Your Words Reveal Your thoughts

At the end of the 1918 scholastic year, news arrived from the Agrarian Association of Ljubljana that in the scholastic year 1918-1919  the School of Agriculture and of Home Economics in the Marian Institute (Marianisce) of Ljubljana would be opened.  This school had not been open during the war because the Institute had been used by the military for wounded soldiers.

The Superior General at that time, Mother Lidvina Purgaj, the foundress of the School of Agriculture and Home Economics and our teacher at Marijianisce, named the young Sr. Izabela Gosak as the principal of the school.  Sr. Felicita Kalinsek was named as teacher of culinary arts and Sr. Berta Sivko as teacher of sewing and needlework.27

Since there were 60 aspirants at the Motherhouse that year, it was decided that four of them would frequent the Marian Institute of  Ljubljana (Marijanisce). The future Sr. Hedvika Puntar was among these four.

While we were waiting to transfer from Maribor to Ljubljana, Sr. Isabela took advantage of the time to give us some preparation for the Normal School of Home Economics. For two hours a day she gave us lessons on some material in the program which was unfamiliar and not very interesting to us.

Sr. Lidvina Purgaj who taught the teachers’ education classes, however, fired our enthusiasm. I must say I have never heard, before or after, such practical directives on self-education, although every educator, every teacher from kindergarten onward, ought to know them, as well as every mother, every religious, every superior, and also every collaborator in the family and in the civic community. Without these practical directives, teaching would have been more difficult, and perhaps more destructive than constructive.

Sr. Lidvina greatly emphasized the importance of good example, an understanding of temperaments, and other practical educational ideas. She would often say, “If you are not educated yourself, don’t try to educate others. Don’t demand from your students what you yourself do not possess, nor something which your students do not already see in you.”
 
Although these ideas were important, we much more enjoyed hearing from Sr. Lidvina about the many examples, directives and solutions to problems used by Mother Margareta. Sr. Lidvina had the habit of saying,  “On this point our Mother taught us like this...., she recommended this....., she thought......, she did this.....”  With those words Sr. Lidvina enriched whatever topic she was teaching us and reinforced within us the need for constant self-education. I remember in particular the explanation she gave of Mother Margareta’s teaching methods, her suggestions on how to dialogue, and the attitudes and bearing we should have when speaking with others.

Mother Margareta was of the opinion that in general people speak too much. If they would critically analyze their manner of speaking they would notice many empty, useless, trivial, unsuitable words - some of which even insult or offend others. In fact, there is a proverb that says, “Whoever speaks much, accomplishes little.”

To speak frivolously is not just a waste of precious time for a person with spiritual inclinations, but is also a hindrance to that recollection which is so difficult to attain without personal effort and the grace of God.  If we wish to dedicate the talent and energy we have received from God to the needs of others, we  must first of all renounce those useless words that deprive us of the time needed for our work and responsibilities.

Already during the period of aspirancy, we were encouraged to acquire a great love and esteem toward this Congregation to which we were seeking to belong.  We were encouraged to ask God for the wisdom to know when to be silent and when to speak.

Mother Lidvina also mentioned that Mother Margareta would sometimes read the Book of Sirach from the Holy Scriptures, because it stressed the importance of good example. Over two thousand years ago this wise author showed that a person’s words reveal who that person really is. The manner in which the person speaks reveals his or her upbringing and how cultured the person is.

When a person reflects they become aware of their faults…. A person reveals herself in her conversation… Words reveal the sentiments of a person....Do not praise a person until he or she has spoken.  (Sirach) 

Sr. Margareta used the words of Sirach to emphasize how much  our teaching is affected by how we speak.  We can never be too wise in this regard.

According to Mother Lidvina, Mother Margareta sometimes invited the sisters at breakfast or at supper to reflect on the day’s Gospel passage.  She knew how to select pearls, bits of gold suitable for daily meditation, such as, “... Mary preserved all these things in her heart..” (Lk 2: 51)   She would say,

Mary held all these things in her heart…Indeed, Sisters, let us also keep the words of today’s Gospel in our hearts and meditate on them, remaining in the presence of God all day long.... With integrity of spirit let us also keep within ourselves any words which the sisters have entrusted to us, and not spread them around elsewhere. During the examination of conscience at noon and in the evening, let us reflect on how well we have kept our resolution. Let us give glory to God and live in harmony with our neighbor, and God will not fail to repay us.  In this way our day will be richly blessed.

Mother Margareta wanted the aspirants to learn to speak in a calm and educated manner, without laughing too loudly,  clapping their hands, or jumping around like overly excited children. Children have the right to express themselves in this way, but when they grow older they too no longer make these “little scenes,” otherwise adults will consider them immature or problematic.

Mother Margareta exhorted the aspirants and taught them how they ought to speak among themselves.  She would tell them to avoid unnecessary speech, especially about useless things. She also encouraged them to speak as little as possible about the laity. This didn’t mean that we didn’t want to have anything to do with them besides the responsibility of praying for them.

Neither does God want us to speak badly about each other, the sisters, the superiors, or the priests.  By speaking in this negative backbiting manner we are committing a sin that will deprive us of many graces that God intended to give us.

Referring to the Our Father, especially the words “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…,”  Mother Margareta often emphasized that our prayers may not be heard either because of a lax conscience or because we speak unkindly about our neighbor.  

She used to beg the sisters:

My dear Sisters, let us give glory to Jesus, who loves everyone, the good and the bad. He has suffered to make each of them happy.  Let us then try to speak well of everyone and avoid negative judgments about others, so that Jesus may be merciful to us in our last hour.

Mother Lidvina continued,

When Mother Margareta introduced silence into the Community and exhorted us to avoid useless discourse, she didn’t intend to prohibit necessary speaking,  talking needed to carry on our educational activity at school or our tasks in community. She also didn’t mean being silent when there were personal concerns or problems in the community, especially in cases where immediate intervention was essential. For these and similar cases she said the superior’s door should always remain open.  For without this sincere concern for each other it could very well happen that the sisters would become frustrated and seek a willing ear elsewhere.

Such situations often occur in families where parents are not open to their children in sincere dialogue. This however, results in a loss of reciprocal trust in the family and may leave it incurably wounded, unable to be healed.

Using the opportunity, Mother Margareta took the Scriptures in her hands and opened to the passage of the two discouraged disciples on their way to Emmaus.  They had experienced suffering and unspeakable pain after the death of Christ.  They had to leave Jerusalem in order to escape from their grief. How could it be that their Lord is dead and no longer in their midst?

And then their Master, this Divine Stranger, was in their midst, and right there with them on their journey, but they didn’t know Him.  He heard them speaking of Him, of his condemnation and death, how one of them had betrayed Him and handed Him over into the hands of His enemies. He heard them discuss how even Peter, “the first among them,” had renounced Him three times and how he now wept and repented,…how His disciples were suffering in His absence…This Divine Stranger made them think that he was uninformed of what they were discussing.

Then the two disciples began to recount to Him all that was in their hearts, and He began to explain the Divine Plan of salvation and the Scriptures to them.  He spoke in the same manner that their Master had spoken to them, and their hearts were moved. They invited Him to remain with them for supper, and they recognized Him in the breaking of the bread, just as He had done at the Last Supper.  What joy for those two disciples.

Let us, Sisters, allow this Divine Companion to accompany us, to direct us, to explain, enlighten, inspire and bless all our conversations and dialogues during our earthly lives.

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27. Sr. Berta Sivko was a collaborator of Sr. Rosa at Maribor.