But no-one I think would want to be forgotten, to dissolve into total anonymity once their life is over. I'm very aware of this today. May 13th has several anniversaries. It is the day on which my father died - twenty years ago but the day is still fresh in my memory and he still lives in my heart. The older I get the more I am aware of my family ancestors and how I belong to a great family tradition that goes back to the first moment of creation. I don't know these ancestors but they live in me and each day I remember and honour them in my morning prayer. It reminds me of how we are all interconnected and how not one of us is a disconnected individual but influenced by our genes and family history, part of the great human family and related to all creation for we all came from that first moment of life which we call the big bang.
The same is true for spiritual ancestors. They too have influenced us. Today is also the anniversary of the death of Bede Griffiths, a benedictine monk whor lived in an ashram in southern India, committed to establishing a dialogue between Christianity and Hinduism. He dressed as a Hindu holy man, adopted Indian customs, read the Hindu scriptures and recognised wisdom in philosophies other than his own. He died on the same day as my father so I feel a certain connection with him. I never met him but did visit his grave in his ashram, 'Shantivanam' and wondered if they encountered one another in the hereafter whatever that might be. I have read his books and been influenced by his writings. My abiding memory of a CD of a talk he gave is of him saying ' there is such wisdom in that'. I loved this ability to see the truth, the wisdom, the insights in other faiths and philosophies. What a wonderful way to look at the world and not to judge one against the other.
Another spiritual ancestor is Marie Rose Julie Billiart, the foundress of my community, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Today the universal Catholic Church remembers her but especially the sisters of my congregation and other congregations that she influenced. Taking part in the conference in Namur last week were sisters from two congregatons, the Sisters of Our Lady of Amersfoot and Notre Dame Coesfeld who also claim Julie as their foundress. We think of them as our cousins but it was obvious how influenced we all were with the spirit of Julie. In spite of disability, illness and hardship in the aftermath of the French Revolution she spoke constantly of the goodness of God and tried to show this in practical ways to poor women and children left without education and the means of earning an income in the social disruption of the time. She was a poor woman, brought up in a very beautiful part of rural France, in a small village called Picardy which we visited last week. From that small beginning her spirit and dedication to education has spread throughout the world and her influence is very much alive through the work of her sisters.
So today is a day for thinking about family and spiritual ancestors, for giving thanks for them and keeping alive their memory. In no sense do we want them to be forgotten. Nor can they be for they live in us whether we realise it or not.