Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving- June 20, 2010
Many Blessings to our Jubilarians
Sister Carmen Raphael of the Eucharist (Monroy), O.C.D.
Sister Mary Andrew of the Eucharist (Loera), O.C.D.
Sister Mary Catherine of Our Mother of Sorrows (Van Dyke), O.C.D.
A Jubilee Mass of Thanksgiving: Reverend Michael Davis’ Homily
In 1996 the late Pope John Paul II promulgated an Apostolic Exhortation entitled Vita Consecrata (on the Consecrated Life). In the introduction to this meaningful document, he calls our attention to the fact that in every age, there have been men and women, obedient to the Father’s call and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who have chosen a special way of following Christ in order to devote themselves to Him with an undivided heart. Like the Apostles, they, too, have left everything behind in order to BE WITH CHRIST and to put themselves, as He did, at the service of God and their brothers and sisters.
Among us today, we have five such exemplary followers of Jesus, who not only know ABOUT Jesus; they KNOW Him. They have been WITH Him on the journey.
Sister Carmen Raphael and Sister Mary Consolata witnessing to 60 years of religious profession; Sister Mary Andrew witnessing to 50 years; and Sister Immaculata and Sister Mary Catherine witnessing to 25 years. All combined, that is 220 years of life in Carmel! That is 220 years of lives penetrated by an apostolic spirit and their apostolic work permeated with contemplation.
In our liturgy today, God has given us a mighty gift in the powerful testimony of their religious lives. It is our honor to be with them today, recognizing such a milestone….. and gift to the Church.
In 1997, on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Pope John Paul II presided over the 1st World Day for Consecrated Life…an occasion for consecrated persons to “renew their commitment and rekindle the fervor which gives inspiration to their offering of themselves to the Lord.”
Today, as we gather for this beautiful jubilee celebration, we are in spiritual solidarity with these five sisters; we are grateful for their witness, their perseverance and service; and we present them before the throne of the Lord with our love and prayerful good wishes, as they re-commit themselves to God as a Carmeilte Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles. In a very real and concrete way, right in front of us is today’s homily, a living homily, enfleshed in these daughters of Carmel. In many ways, they have become a living, moving, breathing tabernacle of the love of Christ. St. Therese would be proud! With their mother, Therese, they have articulated the mystery of life: “As for myself,” says Therese, “I know no other means of reaching perfection but love. Love: how well our heart is made for that!”
In the document Vita Consecrata, it says, “through union with Jesus, sought by those who, in religious consecration, agree to be like him, consecrated to the truth, they radiate the true nature of the Church: the imago ecclesiae caritatis (love: the very image of the Church) in response to its Lord. These sisters have sought to live a life in imitation of Christ and, in so doing, have given us a profound gift: their witness, which provides for us all an answer to some of the deepest questions of life.
Our Gospel today is most fitting for this occasion….for it asks an important question….and it reveals something about the characteristic features of Jesus. First of all, our Lord asks, “who do you say that I am?” It is a hauntingly challenging question, which all of us in some form or another must wrestle with and, hopefully, eventually answer. Our answer will say a lot about us and how we interpret life. For those who see in Christ the way, the truth, and the life, their lives are forever different. For those who KNOW Christ, they can never get enough; they are drawn in for more.
Who do you say that I am? By their lives, our jubilarians have convincingly answered this question. It’s a question whose answer is addressed clearly by their lives. By their consecration they have wonderfully stated the case. With Peter, they have long ago concluded in faith that Jesus IS the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Ever since then, they have sought to make a total gift of self to Him. It became the fundamental priority of their lives to emulate in every way possible the characteristic features of Jesus.
This is the second aspect of today’s Gospel, particularly suited for a close consideration of religious life: our Gospel presents to us two of the many characteristic features of Jesus: 1.) First, we hear that he was at prayer in solitude; and 2.) Secondly, we hear how he knew that suffering would be part of a redemptive life pleasing to the Father. To follow Jesus is to emulate his life with his characteristic features. As he has done, so we must also do.
First of all, let us consider PRAYER. Jesus was a man at prayer. He went to some secluded spot to meditate and pray. In so doing, he trained his closest followers about the necessity of prayer, even when doing the work of God. If we want to be like Jesus, our Blessed Lord who prayed, then we, too, are to pray. Our jubilarians have shown their commitment to and conviction about the necessity of prayer both communally and in solitude. It has nourished their relationship with the Master, and has made fruitful their witness to Him. As a living homily, they invite us to be people of prayer, too!
Perhaps the writings of St. Therese, in a Story of a Soul, capture some of their convictions on the primacy of prayer. “For me,” says Therese, “prayer is an aspiration of the heart, it is a simple glance directed to heaven; it is a cry of gratitude and love in the midst of trial as well as joy. Finally, it is something which expands my soul and unites me to Jesus.” In Vita Consecrata, Pope John Paul II describes how [prayer] helps us all to keep eternity in mind. It keeps heaven as the goal, ages unending with the Lord of glory. It helps us keep ever-fresh our answer to the question, “who do you say that I am?” A true follower of Jesus values eternal life and values the words which bring life. What else should consume an ardent disciple of the Master? Lord, to whom shall we go? You, alone, have the words of eternal life.
Prayer fosters that union with Christ, that intimacy with the Master, caught up on the horizon of eternity. Yet, it immediately brings the disciple back to the daily reality wherein (as John Paul II says) they see “Jesus only” in the lowliness of his human nature. Prayer invites the disciple “to return to the valley,” as the pope says, “to share with him in the toil of God’s plan and set off courageously on the way of the Cross.” Prayer is a characteristic feature of Jesus. It is a characteristic feature of his closest friends. In the prayer life of the sisters, we see Jesus.
The second characteristic feature of Jesus, stemming from today’s Gospel is this: Jesus predicted that he would suffer. Sacrifice and suffering take on profound meaning when united with the suffering of Christ. We know that Jesus suffered. He also gave the Apostles advance awareness that they, too, would suffer. If the disciples are to be like Him, they are to take up their cross and follow Him. Jesus’ followers are, thus, taught the lesson of self-denial as a pre-text for following Jesus. In fact, it is through the embrace of the cross daily that the mystery of losing one’s life for Christ’s sake so as to gain it becomes clear.
Somehow, self-sacrifice is expiative. Mysteriously, bearing the cross for the sake of Jesus is efficacious and fruitful. It identifies us with the suffering Christ and MAKES Him KNOWN.
In Vita Consecrata, our late Holy Father describes how “the faith of those who have sought to fully conform their lives to the Gospel is made fruitful in the witness given through redemptive suffering. “It becomes a living oblation to the One, who offered Himself freely for our sakes.”
In light of the physical challenges that our jubilarians have faced this year, it is obvious that the cross has taken many forms. Each of the sisters, in their commitment to Christ, in the midst of challenging struggles, has been edifying and inspiring to all of us who know them and love them. They have taught us much. The Lord will not abandon his chosen ones. The suffering, yet victorious, face of Christ is again made manifest. In the courageous bearing of their crosses, the sisters have made Jesus known to us again. The Spirit’s gift of fortitude in the face of adversity is evident. In them we see Him. Fortunately, our faith tells us that God Friday is not the end of the story. Easter glory awaits holy perseverance. Yes. Prayer and the Cross are surely two of the distinctive features of Jesus that point to the distinctiveness of authentic discipleship. They are redemptive…and lead us closer to Jesus.
Earlier, I mentioned that each of the sisters is actually a “living homily.” As I was trying to prepare for this jubilee celebration, I was speaking with Sister Carmen Therese, who asked me if there was anything I needed. I asked her if the jubilarians would be willing to answer a few questions for me. Being the teacher that I am, I always have questions. I thought it would be meaningful for me, as well as for all of us, to hear from them, as they reflected on their spiritual lives and their journey in Carmel. Allow me to share with you the questions, and their own loving and thoughtful responses. The questions might even be something for each of us to consider for ourselves as well.
1. Sum up “in one word or less” your life in Christ
2. What is the biggest spiritual discovery that you have made during your journey of faith?
3. Has then been a “particular” highlight of your life in Carmel?
4. What is the spiritual message you wish us all to know?
Sum up in one word of less your life in Christ:
Sister Carmen Raphael, celebrating 60 years, said: MysteriousSister Mary Consolata, celebrating 60 years, said: AwesomeSister Mary Andrew, celebrating 50 years, said: Empty. She states that at the end of the day, she finds herself with empty hands.Sister Immaculata, celebrating 25 years, said: FriendSister Mary Catherine, celebrating 25 years, said: Wonderful. This way of religious life was more than I thought it would be.
What is the biggest spiritual discovery that you have made during your journey of faith?
Sister Carmen Raphael: This may sound strange. I accepted God’s call to religious life, but I discovered what I embraced rather slowly, during my whole life as a religious. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, invited me to be his spouse. My “yes” was his gift to me; it was not my yes. This special grace is beyond all understanding—strange, but true.Sister Mary Consolata: The realization of a continual “yes”….of letting go and letting God with obedience, trust, and humility.Sister Mary Andrew: The discovery is….the awareness of God’s mercy…and her mother’s love (that is, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s love) for her in Carmel.Sister Immaculata: That deep and prolonged suffering offered to God leads to deep intimacy with Him.Sister Mary Catherine: Jesus. I have learned so much from him!
Has there been a “particular” highlight in your life in Carmel?
Sister Carmen Raphael: The highlight has been my meeting and conversing with God in my prayer life.Sister Mary Consolata: The privilege of making the two months Ignatian retreat. Actually, two weeks of preparation, the month-long retreat, and then two weeks of winding down. Also, finding the splendor of Christ anew in God’s spectacular gold Rush country in Northern California!Sister Mary Andrew: The highlight in Carmel IS the community AND prayer life.Sister Immaculata: My experience of spiritual motherhood to the students entrusted to us, and in the experience of real communion with my sisters as we live, pray, work, and love together in building up God’s kingdom.Sister Mary Catherine: The highlight of my life has been being with all my sisters. I was married and had four boys. And in my growing up I had three brothers. I never had a sister…until now! Now I have as many as I want. I love them all and would have liked to have had a biological sister in my family.
What is the spiritual message you wish us all to know?
Sister Carmen Raphael: Aiming at loving God above all, and loving neighbor, doing God’s will with great selflessness is the highest good in this life.Sister Mary Consolata: To let the love and life of Christ be a light to guide your steps in your own journey of faith.Sister Mary Andrew: Always trust in God and His mercySister Immaculata: That the deepest meaning of life is to fill each moment with its full measure of love.Sister Mary Catherine: I love all the sisters ALMOST as much as I love God.
Two other elements you should know about these testimonies:
►Sr. Mary Andrew has had difficulties with her vision and yet insisted on writing all of this out herself, even when assistance was offered.
►Sr. Mary Catherine has had her share of physical struggles, and yet took the time to reflect and write out the answers to the questions herself.
We rejoice in all of them. All of them are examples of faith and courage.
In their religious profession and their years of consecrated life, we see the work and the life of the Holy Trinity. We see the mystery of the love of God the Father, who has called them to a holy vocation. We see the mercy of Christ, who has consecrated them to be, as John Paul II says, a sign of the radicality and depth of the life of the baptized. We also see the power of the Holy Spirit, granting fidelity to their witness and an abundance of fruit to their ministry.
With St. Therese in the Story of a Soul, we know that “it is not to remain in a golden ciborium that God comes to us each day from heaven: it is to find another heaven more infinitely dear to Him than the first: the heaven of our souls, made to His image, the living temple of the Adorable Trinity.” Indeed, today, a mighty work of God continues to unfold before us. What will our response be?
Sister Carmen Raphael, Sister Mary Consolata, Sister Mary Andrew, Sister Immaculata, and Sister Mary Catherine: through your inspiring embrace of the characteristic features of Jesus, you have helped us all on OUR pilgrimage of faith. For this we thank you; we are eternally grateful. Years ago, when you made your commitments to Christ and His Church, you were prompted to make His mission your own. As you can attest, it has been a journey of purification: day by day being conformed to Christ.
As the venerable John Paul II once said, “like a bride made beautiful for her spouse,” through your religious life, “you have been enriched by the means necessary for carrying out the Church’s mission in the world. In your obedience and self-donation, the Lord must be very proud!
As you press on toward the Inexhaustible Source of Light, which is God, may you continue to be clothed in Christ, and find the love and beauty of Carmel. May you find the face of God, your only homeland, your kingdom of love.
Fr. Michael W. Davis
Archdiocese of Miami, Florida
June 20, 2010