blood speak passionately about the Precious Blood of Jesus, a popular devotion of the time. She was so touched by what she heard, which emphasized the commitment to working so that “not one drop of Blood be shed in vain,” she decided to dedicate the rest of her life to this devotion and to spreading it.
On her return to Switzerland, Maria Anna, with several other women of the area, began hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament combined with service to people, especially children, who were hungry, orphaned or in need of instruction in the faith. These women were steeped in contemplation of the redeeming love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. This devotion became the charism of the many women who followed in Mother Brunner’s footsteps.
Every religious congregation receives a charism, a particular gift from God, which is meant to be a gift in turn to God’s people. This founding charism, often a particular ministry or form of service like charity, mercy or poverty, guides the members of a religious community over the years. For the Sisters of the Precious Blood, our inspiration arises from a particular spirituality, that of devotion to the Blood of Jesus. The ministries in which we are involved as a result of this charism embrace a response to the many needs we find wherever we live. We respond in whatever way we can to make the life-giving and reconciling love of Jesus incarnate among people today.
Just as Mother Brunner discovered, the expression of our devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus finds its source in the Eucharist. The Paschal Mystery which celebrates the death and resurrection of Jesus is important to us as we, in turn, recognize that same mystery being lived out each day in our lives and in the lives of those we serve. We unite our everyday lives with Jesus who gave of himself totally – to the last drop of his blood recognizing that violence and death are overcome by the power of his Precious Blood.
Today we are faithful to our founding charism by being women of prayer and by being a life-giving and reconciling presence in all our relationships. Like our Mother Brunner we continue to proclaim God’s love, motivated by the Precious Blood of Jesus.
The Devotion Advances
Over the years, our charism, our spirituality expressed in devotion to the Precious Blood of Jesus has developed. Our early Sisters, both in Switzerland and in the frontier lands of the United States, faithfully prayed night hours of adoration in reparation for the “sins of the night.” They expressed their love of God and God’s people in this form of prayer to make up for the many unloving acts being committed, especially during the night time hours.
Today we continue adoration of the Blessed Sacrament though the many demands of ministry have encouraged us to find creative ways to express it. In our attempts to serve faithfully, we engage in contemplation of the unceasing love of God for all people and give expression of that love in our generosity and availability. Prayer before the Eucharist continues to be an important part of our lives. We cultivate ways of bringing that attitude of adoration to all that we do, offering, each in her own way, the “last drop of blood” of our daily efforts.
Through our commitment to and adoration of the Precious Blood of Jesus in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist we become women of hope and promise. The daily dying that comes from embracing our limitations and failures and the daily rising of God’s grace at work in us, allow us to give fully, completely and totally of ourselves in both prayer and ministry.
This Paschal Mystery of dying and rising daily to new life in Christ draws us to see how and where the liberating and healing effects of the Precious Blood might be brought to people suffering and oppressed. As we immerse ourselves in this mystery, we see that the wonderful world God created is in pain, and that the Precious Blood calls us to respond by bringing the joy of new life and the healing of reconciliation where there is death, despair and violence.
Although images of blood are often unpleasant and are usually associated with violence, as Sisters of the Precious Blood we focus on the redeeming love of Jesus expressed in the shedding his blood for our liberation and salvation. This allows us to view blood not as death-dealing but as life-giving. It allows us to be motivated to give our last drop of blood that Jesus’ love might be known.
Cross and Resurrection
In our experience of Precious Blood spirituality as a congregation, two different, but related, expressions of our spirituality are evident: the Cross and the Resurrection.
The Cross and the Resurrection mold us into women of hope and promise. We embrace the pain of weakness and infidelity as well as celebrate the joy of nourishment and satisfaction. Our spirituality draws us to the depths of God’s loving presence; a presence that ever reminds us of the intimacy our Divine Lover desires to have with us, an intimacy eloquently expressed in Eucharist. Both during our Eucharistic adoration, and at Mass when we are invited to eat the Bread of Life and drink from the Cup of Salvation, we encounter our Divine Lover.
Adoration and Celebration
There is a distinct parallel between the Cross and Resurrection and Eucharistic adoration and celebration. During our time of adoration, we empty ourselves as Jesus did on the Cross in order to bring life to those in need. We humbly kneel before the Eucharistic Christ in constant prayer — longing for communion, and savoring the promise of fullness of Life to come while reflecting on the alienation we experience in our own lives and in the world. We pray for Salvation and challenge ourselves to conversion. During the Eucharistic celebration we stand together as an assembly before the Lord, manifesting the one Body of Christ (the Church). We embrace fulfillment, witness to wholeness, announce redemption, and open ourselves to transformation. At Mass, we rejoice at Christ’s victory over death and His promise of risen life to all the faithful. At each and every Mass we celebrate that death is not an end but a beginning; that, through death, comes eternal Life.
The Cross and the Resurrection, Eucharistic adoration and celebration disclose a dynamic rhythm — a creative tension that’s central to our living of Precious Blood spirituality. This dynamic rhythm of cross/adoration and resurrection/celebration expresses eloquently the one Mystery we live: self-giving lives for the good of others. We place ourselves at the foot of the Cross in self-giving. We place ourselves on the Eucharistic altar in self-giving.
This lived Mystery is a creating, dynamic one because by embracing both the human and Divine, we bring forth the transformation that is at the very heart of living the Gospel. The depth of the Mystery that we live is no less than our being transformed ever more perfectly into the Body of Christ, into living icons of Jesus the risen Christ who definitively reveals to us the intimate presence of God. And we, in turn, are that Divine presence for others.
When we embrace the creative tension of cross/adoration/self-giving and resurrection/celebration/life-receiving, we pledge ourselves to the kind of personal and congregational transformation that makes a difference in the world. Eucharistic living — the concrete expression of our Precious Blood spirituality — is nothing less than a total giving of ourselves over to be transformed ever more perfectly into ever more faithful members of the Body of Christ.
The creative dynamic of self-giving and life-receiving that is at the root of our spirituality must be sought out and held in balance if we are truly to make a difference in the world. By its very nature, our expression of Precious Blood spirituality leads us to caring deeply for others and doing all we can to meet whatever needs are presented to us.
Our Precious Blood spirituality is a constant and very concrete reminder that Jesus Christ is the source of all good, the source of overcoming all want, and the fount of justice and peace. We are called to be the presence of the risen Christ for all those we meet every day of our lives. Ultimately, the challenge of our spirituality and its grounding in the Eucharist is to internalize the cry of Paul: “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).