Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ as we together reap the graces of these Lenten hours into days into weeks - in anticipation of the celebratory heights of Easter and its octave finale of Divine Mercy Sunday, a day of a second Baptism. Enhancing the outpouring of graces in the Paschal-tide are more – through the devotional orientation of the Church in this month of April toward the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit. Who can knowingly turn from this blessing-laden treasure trove of our Faith! Grace upon grace…
A privileged time in my life one Easter was sponsoring my friend, Faith, to come home to the Catholic Church. As an unwavering life-long Protestant she was relentless in her questions about Mary and purgatory. The wisdom of a priest quelled the torrents of reservation when he assured her to be at peace if she didn’t completely understand, as long as she didn’t oppose. “Come in and receive the sacraments. What would be gained from waiting? The learning is lifelong. Graces await!”
Several months later Faith told me that living the sacramental life she experienced inner healing she was convinced she could not have received in any other way. “The rhythm of the Liturgy and the graces of the sacraments have given me a wholeness that I never imagined possible.” It hearkens to convert GK Chesterton’s discovery that the Church was “larger on the inside than it is on the outside”.
As Seven Sisters we poise ourselves weekly at the crux of what is most important to the Church – its source and summit – the Eucharist. Intimately entwined is the ministerial priesthood. Holy Thursday reminds that both were instituted on the same evening. Two sides of a coin, inseparable. God’s perfect design. Our particular summons to prayer affirms the inseparability. And graces abound for whoever is willing to receive (St Francis de Sales). Are we asking for them? Open to them?
Consistently upholding the demands of the priestly vocation in prayer boosts a mindfulness of our inheritance as Catholics – and our clear dependence upon priests for the fullness of that inheritance. This awareness should do nothing less than spur us on to still more prayer! In strengthening the priest, you strengthen the whole Church… (Fr Gerald Fitzgerald). The Liturgy itself in its rhythm within the liturgical seasons moves us toward personal and collective remembrance, conversion, untold graces that await and assist! As Seven Sisters, we open ourselves to an additional gift: to grasp a fresh understanding of the work and life of the priest and in so doing, beseech a lavishing of graces for him. Graces enough for his sanctity! As we pray before the Blessed Sacrament our inner eyes are enlightened. Our hearts are tenderized. Our prayers take on new wings.
The priest is steadily called to a deeper identity with Christ through the Liturgy, sacraments and liturgical seasons. Over and again, with Christ and through Christ, he brings together Heaven and earth for our benefit. “For the priest in particular, everything starts from the Eucharist and everything returns to it. … Leading men to Jesus and giving Jesus to men, that is the vocation of the priest. At the summit just as at the beginning of this wonderful ministry, shines out the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, the Sovereign Priest, prayed to, adored, contemplated by the priest, his minister” (Canon Tancrede Guillard).
Perhaps both most challenging and fulfilling for a priest is the intensity of call of alignment to the Passion of Christ. While this is the essence of each Mass, during the Lenten season the priest is beckoned to offer more liturgies, more sacrifices, more times of confession, more prayer, more suffering, more love. Our prayers as Seven Sisters during Holy Week especially must intensify to call forth the necessary graces. “The greater perfection a soul aspires after, the more dependent it is upon Divine Grace” (Brother Lawrence). With this awareness, may we not relax our prayer efforts during Holy Week, but instead utilize the graces we have been afforded this Lenten season and strengthen our efforts. “You can do more with the grace of God than you think” (St John Baptist de la Salle). The Adoration Chapels may have limited or no access during Holy Week. Seek the Lord as to how you might offer ‘the Hour’ that week in perhaps a departure from your norm, but do dedicate and offer an Hour at all costs!
Let us continue to avail ourselves to the plentitude of graces Our Lord offers us. Yes, he is looking for ones that are willing to receive. The joyful women in Magsaysay-Ho’s painting offer hints. They have left their homes for the bountiful fields. They fill and carry baskets of a size meant to be shared. Yet the fields seem to retain a fullness of the fruit of the earth – more to share. Let us awaken to the great gifts that the Vineyards of Our Lord offer that serve as conduits of graces: through His priests, liturgy, the sacramental life, liturgical calendar (daily and monthly themes of devotion), offerings of sufferings and united prayers and works with one another. Let us embrace the words of the priest counseling my friend, Faith, “What would be gained from waiting? … Graces await!” Indeed. Grace upon grace, glory to glory. We are blessed to in turn be a blessing. “Christ made my soul beautiful with the jewels of grace and virtue. I belong to Him whom the angels serve” (St Agnes).
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)
... Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.
Blessed Triduum, Easter, and all 50 days of Eastertide – feast upon feast – like “fifty Sundays”! Rejoice!