The following is a reflection given by Sister Jean Anne Zappa, OSU, at the funeral Mass of Sister Dolorita Lutsie, OSU on July 21, 2021.
Did you know that the Appalachian Mountain range starts in Canada and ends in Alabama? And of course, the two most beautiful places it runs through are Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Mountains are majestic, and beautiful, and they can also be dangerous and daunting. They are safer to look at for their beauty instead of climbing them. We can see the grandeur of God in the mountains, as well as the destruction by humans because of strip mining. And we know Dolorita appreciated and loved the mountains.
The image of mountains is used in many places in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures—in the reading from Judith, we find a hymn where Judith praises God for God’s faithfulness to her so that even the mountains will be shaken because of God’s saving love. God is so faithful that God will work wonders to make sure the people are protected from the enemy.
The Book of Judith explains that this was an uneasy period for the Jews. Its message is teaching the people about what true faith looks like, holding fast to God’s time of salvation even working in a surprise move, through a woman, gentle in her love, strong in her faith, and deep in her courage. God will triumph, strong and steady as the mountains. In the passage chosen by Dolorita, the phrase “fear of the Lord” is mentioned twice, and the Hebrew meaning is awe and wonder of God. It is not a fear of God, but an awe and wonder of God’s fidelity and friendship as majestic as mountains.
Again, a feminine model of God’s wonders is expressed in the Book of Wisdom. The people are seeking hope and mercy during hardship. God rewards the just; God’s plan is beyond our plan and our control; God’s plan is a gift, and we are called to embrace it. Those who trust in God will understand truth and the faithful will abide with God in love because of God’s grace and mercy. The relationship between God and each of us will be as strong as the mountains, unshakeable.
In the Gospel, Jesus teaches by parables, he speaks of nature and farming, and Jesus speaks on the shore, at dinner or on a mountain.
Today we hear about how the seed does or does not take root. What is the level of relationship with God? Some days it may be rocky, some days the relationship may not be as deep as desired, some days the relationship or faith may be blown away or shaken because of a situation or an experience. We know that as we strive to be rooted in God’s love, God’s love is always rooted in us no matter how rocky our faith may be. Remember, God never abandons us no matter what.
So, God uses a woman, an unexpected person, Judith, to protect and save the people. Wisdom tells us to have faith and trust and be steady. Jesus tells us to be rooted so we are able to bear fruit in our lives.
Dolorita, a steady, unassuming person, faithful to her call and her God, steady as she lived her life, focused on God and others, always generous and giving. Her ministries were as varied as her talents- teacher, librarian, bookkeeper, drama and athletics, seamstress, treasurer
She knew a good cup of tea served only in a china cup, and she pursued hobbies and stayed with them—making quilts and dresses for children, and she spoiled us with her pizzelle baking. She knew what she was about, focused on what she was about, because her faith took root, her relationship with God was deep and she bore fruit by her kindness, sharing her gifts for others.
Brother Lawrence, a Franciscan mystic said, “If every moment I am consciously practicing love, doing all things for God’s sake, then I don’t need to worry about different spiritual methods.”
We know Dolorita did all things for God’s sake. Practicing love, she bore fruit, she was rooted in God and now she sits on the mountaintop with her loving God.
And Judith sang:
“Strike up a song to my God with tambourines,
sing to the Lord with cymbals;
Improvise for him a new song,
exalt and acclaim his name.
For the Lord is a God who crushes wars;
he sets his encampment among his people;
he delivered me from the hands of my pursuers.
“The Assyrian came from the mountains of the north,
with myriads of his forces he came;
Their numbers blocked the wadies,
their cavalry covered the hills.
He threatened to burn my territory,
put my youths to the sword,
Dash my infants to the ground,
seize my children as plunder.
And carry off my virgins as spoil.
“But the Lord Almighty thwarted them,
by the hand of a female!
Not by youths was their champion struck down,
nor did Titans bring him low,
nor did tall giants attack him;d
But Judith, the daughter of Merari,
by the beauty of her face brought him down.
She took off her widow’s garb
to raise up the afflicted in Israel.
She anointed her face with fragrant oil;
fixed her hair with a diadem,
and put on a linen robe to beguile him.
Her sandals ravished his eyes,e
her beauty captivated his mind,
the sword cut through his neck!f
“The Persians trembled at her boldness,
the Medes were daunted at her daring.
When my lowly ones shouted,
and my weak ones cried out,
The enemy was terrified,
screamed and took to flight.
Sons of maidservants pierced them through;
wounded them like deserters’ children.
They perished before the ranks of my Lord.