Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ...
Recently while enjoying a meal on our patio with guests, a singing wren made a visit. I interrupted conversation, pointing to the dense woods. Listen! Altho hidden from sight, the sweet trill of the wren heartened us toward smiles all around.
Despite being such a wee and very plain-looking bird (when one is able to spot one!), the wren is gifted with a remarkably beautiful and penetrating voice. It never seems to run out of hours or reasons to sing! Yet in the case of our dinner gathering, even this impressive melody went unnoticed. So may it seem with our prayer offerings as Seven Sisters - hidden, week after week after week. Does it matter? Do our prayers go beyond the ceiling of the Chapel? Do they have effect? Are they being heard?
While these are reasonable inquiries, it seems Seven Sisters are better served by a contentment that comes from our anchor verse: ... in quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15). The heart of St Peter Damien encourages, “Let the serenity of your spirit shine through your face. Let the joy of your mind burst forth. Let words of thanks break from your lips.” His counsel challenges our prayers to pour forth - simply because God has asked us to join Him in these endeavors to pray for priests. "This is what I was made for" (St Joan of Arc). Our prayerful voices, albeit perhaps seeming so plain and small and unnoticed, hold eternally worthy resonance in the merit that God has called us to them and faithfully guides us in them. Simple. Humble. The seedbed for a divine joy that cannot be contained. ...so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete (John 30:11).
Over and again when I meet with Seven Sisters – face-to-face or through phone calls, emails, notes - I am struck by theuniversal witness of joyfulness. This call to pray for a priest or bishop seems to fulfill something within, animates fresh prayerful actions, gives radiance to one's countenance. Fidelity has its reward!
Some have shared that they have at times been led to spend a good portion of their hour simply quietly rejoicing in all that the Lord is accomplishing – seen or unseen – in the call upon and the life of the priest they are committed to pray for. They have further shared that in doing so this gives a new-found liberty of heart – to believe a lavish of thanksgiving and praise of God is redeemable as grace that is applied to the life of this priest for his good. “For me prayer is a surge of heart, it is a simple look towards Heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.” (St Therese of Lisieux)
When the wren opens its beak to release its remarkable warble, it often holds its tail vertical as if to give impetus to impart extra gusto to its singing. It hearkens to a friend’s daughter who, when excited, stands on her tiptoes and seems to cause every muscle to contract. She uses her whole body to tell the world of her happiness. So too may it be for us, that we simply allow our whole being to revel in the joy of the Seven Sister mission and its fruits. Let us to allow our cups to runneth over. Let us permit our thanks and joy to simply break from our lips. No need to ruffle our feathers over this or that. Let us rather embrace the Hours set before us, remembering what has passed and anticipating what is to be - allowing our interior voices of gratitude and joy be heard in the heavens through the din of the world's "woods".
There is a children's tale about the various birds trying to choose a King among them. Would the criteria be beauty? size? strength? The wise owl suggested the bird that flies the highest should be King. Knowing its limits, the little wren hid in the feathers of the eagle, unbeknownst to all. The birds took flight. As each met its limit, the eagle continued to soar and eventually was solo. The eagle made its descent, but to the surprise of all, the wren flew out and hovered in the sky to try to cinch the honor. The wise owl was consulted again. His verdict rested with the eagle because the little wren really did not fly to the heights, but only 'gave the appearance'. It is said that the wren accepted the judgement and henceforth flew close to the earth and never ceased singing in a gratitude of humility and joy of being who he was always meant to be.
Remain of good heart. Your humility and sacrificial prayers assuredly bring a most fragrant offering and sweet sound to the Lord: For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer… (I Peter 3:12a). Grace upon grace. While Psalm 100 is the smallest psalm in the Psalter (more great things in small packages), it has a grand message for us: Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into His presence with singing!
And we are well aware that His Word holds a special invitation apart from a self-invitation like that of the wren: that those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles... (Isaiah 40:30). St Francis of Assisi, the saint of simplicity, humility and joy, gives us a fitting closing ponder-able: “All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” And I might add – nor keep silent our joy-filled fidelity to pray for our Shepherds.
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 of Calcutta)
... your kind emails and notes and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Your letters of testimony (of both victories and challenges) are so beautiful and edifying! Don't stop writing to me. Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.