Sr. Delores Receives Her
by Rev. Albert F. Ernst O.S.F.S.
Not too many years ago, a child named Giuseppe was born at Riese, Italy, a little village of about five thousand souls. This boy later became Pope Pius X. He was one of eight surviving children, the first and last dying in infancy. The father of these children owned a house and a strip of land. Like his neighbors he managed to make a living from his land, supplemented by a few cents a day for his services as caretaker of the town hall.
The mother of Giuseppe, Margarita, was twenty years younger than her husband. To help provide for her increasing family she took in sewing from her more prosperous neighbors. Giuseppe or Little Beppo, as he was called, made out exceptionally well at school. His hidden talents were detected by a priest, Fr. Fusani, who personally began tutoring him in Latin. After a few months of such tutoring, Giuseppe passed the entrance examination to attend school at Castlefranco. It took an hour or more to walk from his home to Castlefranco. Over this road the boy walked barefoot every day, slinging his boots over his shoulders to save the leather and putting them on only when he came to the town. When he completed school there, he entered the seminary at Padua. After a few years study at Padua a heavy cross fell upon his family. Giuseppe arrived home as his father was on his death bed. In fact, he arrived only in time to receive his father’s last blessing. In addition to this great sorrow, another followed immediately, for on the day of the father’s death his mother, Margarita, gave birth to a child who died shortly thereafter.
Burdened with eight little children, it never occurred to this heroic mother to make Giuseppe discontinue his studies and possibly give up a priestly calling. Somehow, she would manage. Her youngest was only four but the older girls would soon be able to help her with the dressmaking that was to sustain the family for the years to come. So, Giuseppe who was now seventeen returned to Padua to resume his studies. Years later, at twenty-three, he was ordained. At the age of forty Giuseppe Sarto was made monsignor and at forty-nine he was consecrated bishop by Cardinal Parochi. A few days later Pope Leo XIII received Bishop Sarto in a private audience and presented him with a beautiful pectoral cross.
That year Bishop Sarto went home to Riese to spend Holy Week and Easter with his family. It must have been one of the most blessed Easters' his mother ever had. When she opened the door her son held up his hand, and with a boyish pride exclaimed, “Look, mother, at my beautiful Episcopal ring!” “Yes,” she agreed, “It is beautiful; but you wouldn’t be wearing it if I had not this one.” As she held up priceless wrinkled hand with her cheap wedding ring, the wedding ring – symbol of undying love.
Such love is required not only of husband and wife but by all of us in our relationship with God. For some privileged souls they have the beginning of such a love the moment they enter a convent or commence their studies for the priesthood. For certain individuals like Little Beppo this is the beginning of a divine romance, the beginning of an engagement which, in time will terminate in a spiritual espousal. A happy soul to have received a proposal from our Lord, and happier still for having accepted His proposal. All merely human companionships must have an end; but a love, a companionship between a human being and God need not have an end.
Now, the most important thing during this period of engagement and thereafter is to love. To do that ought to be easy, for there is nothing more natural for man than to love. And, the higher we esteem a thing, the more we love it. That is why God, the supreme Being, has such intense (ardent) lovers. All the saints give testimony of this fact.
Here, if you will, are a few simple motives which should prompt us to love God above all things. First, God desires our love. Yes, like a beggar, He comes knocking at the door of our hearts pleading earnestly to be admitted. “Behold,” He says, “I stand at the gate and knock. If any man shall hear My voice and open to Me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him and he with Me.” (Apoc. 3:20) Think of it, our Creator following us like a beggar through our paths of sinfulness as well as during the time of our fidelity towards Him! We may turn away from Him and refuse to accept His friendship, but still He goes on pleading and begging for a hearing. Incredible, God asking, begging, seeking a creature's love.
Secondly, who is more worthy of a hearing, more deserving of our love, than our Lord and Creator? Do not kings demand honor and respect from their subjects? Do not parents rightfully expect honor, reverence and obedience from their children? But who has a greater claim upon our love than God the Creator, the King and the Father of us all?
St. Augustine, after representing to himself the most beautiful picture of God that was possible, ended by exclaiming: “But what is all this O my God, my love, my glory? This is not what Thou art; we do naught but lisp when we attempt to speak of Thee.” Then his heart, overflowing with love for God exclaimed, “Too late have I known Thee, O beauty, ever ancient, ever new, too late have I known Thee.” St. Augustine really loved God after he got to know Him. St. Mary Magdalene, the moment she learned the meaning of the love of God forsook her sinful habits and followed her Divine Savior through trials and sufferings, sorrow and shame to the foot of the cross on Calvary. They and many others were true lovers.
And, if these reasons are still not sufficient to prompt a person to love God, then we should at least love Him, “Because God has first loved us.” Nature knows no love as tender as a mother’s love. Her heart is this type of tenderness. Yet God assures us that even though a mother should forget her child, He would never forget us. Nor is His pledge of unfailing love merely verbal, i.e., from the lips and not from the heart. God’s love for us manifests itself by sacrifice and gifts, miracles, Calvary and the altar of sacrifice. How eloquently they remind us of the generosity of God’s heart. God is most generous, we are not.
But for all this, has our love for Him been a grateful love? Have we loved Him in return? Have we loved God as we ought? It seems to me, Oh God, that even now You are asking us the same question that troubled St. Peter so much, “Simon, Son of John, do you love Me more than these?” (John 21:15) God grant that today and every day hereafter that we may be able truthfully and sincerely to repeat the words of St. Peter, “Yes, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you."
Now, a person who dedicates himself to God says this prayer over and over again. And why? Because he is specializing in the love of God. And ordinarily just as a person who specializes in any other field needs a teacher, so does a person who is specializing in the love of God. Once a girl has decided to become a sister, she must make a choice. She can select as her teachers, sisters engaged actively in various works such as teaching, nursing, caring for the poor, the blind, and the crippled; or she can pick others who lead what we call a “Contemplative life.” They remain in their cloister, never going out into the bustle of the world, shutting themselves off from anything that might come between themselves and their God.
Most people will grant the enormous good done by the active sisters, but they question the value of the Contemplative Orders. They do this, however, without grounds. In a war, not everyone goes to the front to fight. Many stay behind to keep the army supplied and to furnish replacements when necessary. No one will deny the importance of those who are behind the front. Contemplative Orders might be placed in this class. They are the ones who keep the active Orders up to full working strength. They are the ones who with their prayers and fasting, keep their fellow workers’ arms raised in battle for our Lord
Sr. Delores’ choice fell upon this latter group. Her teachers will be the Sisters of the Visitation. A wise choice indeed, not because I say so but because God thinks so and because God Himself has shown His approval of the Sisters of the Visitation of Mary. You ask, “How?” The founders of the Visitation Sisters order was a saintly Bishop St. Francis DeSales, who was canonized forty years after his death. The first Mother Superior of the Visitation, Sr. Jane de Chantal, was likewise canonized. Years later the apparitions of the Sacred Heart took place. Here, too, as our Lord looked about for a loving soul to whom he could reveal the mysteries of His own Sacred Heart, His choice was of this group of women, specifically, Sr. Margaret Mary. She was declared a saint, being canonized on the Feast of the Annunciation in 1920. Incidents such as these show us that God highly approves of the Visitation Order. Incidents such as these, make a person wonder whether the Visitation isn’t one of His pet Orders.
Now, before closing, may I congratulate Sr. Delores, in the name of all the people gathered here this morning in your honor. We unite our prayers and offer them up for you, praying that God may give you the strength and courage to live up to the ideals of your noble life.