Remembering back to Sunday, March 1st when we were gathered for the dedication of Blessed Solanus Casey Convent, feels like a distant memory from another lifetime. The memories of the dedication are warm, like the sunshine of the day. I remember commenting (more than once, as is my custom) “how can the sun be shining in all the windows at once?” That’s what that day was, sun shining in from all directions.
There were many layers to the blessedness of that day. In part, it was the enormous satisfaction of having a new convent all spruced up and ready for CFR life. Add to that the fact that this new CFR Convent is a postulancy house and we all know that there is a unique joy possessed only by new postulants (who, by the way, were no less spruced and ready for CFR life, donning their new grey attire). An added dimension of the joy and blessedness of the day was getting to share with many that Blessed Solanus Casey had actually lived in the building for a time in the 1920’s and not only that, it was at this location where the miracles he became famous for began. So part of the joy was looking back, but the joy was also in anticipating. What would God do with us here? How would He use us? What miracles await us here on 113th street? Certainly the joy of having a solemn Mass in the church was a tangible source of joy, a church we have been using for a decade but is now renovated and ready to be put to greater use by more people. We dream of throwing open the doors and creating a spiritual haven for the poor here, and getting one step closer to this is definitely part of the joy. And then there is simply the being together – always a cause of rejoicing – sisters, friars, friends, and neighbors.
But there was something that happened that day that was, for me, a signal grace. That morning the men who were making our large custom-fit image of Our Lady of Guadalupe were done with their work and were eager to install the image that very day, Sunday or not. It’s worth noting that this was not on anyone’s short list: “Absolutely Must Be Done to be Ready for the Dedication”. In fact, the men didn’t even know about the dedication and were not working for a deadline. When they called and offered to install the image at 11:00 am before our 1:00 Mass, how could we do anything other than accept their kind offer? But to me, it was more than the kindness and dedication of the workmen. For me, it was a message from our Lady, “I am with you. I want to be with you. I am coming and I am here.”
For the rest of the day, as I showed people around and gave little tours, I came back to Our Lady over and over. She didn’t have to come, but she came. She is here. Look how beautiful she is.
The message of Our Lady of Guadalupe is familiar to us down to the fine details. Yet, as we live through a severe health crisis, which is claiming the lives of people worldwide and leaving a wake of fear and anxiety, her message stands out to me with a fresh, living meaning. When Juan Diego was in great anguish over the health condition of his uncle, Our Blessed Mother said to him:
“Listen, put this in your heart, my son, the youngest one, what frightened you, what afflicted you, is nothing; your countenance, your heart, should not be upset, do not fear that disease nor any other disease, nor any piercing afflictive thing. Am I, who am your Mother, not here? Are you not under my shadow and my shelter? Am I not the fountain of your joy? Are you not in the hallow of my mantle, where my arms cross?”
At a time that we are told to keep everyone at more than arm’s-length, Our Lady tells us “I am holding you right where my arms cross.” She has us under the hallow of her mantle. This is where we can safely “shelter-in-place.” She is the mother of all. Let us share the message of Our Mother to all who are afraid.
Mother Clare, CFR