Hundreds of years of commitment packed into the pews of St. Pius X Catholic Community last night as the Diocese of El Paso celebrated the “World Day for Consecrated Life”. To be sure there were plenty of gray-headed women (including yours truly!) but the vitality was anything but old. As I looked around me I marveled at the variety of the group: Sisters in habits, Sisters in suits, Sisters in jeans, Sisters from all over Mexico, the U.S., Germany, Spain, Viet Nam. Having lived in El Paso for more than twenty years I know bits of the lives of service of many of those women: educators, health care professionals, social workers, parish ministers, administrators…but that barely begins to tell the story.
What Sisters have done is marvelous. Who the Sisters have been and continue to be is miraculous. Although one of my favorite movie quotes is “For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice” (Song of Bernadette), I’m going to give it a try.
As Fr. Jose said, these women didn’t come from another planet. They came from ordinary families. Some of those families undoubtedly nurtured faith and encouraged a vocation to religious life. Others were as dysfunctional as most families are to some degree. I have said something similar in my “vocation talk” to confirmation classes. When I was born the doctor didn’t say to my parents, “It’s a Sister! Congratulations!”
Each Sister shares something in common. At some moment she heard a call and responded, “yes” to God’s invitation to give her life entirely to the mission of Jesus Christ. The stories are fascinating but the conclusion in each case is “Yes”. Many people look at us and define our lives in the negative: no money, no power, no sex. But who could sustain a commitment based on “No”?
The miracle is the continuing “:Yes” of each Sister, every day. Yes to God. Yes to Christ in the “distressing disguise” of the poor, the marginalized, the mean and nasty ones as well as the gentle and grateful ones. Yes to being put on pedestals we didn’t ask for. Yes to being criticized for living a religious life misunderstood by many in Church and society. Yes to the challenge of life in community. Yes to going where no one else wants to go and doing what no one else wants to do. Yes to faithful listening…listening…listening…for the call that directs our energies and claims our lives.
The deacon preached on the second reading for the Sunday liturgy which happened to be 1Cor 13: “Love is…” He challenged us to be “extremists for love”. Looking at the women in the pews around me I thought, “He is preaching to the choir tonight!” They “get it”. They try to live those words every day with a big “Yes” to God. That’s living a miracle!