Sr. Maria Gratia of the Holy Spirit
St. Benedict’s Priory, Cobh
8th October 2022
A call to a contemplative vocation confounds this generation. Especially those who view the life journey as short, which it is, so that we should extract each and every thrill and adventure it may offer. It is an understandable perception given the extraordinary level of sensory stimuli that this era is exposed to. The lure of being perpetually “switched on” to some technical device or other is very powerful even to the point of addiction. And research reveals it is not neutral in its impact on our minds, emotions and perception of reality. Parents, rightly, worry about its impact on their children. It is difficult to monitor and control because the young themselves can master and imbibe the technology almost effortlessly. In some ways it makes for a noisy crazy world with a multiplicity of voices all speaking at the same time. Little wonder then that more people when experiencing this reality seek out places and spaces of silence and quiet. That picture of a cacophonous world contrasts so sharply with our gathering in faith to-day with Sr. Maria Gratia to celebrate with her and the community her commitment and promise to serve the Lord in a life of contemplation and prayer.
The vocation to follow this path is captured well in the words of the prophet Hosea in our 1st Reading “I am going to lure her and lead her out into the wilderness and speak to her heart” it’s a relationship that will be marked by integrity and justice, tenderness and love, fidelity and the knowledge of the Lord.
The serenity and consolation that comes from intentionally responding to that call of the Lord becomes the sustaining strength for the challenge of unconditional love – Responsorial Psalm.
In the Gospel reading from St. John, we hear Jesus use the image of the vine, the branches and the vinedresser as a way of understanding the spiritual dynamic of our life in Christ. The source of all grace is Christ Jesus, it is our unfailing desire to remain in him that generates growth and new life in us. Judicious pruning is a constant need and task in life if we are to continue to grow and bear fruit in maturity of person. This is akin to the refiner’s fire and the fullest alkali.
This steadfast fidelity in faith, in hope and in love is the ground for the “sure hope” that St. Peter speaks of so eloquently and with such assurance. “Through your faith, God’s power will guard you … This is a cause of great joy for you … despite being plagued by all sorts of trials.
While all religious vocation shares that pattern of fidelity of presence in prayer and steadfast patience each vocation / call and response is unique to each of us as it has been for Sr. Maria Gratia and will continue to unfold by the grace of God in the years ahead. In true prayer we bring the fullness of our being into the presence of God. In the stillness of silent presence our
hearts are moved to embrace the mystery of the Incarnation – our dwelling in God and he is us.
This prayer is characterised not just by depth but great breath also of the embrace of humanity in its need and search. Therefore, this personal inward journey is at once an outward journey too, meaning that the contemplative life is deeply rooted in its concern for the struggles of humanity to-day.
Sr. Maria Gratia, I said earlier that to-day is an end / beginning – the closure of one chapter – to opening of another. Allow me to close my reflections with a piece from Thomas Merton the 20th century American monk who awakened so many to the significance of the contemplative vocation in the life of the Church.
“Be content that you are not yet a saint, even though you
realise that the only thing worth living for is sanctity.
Then you will be satisfied to let God lead you to sanctity
by paths that you cannot understand. You will travel in
darkness in which you will no longer be concerned with
yourself and no longer compare yourself with others. Those
who have gone by that way have finally found out that
sanctity is in everything and that God is all around them”.
Seeds of Contemplation
May that be your blessing too.