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The Poor Clares: Let us join the woman beneath the cross
When a person is called to a specific mission, it becomes part of his or her very identity and manifests itself in various aspects of life. A mother, whose children are grown, still reaches out to nurture life in other ways within her local community. A doctor views the world around him with the eyes of a healer. An artist notices shapes, colors and proportion in places other than the studio; and a musician's ears are attuned to sounds and rhythm, even outside the concert hall. A person is formed and influenced by that which he gives his heart to.
On Oct. 13, the Te Deum Foundation sponsored a Mass at St. Patrick Cathedral in Charlotte in honor of a significant anniversary: the final apparition of Our Lady of the Rosary to three shepherd children of Fatima in 1917. The message of Fatima came to us from a woman whose Immaculate Heart was completely and perfectly formed in the mission entrusted to her by God and in the vocation to which she generously gave her "Fiat."
Even today, the Blessed Virgin Mary continues to fulfill her mission as the woman who stood beneath the foot of the Cross, and she is calling us to join her at her post for the sake of sinners.
In every crucifixion scene, we immediately fix our gaze upon our Crucified Lord. When our hearts become overwhelmed by the sight of God crucified, we eagerly look towards the Mater Dolorosa for strength. We take for granted that where Jesus Crucified is, there is His Mother. St. John tells us explicitly, "Standing by the cross of Jesus was His mother" (John 19:25) The "Fiat" of 33 years earlier took her to Calvary, where she silently and bravely lived out her martyrdom of love. There she saw her "Fiat" in flesh and nailed to the Cross. Nothing could have wounded her Immaculate Heart more than to watch her Son die, yet she did not shirk from the pain.
Human love, in its weakness and imperfection, is often blinded by false hope or denial in the sight of pain and death, but Our Lady knew exactly the cost of this sacrifice. Her Son's life did not slip stealthily away from her grasp. Once again she gave full consent to God's will, and united her "Fiat" to the Word made flesh on the Cross. From her post, she became the model of prayer and reparation, and she urges us to join her in such prayer and penance.
Representing us sinners at the foot of the Cross, stood another Mary – Mary Magdalene, who also remained in prayer, suffering and reparation. She wept with sorrow for her own sins and the sins of others. With Our Lady as her companion, she had a role to play at the foot of the Cross, just as we have a part to play.
Too, when Our Lady appeared in Fatima, she remained ever conscious of her identity as the woman beneath the Cross and implored us to join her in her mission of prayer and reparation.
Calling souls to pray for peace, she who witnessed the scenes of Calvary knew that deep authentic peace comes through the Cross. She said, "Sacrifice yourselves for sinners and say often, "O my Jesus, it is for love of you, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary... If people do what I ask, many souls will be saved and there will be peace." The woman at the foot of the Cross 2,000 years ago retained her identity and allowed it to influence her mission completely. And she invites others to share this identity.
In 1929 Lucia, the last surviving Fatima seer, had a vision which perfectly portrays the identity we are called to embrace – intercessors at the foot of the Cross. The young nun saw an illuminated Cross on which hung Our Lord, with drops of blood falling from His face and side onto a large host and into a chalice. Above the Cross appeared the Heavenly Father, and upon His breast was a dove. Beneath the right arm of the cross stood Our Lady with her Immaculate Heart surrounded by thorns. Under the left arm of the cross, large letters ran down upon an altar forming these words: "Grace and Mercy." In all the depictions of this vision today, Lucia is included, kneeling in front of this mystery of the Trinity.
Our Blessed Mother is inviting each of us today to put ourselves in the place of Mary Magdalene on Calvary and in the place of Lucia before the Trinity. Through our prayers and sacrifices, united with Christ's Sacrifice through Mary's Immaculate Heart, we share in the mission of bringing down grace and mercy upon poor sinners. Let us identify ourselves with the woman beneath the Cross.
Sister Mary Raphael of the Divine Physician is professed with the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration St. Joseph Monastery in Charlotte. This is part of a monthly commentary by the Poor Clares to focus on topics of faith and to address questions about religious life. Learn more about the community and subscribe to their newsletter by going online to www.stjosephmonastery.com.
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