Arise — go! Sell all you possess. Give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being poor, being one with them, one with Me.
Little — be always little! Be simple, poor, childlike.
Preach the Gospel with your life — without compromise! Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you.
Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.
Love... love... love, never counting the cost.
Go into the marketplace and stay with Me. Pray, fast. Pray always, fast.
Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbour’s feet. Go without fear into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you.
Pray always. I will be your rest.
The Little Mandate of Madonna House
Arise—go! As I promised last week, I will start going through the Little Mandate of MH, the core spirituality of my community, bit by bit, on Tuesdays. For those unfamiliar with MH and these words, they are a series of words ‘given’ to our foundress Catherine Doherty in the 1920s and 30s, as she grappled with what God was asking her to do for Him.
The first words were, indeed ‘Arise—go!’ And this puts the whole mandate as a call to action, to movement, to mission. Abraham was sent; Moses was sent; the prophets were sent; Jesus was sent; the Spirit was sent; the apostles were sent. Mission—sending—is at the heart of the biblical revelation, the very core of our relationship to God. In John’s Gospel God the Father is normally referred to by Jesus as ‘the One who sent me.’ God, the Beloved of our soul, sends us.
This basic aspect of revelation, which then is much bigger by far than MH and our specific vocation, means that God for us is the One who comes to change us. God is the One who is never satisfied with us as we are, never leaves us where we are. Oh, He loves us (we always have to say that, don’t we, so shaky is our faith in that), but because of His love He doesn’t want to leave us in the state we are in currently. Whatever that state may be, however great we think it is.
He has something more, something better, and so is constantly playing the ‘Arise-go!’ card on us. Not because He is displeased with us, but quite the opposite. The mark of God’s love for us and even His good pleasure in us is that He does not leave us be. There is always a radical conversion, a radical departure, a radical transformation God wants to work in us, and this never changes, no matter how old we get or how settled our life may be outwardly.
In the original context of God giving this word to Catherine, He was indeed asking her to make radical outward changes in her life: leaving a position of relative economic security and at least a fragile domestic order (her marriage had just ended, after all) to move into the slums, not knowing what she would do there or how. She would arise and go, in a few years, to Harlem, to Chicago, and finally to Combermere.
Once here, the arising and going took on a different dimension. A continual interior willingness to change what she was doing, to receive new words from the Lord, to be called into heights and depths of prayer, to be acutely sensitive to the needs of the people coming to MH and to change what MH was doing to meet those needs at a moment’s notice. It is one thing to be doing that in one’s 30s or even 40s; Catherine remained supple and pliable to the Lord into her old age, always open to the call of God to arise and go.
To live a life of friendship with God, to live a life without a roof, so to speak, open to heaven, requires by its very definition this kind of suppleness, this constant willingness to, at least inwardly (and sometimes outwardly!) arise and go, change, learn, grow, move. And it is out of this fundamental attitude towards God that the rest of the Little Mandate, and indeed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, flows in our life and bears the fruit of holiness it is meant to bear.