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An Open Letter to St. Catherine Laboure

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dear Sister Laboure,
I'm pretty sure you know who I am. Did St. Vincent, that same old man that appeared in your dreams so long ago, tell you? I'm sure he did (or the He with a capital "H" did), but in case you don't know, I'm a prepostulant with your own community, the one you loved, the Daughters of Charity. Things have changed a bit here but not as much as you might think for 135 years after your death. We don't wear the cornette anymore but we remain 110% dedicated to the mission of serving Christ in the poor and to a life of prayer and service.

How blessed the Daughters of Charity are as a community to count you among their ranks. How great is it to be part of a community that so easily combines the audacious (like Bl Rosalie Rendu) with the quiet (like you) and has saints to prove it! You were blessed enough to even hear the Virgin Mary say that she loved our community!


Your dear Miraculous Medal has reached all around the world. I'm sorry you couldn't keep your identity hidden like you wanted. Someone blabbed (as we humans tend to do) I don't know how you feel about it now, but I think that's truly for the better. How then would we know that the Blessed Mother appeared to a simple Sister, who had done nothing extraordinary in this world? How then would we know who to pray for help in creating a deeper devotion to the Blessed Mother?


On that same line, I'm sorry too that the work you did to serve the poor is rarely recognized. You were an example of the balance of prayer and contemplation with simple apostolic work - exactly what a Daughter of Charity should be. After all, you were only a novice when you had the visions - not even close to taking your vows! You dedicated the rest of the life to spread the Miraculous Medal around the world. But sadly, your work with the poor becomes forgotten in the grandeur that is your visions of the Blessed Mother. In that, I ask your help. Pray for me that I may create a balance between prayer and work, that I may never forget one in lieu of the other. Was this hard for you to do or is it just me?


What advice would you have to give for someone just entering the community? I know I asked St Vincent the same thing but we should all ask for help sometimes, right? What's the trick.......is it all about balance? joy? hope? devotion? Or am I right in thinking that it's all of those things combined, along with the realization that it's not actually a recipe for perfection but to be a good Daughter of Charity? (Now there's something I really need to work on.)

Please pray for me (most especially tomorrow, though) that I may learn to become the best Daughter of Charity I could possibly be. I'm not you...and I mean that in the best possible way....you are amazing but please pray for me that I may realize that I just need to be who I am and reach for sanctity that way, just as you did. Be there with me and guide me if you can as I discover who I am.

In love of the Blessed Virgin,
Amanda

Vincentian Quote of the Week: St Vincent & Prayer

Monday, November 14, 2011

Prayer rejuvenates the soul far more truly than the fountains of youth the philosophers speak of rejuvenate the body. . . . In prayer your soul grows quite vigorous; in prayer, it recovers the vision it lost; ears formerly deaf to the voice of God are open to holy inspirations, and the heart receives new strength, is animated with a courage it never felt before. . . . it is a fountain of youth. (St. Vincent de Paul)

What Makes a Missionary?

Friday, November 11, 2011

I always connected the word "missionary" (or "missioner", if you want to avoid the stigma of the past) to the foreign missions - to Latin America, to Africa, to Asia. The dream of becoming a missionary, of serving the poor in a foreign land, is what first led me to thoughts of entering religious life. And that same dream is what led me to Bolivia, the poorest country in South America, and fueled my two years spent there. 

(Now before I continue, let me clarify - by "missionary", I do not mean "thump them over the head with the Bible and make them convert", I mean "following Jesus' mission in serving the poor")

However, last weekend, I experienced something that led me to change that mindset. I ventured back home to Maryland to attend a (most amazing) discernment retreat - "winter-coat" cold, Friday-purple-wearing, accentless (well, sort of), "why aren't people saying 'good morning' to me as I pass them on the sidewalk?" Maryland

The weekend passed by too quickly and Sunday evening, I was off on my way back to Georgia by way of the Atlanta airport. The trip was not too awesome, since I didn't feel well anyway. Luckily, God was watching over me and allowed me to sleep once my butt hit the seat on the plane and not wake up until an hour into the flight. Anyway, I arrived in Atlanta safe and sound and waited outside for the shuttle to Macon. When the shuttle pulled up, the driver put my bag in the back and I took a seat. As I waited, I listened to the conversations around me. I heard the driver friendly talking with a passenger, both speaking in very thick Georgia accents. I smiled and thought "Yup, I'm home".

The thought made me laugh but shocked me at the same time. I hadn't had that feeling in years, not since my various returns to Bolivia after trips home for funerals, visits, etc. And I realized that I had become a missionary here in my little city of Macon, Georgia.

My thought of "missionary" being connected to foreign missions shattered, as I realized that - just like in Bolivia - I had grown to love Macon so much that everything about it becomes "home", while still knowing and understanding I'm an outsider. In Bolivia, that meant understanding that my white skin, my non-native Spanish, and my hazel eyes made me stand out and an outsider. In Macon, that means understanding that my white skin and my bland accent make me stand out and an outsider. 

I think that's what makes a missionary - being at home in a place that isn't truly your home. What's especially amazing is that God gives us missionaries so many different homes throughout our lives. Especially if you're a Daughter of Charity, whose whole mission is to be constantly on the move and go where the poor need you the most. While that, in some light, may seem like God is just moving missionaries about like pieces on a chess board, it's really like God is giving us the opportunity to be at home with the whole world, not just our tiny piece of it. And that is truly a blessing.

Not to mention, it is also amazing for me to think that I've already found some part of permanent home in the Company of the Daughters of Charity. Becoming at home in a place isn't instantaneous and isn't always easy, yet I know that, no matter where I'm sent on mission, as long as I'm with the Daughters, I'm home - whether that be Emmitsburg, California, Taiwan or France, whether or not I've known my housemates before. I'll be at home with the spirituality, home with the traditions, home with St. Vincent, St Louise and St Elizabeth Ann.

And for that, I thank God for the Daughters of Charity and I thank Him for making me a missionary. It's not what I expected when I first had that dream but it's more amazing than I thought.
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