Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I spent the last five days on a silent retreat at the Monastery of Our Lady in Beatitude in Livingston Manor, NY. It is home to the Monastic Community of Bethlehem, of the Assumption of the Virgin, and of St. Bruno. If memory serves, I have mentioned this wonderful group of cloistered sisters in the past. These nuns, inspired by the example and rule of St. Bruno and under the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, lead lives of intense prayer and recollection. Most of their day is spent in silence and solitude, with periods of prayer and work. Twice a day they come together in the monastery chapel and their silence is broken by beautiful singing in praise to God. The sisters rise, even in the middle of the night, to offer prayer to God on behalf of the whole world. Their hidden life spent contemplating the mysteries of God is a true gift for all of us.
St. Bruno, the great monk and founder of the Carthusian order, is often quoted in these words: “While the world changes, the Cross of Christ stands firm.” On Sept. 14, we celebrated the feast of the Triumph (or Exaltation) of the Holy Cross. This feast reminds us that by His Cross, Jesus has won victory for us over sin and death. And while many things may come and go in our world, the truth of Christ’s victory remains the same. No matter how much I might grow or change, no matter how the concrete circumstances of my life may vary from year to year, month to month, or day to day, the consistent mark of my time on earth is that Jesus truly laid down His life for my sake. The Cross of Christ stands firm through everything. In moments of great triumph and joy, I am reminded to look to the Cross and see how the Lord is accompanying me in those happy times. In seasons of suffering, guilt, struggle, or grief, I am reminded to look to the Cross and see how the Lord is suffering with me and loving me, even though my own pain may make it difficult to recognize. The world and its allurements will pass away, but the Cross of Christ will always stand firm!
On Sept. 15, the Church traditionally marks the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. In this celebration, we are reminded that the Blessed Virgin Mary, loving her Son so intensely, indeed suffered with Him as He hung on the Cross. The sufferings of Jesus were her sufferings, too! This same Mary, entrusted to the whole Church as a Mother, sees in our sufferings a share in the sufferings of her Son. So in any challenge or difficulty we may face, Mary is embracing us with tender love, Mary is interceding on our behalf, Mary is doing battle against Satan and the demons for us. We have a mother who will not leave us alone to suffer. Likewise, we have a mother who truly experiences suffering on our behalf. When we see a mother suffering, can our hearts remain unmoved? Can we fail to offer comfort? Of course not! Mary, our Lady of Sorrows, is thus a sign of our need for a mother’s spiritual care and a reminder that we are able to ease the sufferings of those around us.
We live in a world of great suffering – the Cross is very present even in the changes we see around the globe. We see the Cross in the devastation wrought in human lives by Hurricane Dorian, in the suffering of the poor and the sick, in the sadness in the eyes of so many refugees, in the pain of the victims and of gun violence, in the broken hearts and trust of survivors of abuse. Their worlds change, but the Cross stands firm for them. And as we see the Cross in their lives, Mary teaches us how to pray with and for those who suffer. She teaches us also how to be a comforting presence, how to aid them in their need, how to offer ourselves in loving, prayerful service. Indeed our world is always changing, but the love and power of Christ, the intercession of the Blessed Mother, and our call to bring the victory of the Cross into the sufferings of all, stands firm.