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Thank God always for the happiness and beauty of life - it is beautiful.
Venerable Mary Potter's Last Words.
As Mary… to be aware and listen... - Sr Elizabeth Gilroy LCM
As Mary… to be aware and listen...
“We live in perilous times. We are surrounded by dangers and temptations almost unparalleled in the history of the world.” 1. Was this written in 1876 or 2016?
Yes, we are surrounded by dangers, and war seems so near, especially hearing about it almost as soon as the attacks happen, and being conscious of the recent attacks in Brussels and Paris. The Charism of the Little Company of Mary, the gift passed onto us to live is so relevant now. How do I live this Charism today especially in the light of so much tragedy? How am I alert to the needs of people, of the dying? Thank God Mary Potter wrote so much about the necessity for prayer for the dying, and to be alert to the ‘night watch for the dying’. Waking up during the night we pray the words, “Heart of Jesus once in agony, have pity on the dying” or some other silent remembering prayer for those who die. We then listen to the news in the morning and we hear of so many violent deaths, so much tragedy in our world. We have to trust, to know that our prayer has been answered.
Certainly we accept that suffering is part of life. It is what we do with that suffering is what matters. How do we transform that suffering in the light of our Charism, from walking the path of Calvary to the Resurrection? Looking into a crowd I often wonder what suffering these people have. Some look so self-possessed, neat and tidy with a purpose in life, others look lost and poor. Their story is so unique, yet we are not part of it unless they share it. So many people are dying within. So many are poor, alone, there are refugees who struggle and are lonely and have lost their homeland and all their possessions because of discrimination and war.
When I was reflecting on the important subject of the relevance and meaning of our Little Company of Mary Charism today, I became aware that the 24th March is the anniversary of the day Blessed Oscar Romero was murdered. A marksman’s bullet killed him in the middle of Mass. We well remember the despair and disbelief across the land and the world, it was shattering. How did this happen? Prior to that event we learnt of the struggle Oscar Romero had standing by his people, giving them strength. He explained how he understood the phrase, ‘option for the poor’.
He knew it was hard for people to really catch onto this phrase so he explained in a story. “A building is on fire and you’re watching it burn, standing and wondering if everyone is safe. Then someone tells you that your mother and your sister are inside that building. Your attitude changes completely. You’re frantic; your mother and sister are burning and you’d do anything to rescue them even at the cost of getting charred. That’s what it means to be truly committed. If we look at poverty from the outside, as if we’re looking at a fire, that’s not to opt for the poor, no matter how concerned we may be. We should get inside as if our own mother and sister were burning. Indeed it’s Christ who is there, hungry and suffering.”
Mary Potter had this sense of a ‘burning house’ and writes about it incessantly. She kept emphasising that we are to follow Jesus on Calvary. How we do this is so vital for us to listen and walk with the suffering of today. Our Charism calls us first of all to develop a deep relationship with Jesus, the Face of God. By this relationship we find that we do get insights and challenges as we listen to the voice of God, and it is up to us to act on them if we can, remembering too that we have been gifted with free will. As Oscar Romero showed us, it is not easy, especially in the wake of opposition, but the road to Calvary was also a struggle.
Today: how do I live this Charism? I keep going back to the ‘burning house’ and question myself about my commitment to listening to what is happening around me. Yesterday I was in a very slow lift in a big city hospital and everyone was frustrated because for some people walking up 6 flights of stairs was not an option. One woman who looked very irritable burst out about ‘things were never like this before, what is happening to the place’? Then we started to chat and she told me that she left an interesting job to train in Aged Care, so she could look after her mother as she deteriorated and eventually died a year ago. “I am so angry” she said. I wondered if she was just angry or was she grieving as well. She calmed down and as we left the lift we talked for some time about her sadness, grief and anger that her mother died. Then she spoke about her faith in God, and asked me if I was a religious. I told her I was, and she spoke some more. It was an encounter that was simple, yet I felt the hand of God asking me to stop and listen to her, to assure her of my prayers. She was suffering her Calvary, and our Charism is to listen to and stand by people who are in distress in some way, or need assurance that they are not alone and are listened to.
Again, I was reflecting on a wonderful Little Company of Mary sister who very quietly sits with the dying and listens to others every day, even though she is in her middle 90’s. A flower put beside the bed, a cheery word, a prayer, or just sitting beside a lonely patient keeping them company. Mary Potter spoke about the simplicity of living out our charism by awareness of people and their needs. As Mary stood on Calvary, so must we stand by the suffering, to be with them, simply to be aware and listen.
As Mary Potter and the founding sisters lived the Charism, so too, must we live it each moment as the need arises. Our prayer for the dying, whoever the dying may be; the angry, the miserable, the grieving they are our responsibility, they are under our care.
Mary Potter wrote so succinctly in the Path of Mary. “Who remained faithful, even in the most terrible hour of the Crucifixion? Who did not abandon their Lord, when even He seemed to be abandoned by His Heavenly Father? Who hoped and trusted in Him when others despaired. . . Who were they, and where did their strength come from, to stand in the face of the Passion?
Consider the answer well. Those who remained in the company of Mary. . . . How do we get the grace to be faithful?” asks Mary Potter. . . From (Mary’s) powerful intercession.”
Sr Elizabeth Gilroy LCM
1. The Spiritual Teaching of the Path of Mary. Venerable Mary Potter. Chapter 1. To Jesus through Mary.
2. National Catholic Reporter. Julian Filochowski, Chair of the Romero Trust. Adapted from earlier writings by the author in the Catholic Herald and St Martin in the Fields. 20/3/16