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Day 12: Joyful Voice

Joyful Voice

Editor’s note: On this twelfth and final day of our Advent and Christmas blog series “His Light Would Not Go Out,” FMS board member Teresa Redder, OFS, reflects on the courageous persistence needed to be a joyful voice for justice in our world.

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, my husband Jeff and I enjoyed some quiet time together and watched the Laudato Si’ Movement’s video The Letter: A Message for Our Earth. By an invitational letter from Pope Francis, several representative voices shared perspectives on the effects of climate change: the poor (those on the peripheries), the indigenous peoples, the youth, and wildlife (nature).

Since Pope Francis issued the encyclical Laudato Si’ in May 2015, the world has not become a saner place.  Yet as Madeline L’Engle said so well in her poem, “we cannot wait until the world is sane to raise our songs with joyful voice.”  The voices in the video spoke powerfully from their personal experiences: a man from Senegal affected by rising sea levels that increased the poverty of their region; an activist chief from the Amazon fiercely advocating to preserve their native way of living in harmony with nature; a husband and wife team of marine biologists who specialize in the study of threatened coral reefs and the ecosystems that rely on them; and a teenaged girl (Ridhima Pandey) from Handikar, India, who has fearlessly challenged her country and the United Nations as a young climate activist.  Inspired by the stories, I knew that our grandchildren needed to hear these voices, too.

For 14 years, I served as a Girl Scout leader for our two daughters and their many friends.  When one of our granddaughters became a scout, her mom (my oldest daughter) became her leader.  What a joy now to watch this next generation of girls as they appreciate the sisterhood of scouting as an international association—building a more fraternal world! Every troop meeting concludes with a sharing circle, the joyful singing of “Make New Friends,” and the squeeze that is the sign of strength in the unbroken circle of friendship.

Are there voices like Ridhima’s in our troop?  Will our scouts courageously persist until someone listens to them?  Will the leadership that they are learning have an impact on other youth and the adults with whom they interact?

I have learned that to have a joyful voice, I must look to God for hope.  Christ teaches us that true joy comes from thinking about others before ourselves. There are so many peace and justice issues that exist solely because of societal indifference.   As a volunteer prison minister for more than 20 years, I have experienced many daunting and humbling encounters.  I learned that faithful advocacy can be discouraging because unjust systems set up complex barriers to their reform. Even within Church circles, I have met practicing faithful people who do not want to address injustice.  Remaining joyful in difficult situations is how the love of Christ speaks to the world in its pain and grief–never losing hope that good is always present and that we are never alone.  

That is why Christ came as a Child–to show us that love does not remain silent and cannot be silenced.  The joyful voice sings and acts in unison with Christ, who is alive in our hearts! 

Question for reflection: Have you ever experienced discouragement as you tried to be a voice for others who are suffering?  What does it take to remain joyful when relationships are strained?

Teresa is a Secular Franciscan from St. Katharine Drexel Region who currently serves on the FMS Board of Directors and as minister of her local fraternity. She and her husband Jeff live in Eastampton, NJ, close to their four adult children and their six grandchildren, and is a long-time prison minister and RCIA catechist in her local parish. Teresa’s first encounter with FMS was at the Secular Franciscan Quinquennial Congress in Newark, DE, in 1997.

Franciscan Mission Service often invites guest writers to contribute to the blog. Contributors often include board members, formation leaders, Secular Franciscans, Franciscan friars and sisters, and other friends of the organization. If you would be interested in contributing, please contact info@franciscanmissionservice.org.