Friday, October 9, 2015
On October 10 my sister is celebrating her fiftieth anniversary of vows as a Franciscan sister. (Full disclosure: she’s fourteen months younger than me.)
This event naturally has me reflecting and looking back on my own fifty-plus years in the monastic life. Well, not looking back, really. Rather I’ve been in awe of God’s tremendous faithfulness to me and to my sister over those decades.
She has asked me celebrate the mass and give the homily. Although she hasn’t given me any particular instructions about what to say, I'm pretty sure that she trusts that I’m not going to talk about her.
It’s not like there’s nothing to say about her - just the opposite. I’ve always considered her one of the most wonderful people I know, and I brag about her whenever I think I can get away with it. If I were to talk about Sister Mary Regina, I would have to mention that she inherited her mother’s lively sense of humor, and shared it with whomever she happened to be serving at the time. She must have shared it with her elementary school students, and her high school chemistry students,
and later the poor mothers and their babies in Newark’s Harmony House, then with the aids babies in the Babyland daycare center of which she was the first administrator. She shared that joy, too, I’m sure, with the elderly and infirm Franciscan sisters whom she visited as part of her job as superior for so many years, and she surely must bring it with her as she visits the immigrant detainees in the detention center, whom she now serves. But I’m not going to say any of that.
It seems more appropriate to concentrate not so much on the jubilarian but on God, whose faithfulness is both the cause and the model of her long, faithful life in religious vows.
When I made vows, I stood in front of the altar and chanted three times (in Latin), “Sustain me O Lord, as you have promised, and I shall live, and disappoint me not in my hope.” Maybe it was that third repetition that did it, but the Lord has surely sustained me over the years. And has obviously done the same for my sister, of whom I'm so proud.
Pope Francis keeps stressing that he would like the Church to see herself as the Church for the Poor. So it would seem to me that the celebration of a golden jubilee in such a Church would stress our complete reliance on God for everything that we have and everything that we are, and everything that we hope to be. In other words, when one of us “poor ones” is called by God to the religious life (and this also goes for any life, of course), and then sustains that person by divine grace for fifty years, we celebrate with a big party, but the credit belongs mostly to God.
I already knew that my sister, as good daughter of Saint Francis, saw it this way, too; but I was even more sure of it when I saw her choice of a first reading for the mass. I’ll leave you with that beautiful and eloquent passage from the prophet Micah, because it seems a good comment on fifty years of vowed service well lived.
and bow before God most high?
You have been told, O mortal, what is good,
and what the LORD requires of you:
Only to do justice and to love goodness,
and to walk humbly with your God”
Ad multos annos!
You go, girl!