Blessed Christmastide into Epiphany to dearest Sisters in Christ…
and happy and prosperous New Year of the Lord 2019…
The sweet center of Christmastide is the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God (Jan 1). The Church beckons, “let us rest here a while in joy: recalling what was, what is, what is to come”. The Church’s wisdom and generosity consistently invites us to times and places to consider all-at-once both origins and high points of the Faith. She encourages us to collectively linger for both solemn days and full seasons of liturgy, prayer and meditation. In those periods we are poised to understand other aspects of the Faith too, that may seem at first unrelated, but then offer an epiphany, an insight and connection.
We are never disappointed if we trustingly enter into the certain and rich deposit of our Faith – its principles and its people. We stand to assuredly emerge strengthened in knowledge, then in turn, love, and finally graced to bear the fruit of authentically serving - our Lord and others.
In thinking of Our Blessed Mother, recent thoughts floated to another Mary. Far from being named after the Blessed Mother, it is well to remember that Mary Magdalene was her contemporary. They no doubt often conversed with one another, prayed together, mutually planted their footsteps side-by-side in the Way of Jesus. While their beginnings acutely differed, they came together on common path, sharing a growing desire to know, love and serve the way, truth and life that was Jesus Himself.
Scripture leaves much to our imagination, but all four Gospel writers were inspired to include the scene that we so cherish as Christians and witness in Daniel Gerhartz’s image of St Mary Magdalene at the feet of her Jesus. The image is a notable and familiar one for Seven Sisters. It is printed in every Apostolate Guidelines Booklet and has made its way around the world. It carries no language barriers. A thousand words spoke to my heart through it before a single word was written regarding more formal structure regarding our Holy Hour offerings. The reality of that scene served as a ponderable guide for what was yet to unfold through this Apostolate. The example of St Mary Magdalene’s extravagance of love, which likewise captivated the heart of St Therese of Lisieux, still speaks to and of the Apostolate. We seek to imitate this lavishing of love and service – to another – that wins the heart of Jesus Himself. To fittingly quote St Therese again, “How sweet is the way of Love!... leaving naught but humble and profound peace in the innermost soul” (Story of a Soul, Chapter VIII). This, it seems, is an apt description of a universal experience for a Seven Sisters intercessor.
St Mary Magdalene knew what she was about the evening of that dinner. I envision her long, thin fingers clutching the vial, warming the costly balm within. Perhaps simultaneously this line of the Psalmist rose from her heart: How can I repay the Lord for all the great good done for me? (Psalm 116). She awaited the nudge of the Holy Spirit. When that divine moment befell, she quietly slid onto the dust-laden floor to express her love from the lowest of places. Her position was humble, fitting. She understood something, someone … that compelled her heart, in deep love, to generously serve.
St Mary Magdalene’s action was likely unnoticed against the flurry of the meal preparations and jovial conversations all about. She was shrouded in the shadows. When the lid was tipped from the flask, the gratifying fragrance offering swiftly rose to meet the squall of activity above. But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. … what she has done will be told in memory of her.” - Gospel of Matthew 26: 10, 13b
As Seven Sisters our motivation, in imitation, is surely one of knowing, loving, serving. We know there is a need for prayer and generously respond. A desire to know this priest or bishop through the gift of prayer gently unfolds, no rushing. Through consistent intercession, a welcomed understanding of the vocational call to the priesthood is often revealed. In this newfound knowledge, a newfound rightly-ordered love arises to meet it. We are compelled to beseech graces for the sanctity – nothing less – for this priest. What (super)naturally flows is a desire to serve that priest through the sacrifices of continued consistent and intentional prayer.
Through this growth and conversion of heart is an abiding friendship with the Blessed Mother, also in imitation of St Mary Magdalene. We find ourselves walking the Way with Mary, looking to her as first and ever-faithful Disciple. She is our recourse in our prayer efforts. A growing understanding develops of the absolute necessity of friendship of Mary with the priest for whom one is committed to pray. St Therese helps us understand something here too: “O, how I love the Blessed Virgin. If I were a priest how often would I speak of her. She is described as unapproachable, whereas she should be pointed to as a model. She is more of a Mother than a Queen.”
Like St Mary Magdalene, Seven Sisters contentedly embrace the shroud of the quiet environs of the Adoration Chapel. Unnoticed. In a place of humility. In a sense, kneeling at the base of a Monstrance might be akin to serving Our Lord, as St Mary Magdalene, at His Feet, as we lift in prayer that one who is ‘in persona Christi’. What an honor has been bestowed on us. How great is this grace!
As Seven Sisters we have the opportunity to grow in the virtue of patience as we allow the fragrance of our prayers to reach varied and pre-ordained destinations: the heart of the priest, the hearth of the Rectory or Abbey or Seminary, the pews of a parish, the streets of a Diocese. The winds of the Holy Spirit blow where they may.We accept and applaud. “Love! … that is what I ask … I know but one thing now – to love Thee, O Jesus! Glorious deeds are not for me, I cannot preach the Gospel, shed my blood … what does it matter? My brothers toil instead for me, and I, the little child, I keep quite close to the royal throne, I love for those who fight.”– St Therese of Lisieux (Story of A Soul, Chapter XI)
As Seven Sisters, we learn from Mary, St Mary Magdalene, St Therese, our patrons, so many … regarding the way of love. All point in the same direction – to Him Who is Love. While we have lived unique beginnings, we are called to share common path in these Holy Hours. The united Hours fortify the prayer offerings for the priest or bishop, but also fortify us as Sisters (purposely capitalized) in Christ. We come to know, to love, to serve…. that is enough. And your examples, dear ones, have served to inspire others, as St Mary Magdalene did for St Therese. Your “loving audacity” has likely “won the heart of Jesus”, as well!
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 recent Christmas greetings) 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.