According to the Jewish tradition from the Talmud (the oral Torah), each generation gives rise to thirty six just men on whose shoulders rests the fate of the world. They are like pillars of society and if they disappeared the world would be destroyed. Apparently there is nothing to differentiate them from other men. They are unknown, and often they themselves are unaware that they belong to the thirty-six just, which is where the idea of them being hidden comes from. They are spoken of as the “hidden just”. The survival of the world depends on their human qualities of healing compassion and intercessory power. They are so humble that they cannot even imagine that they belong to this happy few who prevent the world from collapsing.
Does this Jewish legend have something to say to our Congregations ? And what if religious life, today so tried and weakened, played the role of the “hidden just” in society ? It doesn’t attract attention, and with a gentle tenacity (that we call faith), it humbly keeps its place of praise and service in the world. It does not have a high opinion of itself ; it only does its duty, like any other servant. It would never dare imagine itself as a pillar that supports the world. And what if religious life belonged to the “thirty six hidden just” ?
Does this beautiful story have something to say to us ? What if our Congregation has been able to last and exist for two centuries because, in each generation, it has given rise to “thirty six hidden just” who, like pillars, support the Institute ? A few humble sisters spread throughout the world, without a high opinion of themselves, faithfully live their commitment day after day, loving God and those around them as best they can. They go through life without fanfare, but the Congregation remains standing thanks to them.
If, by chance, we are pretentious enough to believe that we are one of the “hidden just”, it is the greatest proof that we are not. On the other hand, the sister who is next to us might be one of the small number of just persons who makes the world liveable. What if knowing this changed how we look upon our companions in community ?
Sr. Anne Chapell - Angelica n°33 - March 2017