The Mercy Mandala holds the story of the Sisters of Mercy in England, Scotland and Wales, and it also holds a personal story for those who are open to reflect on the divine dimension in their lives.
The mystery the artist wants to convey can be unveiled, unwrapped or opened up and made personal by reflecting on the different symbols and on the story. Each one of us takes ownership of the story as it presents itself .
The Mandala is an invitation to make a journey towards personal awareness, growth and challenge. It can help us visualize inner symbols, be a process of healing wounds and finding answers we often already carry within.
The Sisters identify strongly with the region’s mandala. An overriding sense of life and light infuses the design. The key visual element in the background radiates colour and energy, it is feminine and gentle. Sweeping curves intersect through the design, emphasising a sense of soft interlacing, a woven interconnectedness. The images selected tell a brief story of the Sisters as a group of women, connected to their history and foundress, and to people with whom they share their lives.
The Circle is a symbol of eternity. It holds the energy of the universe and vibrates with wholeness and balance. The Circle of Mercy is boundless and is a sacred space for each of us to be spiritually energized.
The Cross stands as a symbol of God’s mercy. It stands before us as a challenge to proclaim God’s loving-kindness, mercy, forgiveness, acceptance, and God’s desire that we be ourselves. God’s mercy is for all of us, a mercy we are called to share and spread like a spring of water moving out from the cross.
The Mercy Crosses are a reminder of the Women of Mercy throughout the ages/ throughout the world/ throughout England, Scotland and Wales who have been a light in the darkness for God’s people. They are also a symbol of Mercy in the future.
We are drawn to The Light and stillness at the top of the Mandala. The world draws us back to God. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God”. All things come from God and all go back to God. White contains all colours. From the rays of light is formed a rainbow, symbol of God’s inclusiveness, God’s love to the people of all nations, cultures and creeds. We are a rainbow people.
The coming of the Holy Spirit in the form of wind and fire disturbs the rainbow people. The spirit speaks to each soul in its own way and in its own language. The early Sisters of Mercy met with great difficulties and opposition but answered the call and placed their trust and confidence in God. This part of the story of Mercy reminds us of the life choices and decisions made by the early Sisters of Mercy.
The Mercy Cross emerges out of a heart full of movement and energy. There is no love without suffering and the Mercy Cross shines through the hearts of all. Here we are reminded of Mary’s “yes” to God, her openness to and co-operation with God’s plan for our salvation, and our own call to be Mercy in our world.
The spirals and brown earthy swirling curves suggest a world and a faith that are in a state of perpetual motion, of movement inward and outward. Our beginnings as Sisters of Mercy in these islands grew out of a Celtic Church. The Celtic spiral and the shamrock are symbols of eternity and the power of the divinity. The story here calls for personal reflection and discernment. The rich, brown, fertile earth reminds us of Mercy workers worldwide and of the richness within every heart. The elements of earth, air, sun and rain have combined with the compost of the past to produce vigorous new growth.
The first Sisters of Mercy took risks. They moved across the waters to spread the Gospel of Christ. The Sisters came with a song in their hearts. “I have a list of songs ready for the journey” and “Hurray for new foundations.” (Catherine McAuley)
The Rose is the national flower of England and is a symbol of love. Centuries of love poems call attention to the rose – a flower associated with heroines and women in general. The Mercy Story is a story of heroines, of women with courage, unbounded love and simple lifestyle
The Daffodil is the national flower of Wales and a symbol of rebirth, hope and a future. The daffodil is a hardy flower that can push its way through the frozen earth after a long hard winter and herald the new life and growth of spring.
The Thistle is the national emblem of Scotland – a symbol of hard work, bravery, love and friendship. The thistle grows in the wild, the seeds scattered by the wind. The seeds are small yet not too small to grow into a strong plant that can withstand hardship.
We each hold within our hearts the strengths of the rose, the daffodil and the thistle. In among the rose, the daffodil and the thistle we see the buds, the promise of the future of Mercy workers, lay and consecrated.
The Mercy Story tells us of hard times, of new beginnings, of the world as our cloister, of the mission on frozen earth, of hope…
© Sister Anne Reddington rsm