Reverend Fathers, Members of the McCrory Family and guests, Mother Mark Louis Anne and members of the General Council, and all of my dear Sisters and Brothers in Carmel –
Here we are again in beautiful, “spring-like weather”, keeping the anniversary of the birth and death of Venerable Mary Angeline Teresa McCrory, the beloved foundress of the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm. Thank you to all who braved the weather to be here this morning, and to all those who are here in spirit, but could not make it in bodily form. This 35th annual Mass is a fitting tribute to a wonderful and saintly woman, who deserves the veneration she receives. There is, really, no end to what we can say about Mother Angeline, because as we continually get to know her, she is always ready to teach us something new. A woman of her time, she was, who has continued to be a woman of our time as well. It is our fondest hope that through such avenues as the EWTN production we are engaged in at the moment, Mother can become still better known, loved, appreciated and venerated. And, we wouldn’t mind one tiny, little verifiable miracle, would we?
One time Father John Horan who many of you know, told a story about celebrating a funeral Mass in Trinidad with a full Church and a lot of emotion. A little girl who obviously was anxious and maybe confused, kept talking to her mother quite audibly, and the mother finally decided the best thing to do was to leave. However, the girl did not go quietly and everyone in the Church could hear her asking her mother, “What are we doing here? What are we doing here?” Now, this is a good question for us today, and for other days when we are together for the Mass. What are we doing here? As believers, we know that the Holy Mass is our greatest act of worship; it is of great praise to God, that it is the most perfect act of thanksgiving to God, and unites us through the sacrifice of Jesus, to the Father, to the Church and to all of creation by the action of the Holy Spirit. The Mass, though it takes place in time and space, lifts us out of time and space up to heaven to the eternal, and brings down upon us all grace, healing and life. Mass can become a routine unless we keep that lively sense of what we are doing here, and how great it is.
Today, we are keeping an anniversary and remembering Mother Angeline. She is worth remembrance, for she – along with her companions – did great things. She was certainly the inspiration, the leader, the soul of the group, the nucleus of a new religious family. She was bold, without being brash, had a vision without being a visionary, courageous while still being meek, and full of confident faith while still remaining humble. She was joyful, grateful, and optimistic, had a sense of humor, worked hard, was a sister to her Sisters, an Aunt to her family, a child of the Church yet a valiant coworker with Bishops and priests in the vineyard. Why are we here today? To remember her, yes. To thank God for the gift of who she was, yes. To try and learn something from her, yes. In addition, to ask her help and prayers for ourselves and all of her Sisters and their ministry.
I think we can learn again that she was a woman of prayer for our time. Here is the heart of who she was. When I am asked about who I think Venerable Mary Angeline Teresa is and what is the secret of her holiness, I answer: she was 100%. She was always 100% the same – same dedication, same drive, same goals, same love, no change, no variation. By this I don’t mean she was unbending or unable to adjust and change, but her core – firmly rooted in faith and prayer, never wavered. She was 100 % for God, 100 % for her Sisters, 100 % for the Church and for the old people. No duplicity, no compromise, always acting from the center which was united with the Lord in prayer and love. For me, this is her holiness, something to ponder and appreciate the heroic virtue of being steadfast.
How can we tell if a person is prayerful? Not by following them around with a clipboard and checklist to see if they put in their time praying, or, having a Smartwatch that can measure prayer time like steps for exercise. I think we can sense the prayerfulness of a person by their actions and attitudes. For example, the Book of Wisdom announces today, “I prayed and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.” Prudence is the moderator of all virtues, a cardinal virtue, and wisdom is a characteristic that takes us beyond the knowledge of facts, to the meaning of facts, of life, of people, and of God’s ways. In the instruction of the Cause, among the heroic virtues Mother practiced prudence was clearly demonstrated in her dealings with people, with her Sisters and with difficulties. She manifested wisdom in her choices, her plans, her method of administration and her dealings with men and women.
Mother Angeline spent hours in prayer – a fact that no one can deny. When she chose a religious family to affiliate her new work with, she chose Carmel, whose very charism is of prayer. And her own prayer life contained all the elements of a well-rounded prayer experience: a deep love and devotion for the Eucharist and the Liturgy; a practice of spiritual reading and devotion to the Sacred Scripture – often saying that the reading she loved best was of the gospels – devotional prayer to Mary and the Saints and, finally, and most noteworthy, a love for silent prayer, contemplation and reflection before the Blessed Sacrament, heart speaking to heart. Here is the soul of her character.
This life of prayer led her to the practice of the Christian virtues, such as we hear St. Paul enumerate in today’s second reading: compassion, a hallmark of the ministry of the Carmelite Sisters, kindness, patience, forbearance and forgiveness, and above all love, charity, an open heart, and gentle spirit. This led Mother Angeline to value worship so much and to pass that love on to her Sisters reminding them constantly to keep the balance between their lives of prayer and service, never neglecting time with the Lord because there we all find the nourishment and strength to serve in Christ’s name.
There is no doubt that at the end of the ages, when the sheep are separated from the goats, Mother Angeline and all those who follow her example of care and service for the least of the Lord’s brothers and sisters will be numbered among the righteous ones in eternity. We need her kind of inner life today. There are new questions, new crises, new challenges, new horizons that must be faced in society, in the Church, in health care and in the religious life. “What are we doing here?” We are remembering a woman that from her own inner core and dedication to God and doing His will, could face down the opposition of her former religious congregation, the depression, and all nay- sayers, to launch a new ministry in the service of God’s elderly, a new religious family and, in a sense, a new active way of living the Carmelite contemplative charism in our world. She did this by being a woman of prayer, of faith, a religious who lived in community and built a community where the spiritual life could flourish, and each Sister find her own personal vocation in peace and joy. She is a model of prayer, and the completeness of her dedication even until death can remind each of us that, as Blessed Titus Brandsma, a Carmelite contemporary of Mother Angeline once wrote, “For the Carmelite, prayer is not an oasis in life, it IS life.”
Venerable Mary Angeline Teresa, pray for us.
Very Reverend Mario Esposito, O.Carm. /Vice Postulator
St. Teresa’s Motherhouse, Avila-On-The Hudson
January 21, 2019