Taking our Hands

Saturday, August 01, 2020 03:47am

“Accept the help that the Virgin and the saints offer you. Promise that you will press forward on your way to join them.”

— St. Francis de Sales

Greetings to dearest Sisters in Christ!  The wisdom of the Church fittingly places the Feast Day of St John Vianney on August 4, at the advent of the month dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament and Adoration.  He deeply loved and lived the Eucharistic life. Let us together heartily celebrate the testimony of our patron and pledge to strengthen our friendship with him!

A recent remembrance of a schoolyard scene held a link to our work.  Amidst giggles and scurrying, my chums at St Anthony’s readied for a friendly game of Red Rover.  As Britenbucher’s whimsical image depicts, players hold hands in a line.  Two teams face one another several yards apart.  Alternately the teams chant, Red Rover, Red Rover send (specific name) right over.  The summoned one dashes toward the opposite team and judiciously chooses a spot to break through the chain of arms.  The group line may choose to tighten their grip and stance, or throw arms up and let the person pass.  If successful, he/she brings a person from that team back to the original team.  If not, he/she joins the team.  That day, called to memory, our third-grade teacher, Sr Mary Richard, found a place in the line.  The other team gained the benefit of spunky Sr Patrice.  This recollection still held for me a sense of both  impenetrable strength and heart-bursting joy when Sister simply took my hand.

Seven Sisters also have the ready help of saintly souls “taking our hand” and fortifying our hearts.  As patron, St John Vianney is a stouthearted friend. From personal experience, he responds swiftly!  Grace upon grace ensues.  His actions imitate the good God (an endearment St JV oft used): “Grace, my children, is a supernatural assistance which leads us to good… the hand of the good God is always ready to support us. … God speaks to us, without ceasing, by His good inspiration; He sends us good thoughts, good desires.” Seven Sisters apply that good help to the best use – desiring good for the other.  As friend, St JV cautions, “Let us take care not to be unfaithful to grace.”

It is said that St JV sought wisdom only in Jesus Christ.  To him no other wisdom was authentic or useful.  He pursued it in prayer, on his knees, at the feet of the Master. Likewise, Seven Sisters seek wisdom before the Blessed Sacrament.  St JV meets us there with honesty. “Our prayer is an incense which He receives with extreme pleasure.  My children, your heart is poor and narrow; but prayer enlarges it, and renders it capable of loving God. … It never leaves without sweetness.” St JV called prayer the “armor of the saints… within reach of the ignorant as well as the learned, enjoined to the simple and to the enlightened, the virtue of all mankind.”  He encourages simple albeit sincere prayers. “The good God does not require of us fine prayers, but prayers which come from the bottom of our heart.”

Through our weekly Hours with Jesu Hostia our prayers and desires to pray mature. “When we pray with attention, with humility of mind and of heart,” our patron explains, “we quit the earth, we rise to Heaven, we penetrate the Bosom of God, we go and converse with the angels and the saints. …Yes, my children, prayer is the source of all graces, the mother of all virtues, the efficacious and universal way by which God wills that we should come to Him.” St JV’s advice instills invigorating confidence to our Apostolate efforts emboldening us to beseech much for the priest/bishop for whom we pray. “The good God says to us: ‘Ask, and you shall receive.’ None but God could make such promises and keep them. … Ought not this promise fill us with confidence and make us pray fervently, all the days of our poor life?”

Our wise and humble patron is the wise and humble patron of all priests.  “The priesthood,” he reminds, “is the love of the Heart of Jesus.  When you see the priest, think of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”  His insights regarding the priesthood can fuel the unwavering fidelity and heart-bursting joy that are hallmarks of Seven Sisters.  “What is a priest!  A man who holds the place of God…. When the priest remits sins, he does not say, ‘God pardons you’; he says, ‘I absolve you.’  At the Consecration, he does not say, ‘This is the Body of Our Lord,’ he says, ‘This is My Body.’” … “The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures, it is he who opens the door; he is the steward of the good God, the distributor of His wealth.” Our Adoration Hours are made possible only because of the priest.  “At the sight of the church tower, you may say: ‘What is there in that place?’ ‘The Body of Our Lord.’ ‘Why is He there?’ ‘Because a priest has been there, and has said holy Mass.’” St JV reminds that the priest is for the other. “The priest is not a priest for himself; he does not give himself absolution; he does not administer the Sacraments to himself.  He is not for himself; he is for you. … Leave a parish for twenty years without priests, they will worship beasts.”  St JV speaks to our times. “When people wish to destroy religion, they begin by attacking the priest, because when there is no longer any priest, there is no sacrifice, and where there is no longer any sacrifice there is no religion.”

In Red Rover, one must astutely notice who is holding whose hand.  Strategies matter. In our Seven Sisters prayer times we are mystically fortified and united with the prayers of the others in our group.  We can look to the Saints too.  Invite St John Vianney to partner in your Holy Hours for guidance and holy endurance.  Consider one of these reads: (1) The Curé D’Ars Today (Rutler, Ignatius Press) or (2) The Little Catechism of the Curé of Ars (TAN Books). Finally, take another, closer look at Britenbucher’s painting.  Is that dear, intrepid St John Vianney in the midst of seven with a 7 on his sweater?  It could be – if you ask!  St John Vianney, pray for us!

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.