Poor Clare’s Elect new Mother Abbess
I’m told that seminarians who study at the Irish College in Rome see today as the beginning of the academic year. Now the year should be well on by now, but todays feast-day of ‘All the Saints of Ireland’ I imagine gives the seminarians a hook to hang their academic year on. Here in the Poor Clare’s you are very familiar with St. Clare & St. Francis – they are your saints, they are your companions. I have been privileged to be your companion over recent days as I carried out this Canonical Visitation as it is termed. I have no doubt that the Saints of Ireland and our Diocese accompanied us all on this three-year visitation – St. Brigid, St. Laserian, St. Conleth, St. Patrick to mention just a few.
This morning from my visitation with each of you on Tuesday last, I am going to offer you a Saint, a Blessed, A Venerable or a Cause to continue that accompaniment with you. For you Helen, a postulant, a newcomer to this monastery I give you St. John Paul II, a new Saint. For you Sr. Analiza, I offer you the cause of Martha de San Bernardo, who died in 1640, a Poor Clare Nun. For you Sr. Veronica, I offer you Saint Pedro Calungsod, a young 18 year-old layperson of your archdiocese of Cebu. For you Sr. Canice, I offer you Venerable Nano Nagle, foundress of the Presentation Sisters. For you Sr. Therese, I offer you St. Roch, the Saint associated with recovery from knee surgery. For you Sr. Anna Marie, I offer you St. Martha, the doer, the one who prepared the vegetables when Jesus visited Bethany. For you Sr. Dominic, I offer you Little Nellie of Holy God, the young mystic from County Cork, whom Pope Pius X gave permission to receive her First Holy Communion at a very young age, because of her faith. For you Sr. Anthony, I offer you St. Canice, the second patron of Ossory Diocese. For you Sr. Francis, I offer you St. Christopher, the patron saint of safe travelling to guide you as you journey around the communities. For you Sr. Paschal, I offer you St. Patrick, mindful of his place of burial at Downpatrick in County Down. For you Sr. Mary, I offer you St. Columbanus, aware of this jubilee year and once again his strong associations with Bangor Abbey in County Down, while his birthplace is down the road in Myshall. For you Sr. Rosario, I offer you St. Monica, the patron saint of mothers, the mother of St. Augustine.
Only an impoverished society can turn its back on the contemplative life. On this the eve of the Year of Consecrated Life, I think its very appropriate to reflect on the place of you the consecrated one in the larger society. It is said that the lifespan of a religious order is around one hundred years, with the initial spurt of energy at its foundation. You the Poor Clare’s amongst a few others are an exception. I suggest the Year of Consecrated Life allows all of us an opportunity to refocus the spotlight of society on the quiet witness and example of you great people. I am proposing that you might reflect on having an Open Day during the coming year when people of the surrounding area who love you deeply have that opportunity to call and greet you. The purpose of the year-long celebration is as Pope Francis invited us “to make a grateful remembrance of the recent past, while embracing the future with hope”.
Returning to those Saints and Blessed Ones I offered you, there is always the temptation to rarefy saints and place them on pedestals, sometimes to the point of allowing a particular saint to displace Jesus as the centre of our Christian faith. Statues on plinths but no feet on the ground kind of people! Pope Emeritus Benedict reminded us “in the saints, one thing becomes clear: those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them”. St. Francis de Sales put it wonderfully: “It is not those that commit the least faults who are most holy, but those who have the greatest courage, the greatest generosity, the greatest love”. Chesterton suggested; “each generation seeks its saint by instinct; and he or she is not what the people want, but what the people need”. I pray as you soon elect a new Mother Abbess and others into leadership in the community that you will all be inspired by your ‘new’ Saint or Blessed, while still retaining great affection for the most tried and trusted St. Clare and St. Francis.
St. Francis of Assisi, pray for us.
St. Clare, pray for us.
All the Saints of Ireland, pray for us.
 Pope Benedict XVI, ‘God is Love’, 2006.