Greetings dearest Seven Sisters...
"For it is in giving that we receive." - St Francis of Assisi
Most of us have likely received a gift that has overwhelmed our heart either because of its extravagance, an element of surprise or a grace of insight into the bigness of heart from which it was given. In the Spring of 2013 I was recipient to a gift that inundated my heart by all three! My daughter quite unexpectedly sent me a round-trip airline ticket to Rome. A note was attached: "Go to Rome and spend some Mom-time with Spencer. After May 25 (his Ordination date), he will belong to the Church." This gift of love reduced me to a silence... and several tissues-ful of tears. That week abroad unfolded a gift of seemingly endless giving and receiving. I will bless you so you will be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Even now, when I recall the memories and graces of that week - and alongside them, the particulars of my daughter's sacrifices of love and finances and time in planning (she missed no details!), - the gift indeed perpetuates a lovely mystery of giving and receiving. Truly, truly... love is the lasting thing.
Each week each of you is that giver of a gift that lavishes, a gift that comes by great sacrifices of time and discipline and patience. In quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15). Each week the recipient of that gift is likely overwhelmed in heart by the extravagance and surprise and bigness of heart of your gift. The ensuing marvel is that you and he alike are blessed to be a blessing. In that giving, both receive - ah, that wonderful, paradoxical life we live and profess as Christians. Through the beautiful fidelity of united efforts of seamless prayer by each circle of Seven Sisters, much is wrought - for each intercessor, the recipient of her prayer offerings, and the Church beyond. All are strengthened.
And here is another gift for you .... Savor this sampling of remarks from priests in response to your sacrifices of prayer. Listen to the merit of your gift of prayer, a prayer that lavishes and bears fruit, fruit that will last (John 15:16)...
"Since my group of 7 Sisters started praying for me, I often feel comforted and very supported by the fact that I have this loving shield of Marian intercession continually round about me, enfolding me and bearing me up. I like that, whenever I have a particular need or prayer request, I can call upon these dear, faithful sisters in Christ. To be so loved, in such a spiritual, prayerful way, I feel so much more confident as a priest, especially when I am facing difficult situations."
"The power of prayer is real and effective. I've felt it. And it's great to know that so many people are praying for me in particular. God bless you." -Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke
"I am so grateful for the prayers of the Seven Sisters. Every now and then I experience an attack by the Evil One in one form or another. I always say a prayer. But I also know that the Seven Sisters are praying for me daily. Usually within a day, I can sense that the attack is over. Your prayers are SO POWERFUL! With much gratitude, A Twin Cities pastor"
"Thank you for all your prayers. The Lord truly uses them. Thank you for your hidden gift of grace from your gift of prayer."
"I am grateful for your prayers. It allows the Lord to sustain and bear fruit in and through His priests." -In Christ, Fr Jon Vander Ploeg
"I’m so deeply grateful to be daily enveloped by such powerful prayer. The effects of the prayers of these dear women have been tangibly felt on numerous occasions. I have no words to express how blessed I feel.” Pastor from St Paul
“It's a comfort knowing that one of the Seven Sisters is praying for me every day. I know I benefit from their prayers in many ways, some of which I'm probably unaware. … I'm convinced that none of us can thrive without a reliance on prayer, so I appreciate knowing that I'm strengthened by my own prayer life, and the prayers being offered by the Seven Sisters. God bless this Apostolate for all the good it's doing for the lives of priests and for the life of the Church!”
"I take consolation and strength from knowing that I am being prayed for each day during a prayer hour."
"I have very much felt the power of people praying for me since I began a new assignment. There was so much to do ...I have felt the strong hand of support that comes through prayer and I know strong commitment of the Seven Ladies group and many others who have been praying for me. I appreciate the efforts of all those who pray for me. I hope my prayers are sufficient to return the grace."
"Knowing that each day throughout the course of the week is covered with hidden prayer before the Lord is a great consolation that spurs me on to serve with zeal and generosity. I am a grateful recipient of this powerful and steady intercession which reminds me that apart from Him I can do nothing. All of us, priests included, are like the paralytic in the Gospel - carried aloft to the Lord by the prayers of friends, loved ones, even of hidden contemplatives and unknown intercessors. The Seven Sisters who dedicate themselves to pray for my intentions and priestly vocation in no small way take up their part in the Church’s mission for souls. With heartfelt thanks, A grateful associate pastor"
Dear sisters in Christ, if we but knew the width and depth of worth of every breath of our prayers, the benefit of our perseverance through challenges and distractions, the merit of every silent and uttered prayer of generosity of love toward our priests and bishops for whom we are committed to pray. Be encouraged. Take heart that your efforts are finding reward!
Like the woman in Portaels painting above, who prudently chooses the proper rose, continue to choose your prayer offerings well and with peace of heart. Submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit - and trust. Let us say with heartfelt confidence, like St Ignatius of Loyola, "God, I give it all to you. Give me only your grace and your love. That is enough."
United in prayer and mission -
that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest
... eternal gratitude as you each remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me every day....