Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ! In October 1996, at the behest of my husband, we welcomed his Moldovan friend and family to share our home. Recipient of a green card lottery, Sasha set hopeful sights on raising his young family of five in the USA. Eventually the family settled in a home nearby. To this day, Sasha annually offers us the first fruits of his garden, including his blue-ribbon organic wine. His enduring gratitude and gesture are humbling and teach much.
October, typified by harvest, presents a perfect time to honor Our Lord with gratitude for the first fruits He has borne through the Apostolate. In Mignard’s striking painting of Madonna of the Grapes, our patroness judiciously chooses the promise of the Eucharistic life in the embrace of the grapes, forsaking the two apples. She is the New Eve, bringing forth new life through Christ. The image alludes to the very place in the Vineyard to which Our Lord’s invitation is extended to Seven Sisters – to help fortify those ordained to perpetuate the vital Eucharistic life!
Prayer is the sure mark of the Apostolate. It is the under-girding and the fabric all at once. Seeking the Lord’s wisdom and guidance through prayer was and remains the spark for His Work. Prayer ignited the Apostolate into being, and keeps it aflame. At the same time, it is a call to the work of patience (Lk 8:15). Similarly, those that tend gardens know first-hand of the arduous labor of tilling, sowing seeds, nurturing, and the ensuing necessary patience to await the harvest.
As Seven Sisters intercessors, while both effort and patience in the task of prayer is essential, the key of assured fruitfulness is joining our lives to Christ. “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. … He who abides in Me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5). A rightly-ordered relationship with Christ bears the witness of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-25) in our lives and its influence in the lives of others. How fitting that Our Lord calls Seven Sisters frequently (every seven days!) into His Presence, to nurture our friendship with Him. It is fit-with-potential to bear fruit!
St Teresa of Calcutta once mused that while she arrived in India with five rupees in hand, God’s return to her was five branches of an Apostolate (MC Sisters, Priests/Brothers, Lay MCs, Co-Workers, Volunteers). So too, in its ten years young, Seven Sisters has yielded fruit aplenty – both evident and hidden. For what is, for what is to come – gratitude and glory to God!
Some of the bounty bears a name, and evident influence and enhancement within the Apostolate: Fasting Brothers, Appreciated and Loved Quilt Project, Lamp-Bearers, Elijah’s Helpers. Starting as the tiniest of seeds, each group quietly sprouted, is flourishing, and being entrusted with more. Participants in these groups bear fervent witness of drawing strength from abiding in the Vine. Other outgrowth through the Apostolate, presents as more tangible: Our Website, Database, Guideline booklets, Brochures, Prayer aids, annual Holy Cards, monthly Communiques, videos, magazine and newspaper articles, radio interviews, annual gatherings and times of Reflection and Renewal. These abundant offerings from so many, so often are likewise guided and fortified by abiding in the Vine.
This fruitfulness that can be rostered, even assigned a name, gives boast to Our Lord for His fore-ordained Work and His invitation to join Him. What cannot be rostered, that which is omnisciently hidden, beckons the attention of our thoughts and the lifting up of our grateful hearts, as well. For who can measure the fruitfulness within the heart of an intercessor or the heart of the recipient of one’s prayers? How far reaching is the influence of a heart converted, a heart renewed, a heart strengthened? Graces without limit!
Testimonies in the Matter of the Heart in these monthly Communiques give beautiful, unsullied hints of the interior metanoia and fruit therein. Joy that is consistently witnessed in the lives of Seven Sisters is another! Your individual weekly sacrifices of prayers, offered in love, bear fruit without measure, fruit that will last. The Lord reminds that “you did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide: so that whatever you ask the Father, in My Name, He may give it to you” (John 15:16). Let us ask, ask, ask!
The vividly effectual image of Madonna of the Grapes, as the resolute yet gentle overseer of the Eucharistic life, invites us to companionship and fruitfulness in this mission. Together with St John Vianney and St Margaret Clitherow, the three boost our fervor to pray for our priests to grow in holiness and in their desire to tenaciously uphold the Eucharist as source and summit of our Faith. Prosperity in such a mission is rooted in an ever-deepening friendship with Christ. The Psalmist (92:13-14) reminds, “Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still yield fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green.” Let us remain in the Vine, the very fruit of Mary’s womb, as co-workers in the Vineyard – and anticipate fruitfulness, fruit that is stored in the heavens.
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…. “One Ave Maria makes hell tremble” (St John Vianney). Pray that I will not ‘spoil the beautiful work that God has entrusted…’ (St Teresa of Calcutta)
… your kind emails and notes and phone calls and generous support always arrive to my heart door at the right moment! Your financial sacrifices are for 100% furtherance of Apostolate. THANK YOU! The letters of testimony are so beautiful and edifying! What glory is given to God through your writing!
Eternal gratitude is mine for YOU! Be assured of my continued daily prayers for you at the altar.
Janette (Howe) +JMJ+