Don’t we all have this question—the question about God?
Where are you, God?
I can’t see you. … I can’t feel you. … Are you there? … Where are you? And if you are there, then let yourself be seen, let yourself be felt, let yourself be experienced. Show your presence.
Where are you, God? How can I experience you?
Perhaps we are tempted at first to respond with stock answers. God is here and is there—in creation, in the world, in nature, in human beings and their actions, in the Church and in everything that happens within it; nothing is without God.
But we soon sense that this is a theoretical, learned response, rather than an answer arising from our own life experience.
Where is God in our lives, in my life? Where do I experience God? I seek God in my life, and in doing so, I discover that my experience of God has a double aspect: the experience of the presence and the absence—or, as scripture expresses it, the presence and the hiddenness—of God.
Which of us hasn’t already in some way or other experienced in our lives that God is there, is present—be it in meeting with people, in being freed from guilt, in being rescued from need, or in the strength to withstand suffering and darkness—even if the Lord’s presence becomes perceptible only in retrospect?
Yet the deeper and more lasting experiences of our life are probably the dark stretches, the parched stretches of daily life, the experience of suffering, abandonment, loneliness, inner and outer need in a person’s life.
Days, weeks, months, years, in which this question accompanies us: Where is God? … Where are you? … Aren’t you there?
And it is often a very long time before we see and perceive that it was precisely here that God was present, and that these times, too, passed through God’s hands.
Sister Gemma of the Obedience of Jesus Hinricher, O.C.D.
Sister Gemma of the Obedience of Jesus, OCD, born Ursula Hinricher on 4 January 1932 in Münster, Germany, studied theology and philosophy in Münster before entering the Carmel in Pützchen (Bonn) in 1959. She was professed in 1960, and in 1964 she and other sisters from Pützchen founded the Carmel of the Precious Blood on the site of the former concentration camp in Dachau. Sister Gemma was Prioress of this foundation from 1970 until 1982.
In 1982, she and eleven other sisters from Dachau founded the Carmel Regina Martyrum in Berlin, a short distance from Plötzensee Prison. Founded in the nineteenth century, this prison became an execution site from the time the National Socialists came to power in 1933 until the end of the Second World War. Members of the resistance movement from Germany and elsewhere, such as Father Alfred Delp, SJ, were beheaded or hanged at Plötzensee Prison.
As Archbishop of Munich, Pope Benedict XVI supported these Discalced Carmelite nuns in their apostolate of reconciliation. In 1982, he awarded the Romano-Guardini Prize to Sr. Gemma.
Sister Gemma was Prioress of the Carmel in Berlin from its foundation until her passing; she saw the fall of the Berlin Wall before her death on 4 August 1990.
Hinricher, G 2010, God and Darkness: A Carmelite Perspective, translated by Avis, M, SLG Press, Oxford.
Featured image: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger presented the Romano-Guardini Prize of the Catholic Academy in Bavaria on 27 June 1982, which for the first time was awarded to a woman, Sr. Gemma Hinricher, OCD. Image credit: ©KNA via katholisch.de
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