Very Rev. Mario Esposito, O.Carm.
Mother Mark and members of the General Council, Reverend Fathers, members of the McCrory Family, friends of the Carmelite Sisters, and all of my dear Sisters and Brothers in Carmel.
Once again we find ourselves together to mark the anniversary of the Birth and Death of Venerable Mary Angeline Teresa McCrory, foundress of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, and an apostle, in a sense, for the care of the elderly and infirm in the Church. Three dozen years ago in 1984, all were saddened at her death – a peaceful death, yes – but none the less the passing of such a beloved and important person in the life of so many. Now, however, we see more clearly that Mother Angeline lives on and she is not the only one who was a model of fidelity. We too, today, and in every house of the Congregation are being faithful to her memory, to renewing again a sense of her spirit, to asking anew what she can teach us, and to express in a real Catholic way our sense of solidarity with the Church on earth and in heaven in the communion of the saints. Though Mother Angeline has returned to the house of the Father, her daughters and her charism live on, always growing despite many challenges, as even now we welcome the D’Youville Life & Wellness Community into our Carmelite family and System. Living and growing, though, are not the products of luck or chance. Living and growing are possible because the roots are deep and the ground is solid, and the house is built with the right materials and supports.
This is not the first time we have explored Mother Angeline’s virtue of fidelity on her anniversary. We return to a form of this theme this year to try and learn even more about what it means when we say that she modeled this virtue. I would say that she lived the virtue of fidelity in her total consecration to God and vocation, and in the fact that all of her life was ordered toward a loving union with God, and compassionate service to her Sisters and to her beloved old people. Prayer, devotion, community spirit, innumerable acts of kindness, all of these strengthened and demonstrated Mother’s fidelity which was unshakeable. The words of Sirach the wise one, which we heard this morning are so instructive. Four times he praises the one who fears the Lord, not the one who is afraid of God, but the one who possess that gift of the Holy Spirit, fear of the Lord. What is this? It is a deep respect for God, an acknowledgement of who God is, and that he alone is absolutely worthy of our love, our obedience and of our service. This fear of the Lord breeds hope and the fact that those who hope in God are never, in the end, disappointed. This fear of the Lord brings down the blessings of God on the believer, it births trust in God’s forgiveness, in God’s mercy, in God’s protection and compassion. Fidelity to God means fidelity to the Faithful One Himself, a relationship which brings untold gifts. Mary, the Faithful Daughter of Zion and Daughter of God, mirrors the struggle and victory of true faithfulness. Mother’s Angeline’s life and struggles and victories show us the same.
Can this fidelity help us today? You already know that the answer is yes. So many forces, so many crises, so many questions and struggles face us as individuals, as a Church, as religious and in our culture. Parents struggle to know how to ground their children in the best things, in a world of counterfeit. Those who serve in leadership and health care, in education and charity know the complexity of the issues, and how hard it is to say in the face of the culture of death and bottom line of money, “no, there is another value at work here”. When we pray for and strive for fidelity – that is – being true to who we are, and true to God, and true to our deepest calling, then we are already armed to face life. We have to seek, with St. Paul, all that is true, all that is honorable, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, all that is gracious and excellent and worthy of praise. Mother Angeline’s fidelity was radiant with trust. In what did she place her trust? First of all, in God. Without question, and nurtured by contemplation and devotion, she drew her strength from God, and returned that in the total attitude of trust, of confidence, as taught by one of her favorites, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus. But, Venerable Mary Angeline Teresa trusted other people as well, and her trust brought out the best in others. She trusted in her Sisters, in their dedication, in their love, in their talents and energy. She trusted in the liturgy and sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, and she trusted in bishops and priests and the Church without ever losing her down home sense that people were human, and therefore she was not crushed by displays of weakness or infidelity.
Fidelity also teaches us the need to be good architects and good general contractors. The marvelous teaching of Jesus as recorded in St. Matthew’s gospel that we heard this morning, helps us to deepen our reflection on fidelity by highlighting three aspects of fidelity: that to be faithful is not a matter of words, but deeds, for deeds show the heart. Second, fidelity is ultimately about doing the will of God, “not my will, but Your will be done” said our Blessed Lord, and “be it done unto me according to Your word” said our Blessed Mother. Fidelity to God’s will and God’s commands, bring us to a wholeness of purpose and peace. Finally, like good architects and general contractors, we must build on rock, on a solid foundation, on Jesus Christ, his gospel and Him alone, and then the house of who we are as individuals and Church, can withstand any rain or flood or buffeting. Mother Angeline was a woman of deeds and a builder. She was concrete in her charity and love, never afraid to show her heart and dedication. In every act, she sought the will and glory of God and service to others. She counseled her Sisters wisely, and encouraged them always to remain faithfully faithful in order to fulfill their vocations in joy. No matter what comes our way in the world of 2020, not matter what the T.V. or media is screaming about, we can and must stay faithful to who we are, and who God calls us to be. Mother Angeline models this for us, and, I’m sure, prays for us from the heavenly halls.
Very Reverend Mario Esposito, O.Carm.
January 21, 2020