Liturgically, December 28th is the feast of the Holy Innocents–remembering all the infant boys two and under who were murdered under King Herod’s command. We remember the first martyrs of the Church, who unknowingly witnessed to the faith in Christ unto death. Children are beautifully pure and innocent–they speak what is on their minds, they seemingly have no concept of who is watching as they express how they are feeling at any time of the day, but they also play with you and warm your soul with smiles and hugs and sheer joy. In Mexico, this day is remembered for the innocence of children in that playful characteristic. Similar to our April 1st day tradition, the Mexican culture plays pranks on this day to always remember our call to be childlike. The Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament were founded in Mexico, thereby our sisters here in Cleveland continued the tradition and enjoyed this day at the expense of the pride of one said postulant (all in good fun).
The details aren’t as important here about how said prank happened (see below if interested in the whole story), but what is essential to notice is the humanity found within the person of a Religious and one seeking such a state in life. We are human, and enjoy a good
laugh as much as anyone. God longs to give us the desire of our hearts–which, at the root, is the same no matter what vocation you may be called to; holiness and happiness. He wants all of us to be happy; and loving jokes between sisters are just one of the many ways we can live out this holiness and happiness.
Yet humanity knows that not every day can be so innocent and carefree, with the world exists hardships and pain–with a purpose though. In the midst of these trials, we are drawn to cling more tightly to someone who understands our weakness. Christ best empathizes with our crosses for He models that when we fall, we get back up and persevere. We are never alone on this journey but are supported physically at times and at other times spiritually through another’s prayers. These crosses do not define or conquer us, but rather help us to recognize our great need for a Savior and His ceaseless Mercy.
My joy stems from the depth of a heart united to my Lord who took on flesh in order to redeem my sins through a death He didn’t deserve. I can be nothing but grateful for this endless grace of mercy–“Only when I discover [God] loves me in spite of all my infidelities, when I really discover the mercy of God to me, only then shall I discover the true, compassionate face of Jesus: only then shall I discover that I was a captive, I was the oppressed. He comes to break the yoke (Jean Vanier).”
My dear brothers and sisters, I beg you during this Jubilee Year of Mercy to CELEBRATE as we approach the end of the Christmas season and begin Ordinary Time. There is nothing ‘ordinary’ about everyday waking up with the intention to be charitable to those you encounter. There is nothing ‘ordinary’ about boldly standing up against an injustice at your work. There is nothing ‘ordinary’ about choosing to give of your time to those in need. And these ‘ordinary’ tasks of daily life are how we are called to live as children of God. May we rejoice like children in the little moments of each day where we encounter the hidden Christ. Hardships may come but I promise you they will also go. Thirst for the more that is found in the manger, in the Monstrance, on the cross. It is there, my friends, where we are free to climb into the arms of our Savior, as a little child in need, and smile, because we are safe! United on the Altar of Sacrifice, I’ll see you in the Eucharist.
The sisters have come to realize that I know a lot of people all over the world–thanks be to God for beautiful friendships. When I returned on December 28th from one of our usual afternoon walks to the lake, I was told by our Superior that my sister had taken a message for me and it was urgent, so I was given permission to call them back. I anxiously received the note with an area code I was unfamiliar with (that is not unusual for me), so I randomly called ‘mystery number’ back.
To my dissatisfaction, the voicemail was a generic recording, ‘you have reached this 7-digit number…’. I proceeded to explain who I was, I had received this message to call back urgently, and left the best times to reach me in which our schedule would not conflict (again, anyone who knows me can attest to my thorough messages). I looked up where the area code was from to help me try and figure out who was calling and recognized that I knew someone who lives in the area of the number.
I did worry (I know, what good does it do Marianne to worry), but then I brought the people to prayer. God saved me from an extra dose of humility by keeping my prayer silent instead of vocalizing it at Vespers. The phone rang as dinner was beginning and the sister who answered asked if I could have permission to take it immediately, which I was granted. I went into the community room excited to solve the mystery when a women’s voice I did not recognize came through on the other end. My brain began to think of every person I knew or knew that I was entering, but no voice was connecting with a name. The conversation got awkward as I began apologizing for not knowing whom I was speaking to even though she explained how she has seen my picture on Facebook; I was clueless, wanting to rejoin my community at dinner and hoping to offer more time to figure out who I was talking to–I should have known by now something was up. I politely inquired if I could call her back later when I hear an echo down the hallway in her response saying, ‘no, I’ll be busy the rest of the night’. One of our sisters was on her cell phone (from when she lived in one of our other houses in the states), laughing. They got me so good! I walk back into dinner where my other sisters in initial formation has been told about the prank and we just all laughed and shared in the joy of each other. Thanks be to God for the humanity that is found within the convent!
Another time the cycle repeats: we say bye to a year that ends and receive a new year with new hopes and renewed desires. We all experience the passing of time; it is, in fact, humanly unstoppable. The challenge is to live in the present. We are frequently reliving the past or planning the future. It is ever so difficult to remain in the present.
When I was a 16 year old, I truly enjoyed attending “quinceañeras.” Ah! Those days in which we all were coming of age: the music, the friendship, the dancing, the chatting, discovering who is going out with whom… One day everything changed. I was in the school chapel, and I heard a sister reading a biblical passage: John 15:16. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” This is all it took for Jesus to conquer my heart. I had been chosen! The impact of this invitation was not to be palpable until after I attended the next party. The joy of preparing for it and the joy of dancing and socializing were there, but what a void it all left in my heart afterwards. My heart now longed for something else. It was a longing that was almost painful. Like the bride in the canticle by St. John of the Cross, I had been wounded by love.
Where have You hidden Yourself
and abandoned me in my groaning, O my Beloved?
You have fled like the hart,
Having wounded me.
I ran after You, crying; but You were gone.
From then on, nothing satisfied me. The sweetness of intimate talks with friends, the joy of parties, and the love of my family could not satiate this longing for oneness and intimacy with Jesus. Little by little I realized that it was only through Him that I could become really one with the whole universe; in Him I could embrace everybody; with Him I could learn to live and die in Love. My young heart was longing for Love, an infinite Love.
How many people I encounter in the Eucharist, in my daily time of adoration, through my very poor prayers! It is in Him that we all become real brothers and sisters. In Him and with Him we become one! We are never alone!
As Jean Corbon says in The Wellspring of Worship, God has one impatient desire, one passion, and that is “to be with the children of men.” Wow! In other words, our longing for love, for oneness, is not a crazy desire. It has been implanted in our hearts by God, who Himself longs to become one with us!
Through this blog, we, the Mercedarian Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, want to invite you to share in our Eucharistic-Marian spirituality. We seek to become like our Eucharistic Lord, souls that are willing to give it all; willing to be broken and given to others. May we pour out our hearts each day to the Blessed Sacrament, and, in silence, listen to the palpitations of His Heart. May we pour out our hearts to the Blessed Sacrament each day, and, through the intercession of Our Lady of Mercy, bring Christ to the rest of the world.
Men have been called into existence, but will they accept and respond? Will they gaze back into the adorable Face of God? (Corbon).