Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ as we together catch a glimpse of the beautiful Lenten Season awaiting us on the horizon … we enter … then exit … the same, but different…
My mother, Rosemarie, was the youngest of seven sisters. Memories abound of these women who witnessed strong sisterly love, and at the same time, starkly unique (and strong!) personalities. When Thanksgiving rolled around, these Belgian-bred ladies donned their well-worn aprons and presented their ‘best pie’ to the expansive table awaiting the annual arrival. While each sweet confection was offered for the same purpose: a happy ending to the bountiful meal, any of the scores of family members gathered could tell you that they knew (just by eye-ball) ‘which came from which sister’ and chose accordingly. There was always lively discussion, ribbing and a lot of pointing going on when dessert time approached. And while I could have been more-than-satisfied with any piece, habit had me reaching for my mother’s pie. True, the filling was more generous and the crust had no equal, but more so, I preferred it… because it was mom’s …
As Seven Sisters, we too, bring our offerings to the table of the Lord. Our offerings are happily unique. They are as singly distinctive as the Spiritual Bouquets that we know so well as Catholics. Experience reminds that until all the Bouquet offerings are set forth, a mystery remains. Then what a gladsome surprise to realize how generous everyone has been! What an over-abundant gift for the recipient! Our weekly Holy Hour offerings may seem like a fragile pansy at times, but oh, my – the fragrance and fullness of our united offerings together truly swell the heart of the priest for whom we sacrifice and pray. We likely underestimate our hunches of the true impact on body and soul of the recipient of our devotions. Yet even appreciating the united influence of prayer, perhaps the individuality of our offerings is where a true and even more colossal hidden treasure lies.
This past month I happed upon a short article by Fr Richard Veras (St Joseph Seminary, New York) in the Magnificat (Vol 20, No. 12). He referenced a stirring encounter in The Song of Bernadette (Franz Werfel’s classic novel) between Bernadette and the Lady in the Grotto. Another young woman, Pauline, asked to exchange rosaries with Bernadette the day before an anticipated apparition. Bernadette was disinclined, but agreed. She took Pauline’s authentic red coral rosary, but with the appeal that Pauline would stay nearby with Bernadette’s simple black rosary. When Our Lady appeared the next day, she and Bernadette began to pray. Our Lady asked, “Where is your own rosary?” Bernadette was so moved by our Lady’s notice and preference for her unique offering, that she ran to Pauline and retrieved her simple rosary and held it high for our Lady to see. In reflection, Fr Veras intimates that our encounters with the Lord are not generic.“They are personal encounters in which the Holy Spirit unites to the Lord a particular person with a particular history, a particular temperament, particular weaknesses and wounds, and particular and preciously endearing qualities.”
From the seed of the Apostolate, there stood a sense of strength that would grow kindled by the courage and confidence of each intercessor to trust the workings of the Holy Spirit within her heart. As the maidens in Waterhouse’s painting, each woman uniquely chooses her offerings in the presence of the living waters of the Eucharist. Whatever prayers are important to the individual are likely ones that flow from the heart with sincerity and would likely bring merit to the soul of the priest for whom is prayed. For we are his workmanship, created for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
While in Ave Maria, Florida, at the end of January for a Seven Sisters gathering, a few women in attendance offered ideas of prayers that they sensed would edify the life of the priest for whom they prayed. For them, this was most obviously a prayer that rose from deep recesses of their heart and meant something – for them, for the priest. At the end of the time at Ave, one of the priests presented his ‘piece of pie’ as it were. When asked how we should, could, would pray for priests, he paused and said, “Well, you could pray for pastoral energy. We all need that! We are called to go here, then there, then somewhere else.” He paused … then continued, “But really … don’t worry about what to pray. You are in the Presence of Jesus Himself. He will guide you. He knows best what the priest needs that day, that week. He will guide you.” Father was affirming the uniqueness of each Holy Hour, each individual waiting upon the Lord for direction in prayer. Quietness. Trust. Strength.
As we present our offerings nourished by the life-giving waters of the Eucharist (again referring to Waterhouse’s painting), may we eventually so consistently linger and exist in this milieu that we may be like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and whose leaf does not wither. In all that (she) does, (she) prospers (Psalm 1: 3). May this word not return void!
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 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 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.