Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ in this sacred Lenten season...
When our daughter ventured into mischief in those early formative years, one recurrent response from her father and I was, "That's not very becoming of a young lady." In truth, if she repeatedly tread on a less-than-desirable path, it might later be easier for her to venture off that destined highway of holiness (Isaiah 35:8) toward becoming what God has designed her to be. As present-day Catholic speaker, Matthew Kelly, phrases it, "Becoming the best version of yourself."
Our bountiful sacramental life as Catholics is perfectly designed to succour us in our earthly pilgrimage. Yet our benevolent God deigned it fit to further support us through a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on (Heb 12:1). Like our parents in our homes having done the same for our benefit, we have brothers and sisters in the heaven lies offering sublime encouragement. They remind us through the real and raw examples of their lives to stay the course and finish well - to become a saint (2 Timothy 4:7). And they pray for us to do just that too! There is help all around! For each of us, for the priests and bishops for whom we pray!
God has spoiled us with the gift of three patrons to cheer us on as Seven Sisters and to aid us in our prayer offerings: Madonna of the Grapes, St John Vianney and St Margaret Clitherow - whose feast day we celebrate this month.
March 26th is the day the Church assigns to honor St Margaret. She was actually put to death the day before. Not only was it March 25th- the date that the Feast of the Annunciation is normally celebrated, but in the year that she died, 1586, this date was also Good Friday. She followed in her dear Savior's footsteps so closely that she died in a cruciform position, her hands and arms outstretched, staked to the street. The martyr was crushed to death by several hundred pounds of weights laid atop a door which rested upon her. It was reported that she was also four months pregnant. Her crime: arranging for Masses to be celebrated in secret and harboring priests, who were at the time hunted and killed. Catholics who assisted them were charged with committing treason against England and condemned to death. St Margaret's unwavering and bold witness likely bolstered her children's understanding of their own call. Her two sons became priests, her daughter a religious sister.
The current Guidelines of the Apostolate is shy of some significant details related to our dear patron, St Margaret Clitherow. This month's Communiqué highlighting her feast day is a perfect opportunity to bring them to light. When Fr Johnson asked for a summary of the history of those early months I was a bit vague on the time frame. I was simply praying weekly for Father as one, with no thoughts of anyone joining me or anything as colossal as Seven Sisters to be a reality. I had firmly connected the Holy Hour when the inspiration was received, however, with a Curatio (Health Care Apostolate) retreat that I attended that next day. I initially thought it was in the Fall of 2010 (the season this group traditionally had their annual retreat).
As the Seven Sisters Apostolate began to swell in numbers, Father asked me to provide the exact day of the inspiration: "Dates are important to the Church." After contacting the Curatio coordinator, I startlingly learned that the retreat was in the Spring of 2011 not the Fall of 2010. Surprise turned to great joy in discovering that the date was Thursday, March 24, the traditional Feast of St Gabriel.
Two days later that year, during a Holy Hour at the retreat I attended, more regarding the structure of the Apostolate unfolded. The date: Saturday, March 26 - Feast of St Margaret Clitherow! Her love and esteem of priests and the Holy Eucharist found a home. She was with the Apostolate from its inception - so hidden, so humble, so one-of-us, in quietness and trust - a prototypical Seven Sister in every way!
May I heartily encourage you to get to know this saintly sister in Christ who in a sense chose us before we chose her. Learn her story. Embrace her as a patron of the Apostolate. Solicit her assistance in your prayers. Follow her example in her heroically generous love of the Eucharist and of priests, no matter the cost. Likely most of us will not be called to the martyrdom that St Margaret Clitherow was assigned. Nonetheless, no matter the scale, our sacrifices have worth and our prayers have merit. Our commitments hold weight in the divine economy.
Let us keep St Margaret Clitherow especially busy in this month of March: meeting us, loving us, assisting us, guiding us, praying alongside us to call forth all that God desires of the priest/bishop to become ... in His image, in persona Christi. Yes, that he may be the best version of himself.
Let the extravagance of grace continue to affect our hearts - to discover and love the saints both in heaven and those-in-the-making for whom we pray on earth!
United in prayer and mission...
that our prayers may find the heart of every bishop and priest...
... eternal gratitude continues as you each remember to offer a wee Hail Mary for me every day.... Pray that I will not 'spoil the beautiful work that God has entrusted...' (St Mother Teresa)
...your kind emails and notes and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.
SEVEN SISTERS - in and out and about:
Holy Week prayers: Guidance regarding our prayer in this special week...
From the beginning our Spiritual Director, Fr Joseph Johnson, has encouraged us to remain faithful to our committed day of prayer during Holy Week. Realizing that on some of those days Adoration Chapels will not be open, he suggests that we nonetheless keep the discipline of offering one hour of prayer. This may in part be the offering of a Service that you attend in your parish and/or coupled with quiet prayer (incl works, joys and sufferings) in your domestic church - home! Fr Johnson reminds that during this week the priest is in "particular need" of our prayers and sacrifices - as not only do their schedules demand much, but as priests and bishops they walk this week with a particularly deep interior sense and experience of their identity with Christ. They need our prayers!
Let us thus remain faithful to our commitments - and allow the Holy Spirit to guide the unique offering that will be made for your assigned priest or bishop during Holy Week - and continue to faithfully ask for graces for his sanctification and a lived and deepened relationship with Mary.
Let us not grow faint in the last lap of the Lenten journey.
HOLY HOUR for you: While I do remember you each day at the altar during Mass, on the feast of St Margaret Clitherow (March 26) and St John Vianney (Aug 4) I offer a HOLY HOUR for the personal intentions of all Seven Sisters. Partnering in prayer with our beloved St Margaret Clitherow at the end of the month will be a real JOY and likely a lesson in perseverance and love. Anticipate graces - and expect blessings!
NOTE to Anchoresses: If you do not receive a Communiqué within the first 7 days of a new month, contact me directly or through the Web site email. In turn, when received, please pass the Communiqué within one week's time to your group members, if able - or have another in the group do this for you.
AHEAD on the calendar:
Women's Conference w/Dr Janet Smith (Sat, 10 March 2018, St Anthony's parish, St Cloud) Seven Sisters booth organized by Carrie E
Day of Recollection: Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sat, 17 March 2018. Theme: Getting to Know our Patrons (Fr Spencer Howe and Janette will be among speakers)
Informational - St Alphonsus parish, Brooklyn Center, MN - TBA (March or April)
Serra club (Edina, MN) - April
Save the Date: 5th Annual St Paul -Mpls Archdiocesan Time of Recollection: First Sat, 3 Nov 2018. St Hubert, Chanhassen, MN. Archbishop Hebda will preside at Mass. Details to follow. As God's Will and Way would have it - this is also the feast day of St Hubert! Grace upon grace!