Clothed in the Passionist Charism
Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!
On this feast of love I bring you Mother Catherine Marie’s exhortation given yesterday during Sr. Lucia Marie’s vestition ceremony. An appeal for all of us to keep a loving remembrance of Jesus Crucified and to bring the light of his love to the nations through our hidden life of prayer and praise.
But photos first! 🙂
Next week I will post photos of the ceremony. Now, read on as Mother Catherine Marie waxes eloquently about embodying our Passionist charism.
Mother Catherine Marie on the occasion of Sr. Lucia Marie’s Vestition Friday, February 13, 2015 – The Solemn Commemoration of the Passion
Whenever one of our community members receives the Passionist habit, our entire community is brought profoundly in touch with the experience of another young person nearly 295 years ago. That other young person is of course our holy founder, St. Paul of the Cross. Like Elizabeth today, Paul was in his 20’s when he laid aside his secular clothing and knelt before his bishop to be vested in a simple black habit. As he removed his secular attire, Paul was laying aside everything it stood for—his former way of life in the world—in order to devote himself entirely to God and to the following of Jesus Christ crucified.
To human eyes, the simple ceremony in a bishop’s residence seemed to be that of just another penitent devoting his life to God. But to Paul Daneo, being vested in the black habit had a much deeper meaning, a meaning he explained a few weeks later when writing the primitive rule. “Dearly beloved”, he wrote, “you must know that the main object in wearing black, according to the special inspiration God gave me, is to be clothed in mourning for the Passion and Death of Jesus. For this purpose let us never forget to have always with us a constant and sorrowful remembrance of Him.”
Paul’s first biographer, St. Vincent Strambi, writing only 11 years after Paul’s death, sheds further light on the meaning of Paul’s vestition. He said that when Paul put on the black habit, he was truly putting on Christ Crucified. From then on, Paul’s driving inspiration was to live for Christ and Him Crucified, and to dedicate himself single-heartedly to the work to which God was calling him. And in the midst of founding the Passionists and preaching the Word of the Cross, Paul himself never forgot to cherish “a constant and sorrowful remembrance” of the suffering Christ in his mind and heart, and to inspire others to do the same.
For nearly three centuries now, generation after generation of Paul’s spiritual sons and daughters have each in turn knelt before their superiors humbly asking to be clothed in our Passionist habit. Today, Postulant Elizabeth joins their ranks.
Elizabeth kneels before the superior who, as our holy founder told us, represents Our Mother of Sorrows, the true “Abbess” of our monastery. It is Our Mother of Sorrows who clothes each of us in the holy habit, it is Our Mother of Sorrows who gives each of us our religious name. And it is Our Mother of Sorrows who best teaches us how to be clothed interiorly with the virtues of her Divine Son and the loving memory of His Passion. Being clothed externally in the habit takes only a few minutes, but being clothed interiorly with the mind and Heart of Christ and Him crucified is the work of a lifetime. This is why we Passionist Nuns take our place in the School of Mary, the Mother and helpmate of the Redeemer, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, for she is the best teacher of the wisdom of the cross. She can help us be clothed interiorly with the mind and Heart of her Son.
In addition to receiving the holy habit today, Elizabeth will receive a new name—Lucia Marie of the Mystical Body of Christ. Her patroness will be Our Lady of Light, and her feastday, May 13th, the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The name Lucia, as we know, comes from the Latin word for light, and the name “Fatima” comes from an Arabic word which means:
a high place
from which a beacon of light shines,
illuminating the darkness surrounding it.
In her apparitions at Fatima Mary was truly Our Lady of Light. As light shines with great beauty through crystal, so too the light of God’s glory shone perfectly through her. Mary’s entire appearance was luminous with unearthly beauty and brilliance, as she urgently called all her children to prayer and penance for the conversion of sinners who live in the darkness of sin and evil.
During one apparition, a beam of heavenly light came forth from Mary’s Heart and pierced the hearts of the three Fatima children, immersing them in a profound experience of God’s love. Our Lady of Light was sharing with them the gift of prayer and the experience of the love of the Most Holy Trinity that fills her own Heart. These lowly peasant children were certainly going to need to be able to pray at a much deeper level if they were going to fulfill the mission God gave them!
We too need always to be able to pray at a much deeper level that we may fulfill our mission in the Church. We too need Our Lady of Light to share with us the prayer that fills her Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart. For us, the name Fatima can have a special Passionist meaning–i.e., the “high place” of Calvary, from which a luminous Passion wisdom shines out. It is here on this “high place” of Calvary, that the Mother of our Congregation teaches us how to pray, how to be open to the light of the wisdom of the cross, how to make our own the mysteries of her Son, and how to be Our Lord’s helpmate in the work of human redemption.
During Our Lord’s earthly life, and particularly at the foot of His cross, Mary’s physical eyes as well as the “eyes” of her Heart, were fixed on the Face of Jesus, gazing with love’s penetration into the depths of His Heart. In a Preface in the Roman Missal, Mary is called the pattern of the Church at prayer. She more than anyone else, then, is the pattern of a Passionist at prayer. She, more than anyone else, profoundly understood her Son and His mission, and shared His zeal for the salvation and sanctification of souls. Mary is indeed our “pattern” of prayer, and can be called the first “Passionist” who treasured the loving memory of Christ’s life, Passion and death deeply engraven on her Heart. It is this Lady of Passion-Light who can most easily develop within us the true Passionist charism, so we may never forget how Jesus has loved us, to the point of laying down His life for us.
As we learn to pray the life, Passion and death of Jesus with Mary’s eyes and heart, we undergo a continuous transformation of the way we think and what we desire, and also the way we approach life and our relationships with others. The light coming from the Face of Jesus is meant to produce in our hearts and behavior every kind of goodness and virtue, particularly His humility, obedience, trust in the Father, His forgiveness and self-emptying love for every human person. Gazing with adoration and love at Jesus in His Paschal Mystery also becomes for us a never-ending font of apostolic and sacrificial love. It is this deep contemplative experience, this apostolic charity, that so characterized our holy founder, and that he so wanted for us, his spiritual daughters.
And so today as Elizabeth receives the name Sr. Lucia Marie of the Mystical Body of Christ, may all of us ask the Mother of the Passionist Congregation truly to be for Elizabeth and for all of us Our Lady of Light. May she share with each of us the love, prayer and apostolic zeal that fills her Heart, and form us more and more in the image of her crucified and risen Son.
In particular we ask her today to intercede for us that the words of our holy founder may always be fulfilled in our community: “Dearly beloved, you must know that the main object in wearing black, according to the special inspiration God gave me, is to be clothed in mourning for the Passion and Death of Jesus. For this purpose let us never forget to have always with us a constant and sorrowful remembrance of him.”