The following was a reflection given by Sister Carol Curtis, OSU, at a Mass held in the Motherhouse Chapel on November 1, 2022, All Saints Day with Ursuline Sisters, staff and Sacred Heart Schools administrative staff in attendance. It was the last event for the chapel until the summer of 2023, due to the chapel being closed temporarily for repairs and painting.
Our gathering today is itself a convergence of celebration, commemoration, and preparation. Yesterday marked 164 years since Mother Salesia Reitmeier, Sister Pia Schoenhoefer and Sister Maximilian Zwinger arrived from St Ursula Monastery in Straubing, Germany, for this foundation of Ursuline Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Today, we celebrate the Feast of All Saints and anticipate tomorrow’s Commemoration of All Souls. And finally, as a kind of holy housekeeping, we prepare for the extended work of refurbishing this Chapel, made possible by the generosity of the family, friends and alumni for whom this place holds so many associations and memories.
In the Chapel Court, the stained-glass window of our Ursuline Coat of Arms draws its motto from the Prophet Daniel: Those who lead many to justice shine like stars… and St Paul reminds us, each star is unique [1 C 15:41]. Although today we celebrate all saints, each of us in our lifetime has our own constellation of wise guides who from heaven still light our path. St Angela herself assures us that she is always in our midst; so also, those whom we have loved long since and lost a while (as St John Henry Newman writes). We draw them close, all our dear departed ones, this cloud of witnesses, and give thanks to God for the gift of their lives and their love which still touch us. Years ago, (then-Cardinal) Joseph Ratzinger reflected on the mystery of their living presence among us, a kind of sacrament within a Sacrament:
… sheltered in the resurrected Body of the Lord, who carries them towards the common Resurrection; and in this Body … we remain close to one another; we touch each other.
For even as the love of Christ gathers us together into one here and now, it reaches beyond these walls and transcends the limits of time and the threshold of death.
Today, our first reading, from Revelation, launches us into this cosmic liturgy: a glorious multitude, every people and tongue, radiant, standing before the face of God, the just made perfect, their whole being resounding in worship… To be honest, it’s a bit overwhelming… and yet there is a deep resonance: For we ourselves are people that long to see God’s face…
Thankfully, over the course of our lives, we do begin to discern the face of God— person by person, and in all creation. Yet, as much as that insight is the beginning of beatitude, it is also the beginning of our purification. All Saints & All Souls – Truth & Reconciliation. Personally, and communally, the grace of remembrance is sometimes a severe mercy calling us to restorative justice. For St Angela, this Word of Truth is both an inner Light and a Voice beckoning us toward recovered integrity, to that wholeness which Jesus teaches in the Beatitudes and in the lives of the saints.
Here in this Chapel, for decades Ursuline Sisters have professed their resolve to form community in the spirit of the Beatitudes, a challenge to ground our values in the realm of God, rather than in market forces or systems of domination. Each one of us, in whatever God-inspired way we stand in solidarity with those who are poor, aggrieved, dispossessed, when we reach out in mercy to the hungry and those without access to clean water, to victims of violence and persecution, we touch Christ and communicate in his suffering-love which brings healing to the world. And leaning into our own history with holy compunction, we discover that we ourselves receive the consolation with which we may console others [2 Cor 1:4]. This blest, if sometimes painful, experience of Truth and Grace widens our hearts with thanksgiving and awakens us to mindfulness —opens us in contemplative love.
Finally, the Preparation… to move out of this Chapel for a time, Procedamos in Pace… Let us go forward in peace – willingly, St Angela would add. Students at the Academy sing: Lord, prepare me to be a sanctuary… with thanksgiving, to be a living sanctuary for you… [Randy Scruggs & John W. Thompson]. May we create that sanctuary space for God in our heart, in our daily life… May we be sanctuary for others: compassionate, understanding, piacevole… We began our Liturgy today asking God: through the prayers of so many intercessors to bestow on us the reconciliation for which we so earnestly long and which our world so desperately needs. Beloved, we are God’s children now – blessed peacemakers. Let us be creative artisans of peace in our world– and, face by face, we shall see God, and day by day, we shall become more like God, the Lover of us all. Amen.