As I write this, I'm still in Brooklyn, New York, with the religious sisters from the community of the Servants of the Lord. I've been with them a few days now and have been blessed far greater than I imagined. The food is simple and the accommodations even simpler in a monastery that is over 100 years old. However, within the walls of the building, everything is focused on God, both in the design of the building and the minds and hearts of the young sisters that occupy this space.
The average age of these religious sisters is about 30 years old. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the many places from which they come, such as Louisiana, Arizona, California, Ohio, Canada, Mexico, etc. Many had professional occupations such as nursing and teaching, but now they use their gifts and talents in the cloistered monastery to pray and intercede for the world. They offer themselves each day for the well-being of humanity and the salvation of souls. For those who are tempted to think there are better ways to use their time and talents, they should consider the teachings of the saints. One of the holiest and most spiritually gifted people of recent time is St Padre Pio. He repeatedly said that if it were not for victim souls, like the cloistered religious sisters, the world would have already ended many times.
Their joy was a result of them working each day to follow the teachings and commandments of God. Their diversity in backgrounds and personal preferences can work against community life unless they choose to put God and others first. There is no secret to their success, it's simply living each day to do the will of God as perfectly as possible. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, they go to bed each night and wake each morning saying, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to Your will Lord."
This Sunday we hear Jesus say that we too are to align our thoughts, words, and actions according to the teachings and commandments of God. For the times when we have not done this, Jesus says we are to acknowledge those as sins and repent of them. John the Baptist, whom we also hear in the gospel, spent his whole adult life preaching repentance of and conversion from sin. Like the cloistered religious sisters, John the Baptist made a sacrificial offering of himself each day for the benefit of humanity. Like his prayers, his offering of himself brought spiritual assistance to those in need of repentance and conversion.
In the two weeks remaining before Christmas, be sure to visit the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The same spiritual power given to priests to transform ordinary bread and wine into the Real Presence of Christ (Body, Blood, Soul, & Divinity) is the same spiritual power God has given to them to forgive sins in the Sacrament of Confession. We three priests provide ample opportunity for this sacrament every week, but in the week before Christmas we will offer even more opportunities. Please take advantage of this generous offering so that you too can have your sins forgiven by God and receive God's grace to change your life for the better.
As I'm preparing to leave New York for the religious sisters in Kansas, I'm looking forward to the consecration of Kate Cropp, who is a daughter of St Peter Parish. I'm sure my time with that religious community will also be blessed. I'm excited that she will be physically present at 11:30 Mass next weekend (Dec. 17) at St. Peter. Praise be to God that these young ladies heard and answered God's call!