Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Renee Mirkes is the guest columnist for this month’s Just Gospel praying with Pope Francis for “Christians facing bioethical challenges that they may continue to defend the dignity of human life with prayer and action.” She is director of the Center for NaProEthics [the ethics division of the Pope Paul VI Institute, Omaha, NE].
The prayer winds of March are blowing. And this March, Pope Francis focuses our prayer on: “Christians facing new bioethical challenges that they may continue to defend the dignity of all human life with prayer and action.” How refreshing! The Pope is asking every FSCC to pray for herself!
For, after all, which one of us is not required to take a stand against evils like abortion, human trafficking, transgenderism, contraception and surrogacy?
Who of us, in our teaching and healing or through our vote, our letters to our political representatives, our participation in rallies does not stand up for the dignity of human life, the truth about human sexuality, and the survival of the family?
Most importantly, who of us is not deepening our union with the Incarnate Son so He, the Light, is the engine running our pro-life, pro-woman, pro-marriage & family actions?
It seems to me this would be the perfect time for a mini-retreat to just soak up the Light. Our director, St. Therese of Lisieux, through a letter to her younger sister Celine, puts us in touch with Zacchaeus—a prototype for each of us. For aren’t we all persons who yearn to see Jesus more clearly? Don’t we all want our thinking and acting on behalf of humanity to radiate from our love-union with the true Light of the World?
So, as you settle into your mini-retreat, St. Therese invites you to read her letter to Celine as she helps her and us to imitate Zacchaeus.
Jesus has raised us above all the fragile things of this world, whose image passes away. He has placed, so to speak, all things under our feet. Like Zacchaeus, we climbed a tree to see Jesus. Then we could say with Saint John of the Cross: “All is mine, all is for me, the earth is mine, the heavens are mine, God is mine, and the Mother of my God is mine.”
Celine, what a mystery is our grandeur in Jesus! This is all that Jesus has shown us in making us climb the symbolic tree about which I was just talking to you. And now what science is he about to teach us? Has he not taught us all? Let us listen to what he is saying to us: Make haste to descend, I must lodge today at your house. Well, Jesus tells us to descend. Where, then, must we descend? Celine, you know better than I! However, let me tell you where we must now follow Jesus. In days gone by, the Jews asked our divine Savior: Master, where do you live? And he answered: The foxes have their lairs, the birds of heaven their nests, but I have no place to rest my head.
This, dear Celine, is what Jesus has done in my soul during my retreat. Let us allow him to act, he can complete his work in our souls. What Jesus desires is that we receive him into our hearts. No doubt they are already empty of creatures, but alas I feel mine is not entirely empty of myself, and it is for this reason that Jesus tells me to descend. He, the King of kings, humbled himself in such a way that his face was hidden, and no one recognized him, and I too want to hide my face. I want my Beloved alone to see it, that he be the only one to count my tears, that in my heart at least he may rest his dear head and feel that there he is known and understood. Yes, it is there in the intimate retreat of the soul that he instructs us together, and one day he will show us the day which will no longer have any setting.
Your Sister Therese,
(A letter written to her younger sister, Celine, when Therese was 19 in the year 1892, two years following her religious profession of vows at the Carmelite monastery of Lisieux.)