By Sister Joyce Ann Zimmerman
Precious Blood spirituality surely predates the 175- year- history of the Sisters of the Precious Blood. In fact, it even predates St. Gaspar del Bufalo (1786-1837), founder of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. The earliest mention of a confraternity (a group of people bonded together with a common purpose) devoted to the Precious Blood dates to about 75 years before Gaspar’s birth. It quickly became Europe and North America. Today there are a number of congregations and societies devoted to the Precious Blood.
While there are many similarities in prayers and practices among us, we Dayton Sisters of the Precious Blood have a particularly strong focus among the members of the Precious Blood family that marks our spirituality as unique.
Unlike many congregations and societies which were founded for a particular ministry, we were founded for a lived spirituality marked by Eucharistic adoration and devotion.
Cross and Resurrection
If we reflect back through our experience of Precious Blood spirituality as a congregation, two different but related expressions of our spirituality are evident. To some extent these different expressions reflect the spirituality of the times. At the same time, throughout the years of our life as a congregation, we have come to interpret our spirituality through the signs of the times without ever losing the clarity of the two expressions that make up our living of Precious Blood spirituality.
One expression beckons us to focus on images that bring us to the foot of the cross: blood poured out for us… let not one drop be shed in vain… price of our redemption… satisfaction for sins… poor souls in purgatory…. These images (reflected, for example, in our official documents, prayers, sacred music favorites, and art objects created by our sisters) profoundly remind us of our utter dependence on God for salvation, a dependence that calls forth from us a surrender to God’s will that emulates the surrender of Jesus: “Not my will, but yours be done.” The hallmarks of this aspect of our spirituality are love, trust, confidence, letting go, openness. Salvation is won less by our own efforts than by giving ourselves over to God so that God may work marvels through us.
Ever mindful that we are weak human beings in need of God’s grace and redemption, nevertheless we never come to the cross with a morbid sense of our own sinfulness or worthlessness. No, we come to the cross with hearts filled with gratitude, we acknowledge in our prayer and life Jesus’ singular self-sacrifice for our salvation, and we strive to bring to full fruit the joys and hopes, forgiveness and mercy, grace and peace that only coming to the cross can give.
Another expression of our Precious Blood spirituality has been even more evident, especially since the liturgical renewal of the Second Vatican Council: We are keenly aware that the cross leads to resurrection, death to life, anguish to hope, sorrow to joy, emptiness to fullness, salvation to redemption. In living our spirituality we not only stand at the foot of the cross in surrender, we also dance at the empty tomb in triumph. Our Lord lives! This glory of the resurrection likewise is distinct in images important to us: Praised and blessed be the Sacred Heart and the most Precious Blood of Jesus in the most holy Sacrament of the altar… Eucharistic drink and refreshment of souls… the simplicity of our lifestyle often gives way to the abundance of joyous feasting….
Cross and resurrection: These 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. Cross and resurrection: self-giving/life receiving. Our spirituality draws us to the depths of God’s loving presence to us human beings, 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. Is it no wonder that Eucharist is absolutely central in our lives?
Adoration and Celebration
We can discover a 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, savoring the promise of fullness of Life to come, reflecting on the alienation we experience in our own lives and in the world, praying for salvation, challenging ourselves to conversion. During the Eucharistic celebration we stand together as an assembly before the Lord manifesting the one Body of Christ (the church), embracing fulfillment, witnessing to wholeness, announcing redemption, opening 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.
Cross and resurrection, Eucharistic adoration and celebration disclose a dynamic rhythm — a creative tension — 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. In both acts we are united to Christ (first through baptism) and are shaped by the common life to which our vows give expression. Our lives are conformed to Christ’s life, and our Precious Blood spirituality is the visible, concrete expression of that conformity. We are drawn to the same kind of self-giving for the good of others that marks the whole announcement of the Gospel. We are called to embrace both cross and resurrection, adoration and feasting, prophetic Word and messianic Banquet.
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. The transformation of society is a function of transformation of self. This willingness to change, to be transformed, is the pain of the cross we cannot avoid. And it is the only road toward real transformation of society, such that “there was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:34). 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, the fount of justice and peace. We are called to be the presence of the risen Christ for all those we meet, each 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).