On Maundy Thursday night in 1950, following the solemn ceremony of the Lord’s Supper, I knelt on the prie dieu before the Altar of Repose.
I was a Little Company of Mary novice and, as was the custom of the time, we would each spend an hour throughout this special night, praying for the dying of the world. After a time, something happened that is even now beyond my words to describe. Even though it was the eve of the Lord’s appalling Passion, I became aware of Christ in glory, dazzling with light and life. I seemed transported into a world of wonder and timelessness, unaware of how long the experience lasted. Some 10 years later, I descended into a serious depression during which I lost all sense of my personhood, gifts and prayer life. The memory of Maundy Thursday put a shield around my heart and sustained me in the darkness of that time. And somewhere in the depths of my being, I knew, with heart knowledge, that I was meant to be a Sister of the Little Company of Mary, a daughter of Mary Potter.
Thanks to the excellent help I received, I recovered. “Recover” is however seriously inadequate. Down the subsequent years, through my nursing and my prayer life, I supported people in their illness and dying, and witnessed many glimpses of the Risen Christ, his mother Mary at his side. I grew in the spirituality that Mary Potter lived by and loved: ‘through suffering and death to Resurrection.” It has become my spirituality, and defines who I am today.
“Lord, your people, the sick and the dying, are my people.” So wrote Mary Potter towards the end of her life, as she reflected on her life’s work. I know she doesn’t mind that I have adopted it! It is my privilege now to accompany the “community” of people in the Retirement Village where I live. Each person has their own story, their own sorrows and suffering, their own personality and resources to deal with them, their own family and whanau or lack thereof, their own circumstances. So many of them are hurting. I have seen a person engulfed in “total pain.” Here at Village at the Park, it has become my ministry, rather my mission, to be there for anyone who needs a compassionate heart. I can listen, offer consolation, often hold in a loving embrace, and above all bring them hope. My apartment door is locked only at night. My motto “All for Jesus through Mary” provides the framework for my daily life of Eucharist, personal prayer, works of mercy, and leisure times. I have huge challenges at times: people with loss of memory or hearing, people who are disgruntled at their lot in life, people who are needy and manipulative, those who abuse God and those who turn to God in desperation….. There are also many beautiful, caring people who love and nurture me in return. I am learning to walk with them all, and I am contented and filled with gratitude. My own illness and intense sufferings have been grist to the mill of my growth in person and in spirituality. Living the Paschal Mystery with Jesus and Mary brings me to a daily awareness of the hope of Resurrection. My life as a Sister of the Little Company of Mary is being fulfilled each day, and hope is my song. In Mary Potter’s words: “We live in the joy of the Resurrection; it should be a fresh joy to us every day.”