Consecration, communion, service
by Sister Mary Rachel, SOLT
“It is in service that I am able to complete the
example that Christ gave as our Divine Bridegroom in laying down his life, and
it is where I am able to give an outlet to the many gifts, insights, and
services given to me.”
– Sister Mary Rachel, SOLT
On Aug. 11, 2016, our dear Father Bob Cronin of The Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity passed into eternity on the Turtle Mountain Reservation where he had loved and served for more than 25 years. During the two weeks leading to his death, we community members, as well as many parishioners, held vigil in his room, serving his needs under the gaze of our Eucharistic Lord 24/7.
When Christ came for him, there was a priest, a sister, and a layperson with him. From my time and meditations at his bedside, I would like to draw out three points of the joys of consecrated life that I feel this experience displayed.
First, consecration. It is an inexhaustible source of joy and grace for me to be a bride of Christ and the Church in miniature. Consecration is the reality that makes people ask us, “What are you?” To be able to stand for Christ and the Church in a public, marked, concrete, special way was definitely something that attracted me to this life. Not only do I stand for him, but the King of Heaven has reached down and chosen and marked me for himself.
This symbolism of consecration means that I represent and stand for another. As we sisters stood by the bedside of Father Bob, we stood as signs of our own dear mother Mary, who persevered by the cross of her dying son, or as signs of the Church who stays faithful to all her sons and daughters to the last minute of their lives. This standing for another is expressed to me in many other ways, also, like the kindergarten students that persist in calling to me, “Hey, Mary!” or the questions and conversations that begin when people see our habits.
Secondly, communion: a word dear to our Community, as our charism states that we are “Disciples of Jesus through Mary, living in Marian-Trinitarian Communion, serving on Ecclesial Family Teams, in areas of deepest Apostolic need.” It is a joy to live out every day, in reality and in hope, full communion of heaven and earth, communion of all members of the Church, and communion of all of creation in the love of the Trinity. How beautifully I felt this in serving Father Bob!
One of the other priests would say Mass every day in his room, and when Mass was not in session, our Lord in the Eucharist remained exposed in Adoration for Father Bob and whoever was taking care of him that shift. Heaven and Earth, priests, sisters and laity all working together was as it ought to be. I was able to just sit in silence with others for many hours and watch Father Bob breathe, pondering life, death, and beauty, keeping the rhythm of the day with the Liturgy of the Hours. All of us were touched by this communion and community united in a single purpose, a picture of what Jesus prayed for when he said, “Father, that they may be one…”
Third, service: always and to all. It is a great gift to realize that my life does not belong to me, but to all people, in service. Here at St. Ann’s, I am the Religion teacher in our Catholic school, and we Sisters are involved in many other things. We bring Holy Communion to our many homebound, teach sacramental prep, serve our nursing home, and run a thrift store.
It is in service that I am able to complete the example that Christ gave as our Divine Bridegroom in laying down his life, and it is where I am able to give an outlet to the many gifts, insights, and services given to me. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, expressed this so well: “Jesus comes to me every morning in Communion, and I return the visit by going to serve the poor.”
As I sat by Father Bob’s bed, I often thought of the fact that it is not the number or quantity of people visited that makes a difference, but rather to make each and every encounter with anyone count, to re-gift to them their dignity and the love Jesus has for them, to let each one know that they are priceless.
I thank God that he has chosen me to be a sister! Pray for your sisters, and for the people God has given us to serve, that we may be found faithful! And may we always find the source of our joy in the consecration, communion, and service God has gifted us with.