Sunday, June 8, 2014

Homily for the Sisters of Providence Jubilee

Wishing to consecrate myself to God and to follow Christ more closely….

I heard you say it.  So I guess you heard him.  Follow me, he said.  Follow me, Sister Mary of Providence Dion, he said in 1944, the same year that a young Dr. by the name of Benjamin Spock published his first book on Baby and Child Care and an experimental treatment for cancer called chemotherapy was in its first trials in France.

Follow me, she heard him say.  And she followed him, gently lulling countless patients to sleep so the surgeons could cure them, maintaining the dignity of those who had grown old at Bevan Kelly Home, and fostering the Associate program long before most would understand its indispensable role.

It is appropriate that Sister Mary of Providence bore the name of your first sister, for she bore the spirit of providence to countless generations of the sick, the poor and the forgotten.  She heard him call her, “Follow me,” and she did…day in and day out even even to today.

Like Sr. Caroline Smith heard him in 1956, the same year the Solk Polio vaccine was approved by the FDA.  Follow me, he said, into the surgical suite.  Follow me into the administration of a hospital.  Follow me into the street, where addicts whom everyone else has forgotten need the tough love and the tender heart of him who gave his life on the cross while whispering, Father forgive them, they know not what they do.  And so it was truly, sister, that Christ’s sacred heart taught your heart to love and to teach and to serve unto death those whom he would ask you to carry home on your shoulders like a good shepherd of the lost sheep.

Like Sr. Mary Horgan, my cousin, who has been my hero since I was three years old, the year she entered. I remember looking up at her, all decked up in that incredible outfit, all ready to follow him, to consecrate herself entirely to him and to the love that flowed from his side with blood and water.  I guess I know why it was so easy to love her as a toddler, for she gave those first years to little kids like me, and then she followed Christ into the classroom, teaching nurses in her own gentle and patient way, just like Jesus and as a retreat master, shepherding the lost to green pastures and still waters.  And in her work for the community, with her clear sighted love of the charism of providence.  And in her work for peace and justice in a world which so often just won’t understand.

But I guess that’s the secret on this Pentecost Sunday, dear sisters and friends.  The secret that the way of peace is not through negotiation, is not found at fancy conference tables or in the memoirs of famous diplomats.  True peace, you and Caroline and Mary Dion teach us, is found only in the consecration of your life to the Prince of Peace.  And the only way to happiness is to follow him, wherever he may lead.

Some of you, gathered here today, have followed him to married life, and to children and great grandkids.  Some others of us to ordination as priests or consecration as religious.  And many of you have heard his special call as Providence associates, a call to follow him, to understand the mystery of providence, to stand up and defend all women, the earth, and those who are poor and to pray for peace, to fast for peace, to struggle for peace right here and all throughout the world.

That’s why, whatever our state in life, he has gathered us here today…to be inspired by 190 years of consecration in the flesh to the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Love, the way, the truth an the life.

Sisters, you give each one of us strength to follow him wherever he may call us.  You are the channels of his gracious strength.  

You give us hope, that the Spirit still roars with fiery wind, transforming and renewing the face of the earth.  

You give us witness, that in a world too often filled with a babel of dissonance, we can still hear his voice:  Follow me.  Follow me.  And be consecrated to me alone.