Sister Catherine Walsh preaching at a later mass on November 7, 2015
On November 1st, the Dominican Sisters of Hope joined with friends, families, co-creators, and loved ones to celebrate the lives of the departed Dominican Sisters of Hope. The memorial liturgy was held at Mariandale Retreat and Conference Center; Sister Catherine Walsh preached. Below is Sister Catherine’s homily. While reading, we encourage you to remember our deceased sisters and also consider your loved ones who have passed on. May these words be a beacon of light and hope for all of us.
Like John in the Book of Revelation, we have a vision of the ones who are wearing the “white robes.” They surround us today behind the thin veil of the afterlife. United with all the sisters of our former congregations, they join us in celebration of the relationship of grace known as the Dominican Sisters of Hope. The giants of our history join us: those who, through their leadership, talents and wisdom, assisted us to Hope. Take a minute to remember those you would call our “treasured giants.” Then there are those who were our simple, quiet ones. Those who made service their calling card and simplicity their banner. Whom do you remember here? Others join us who stood out for their talents of music, gardening, sewing, teaching, administration, care of the poor, compassion, piety, and so on. Whom do you see of these?
There were those who were loners and those who were curmudgeons. And then those who brought laughter and others who could cause frustration. Picture them for yourself. They were —and are— ours. And they stand here with us saying, “We are people who see the face of God” as we say, “We are a people who long to see the face of God.” And all are ours. Remember when we were moving to Hope Grace Imelda would go to the microphone and then Helen Winters and then Aline St. Denis. One time, as one or the other was speaking, someone asked, “Is she Newburgh, Ossining or Fall River?” The answer was, “She is ours.” They are ours…all of them around us are ours. From the first, Grace Imelda Blanchard, to the last, Ann Joachim Vari, they are ours.
These are our Beatitude women. And we can say of them “Blessed are you.”
Although I have preached on the Beatitudes at other times, I could not develop my thoughts for today until I heard Margaret Mayce this week at LCWR Region 2 refer to Jean Yves Leloop’s commentary on the Beatitudes. Leloop is an orthodox theologian who has studied, among many other things, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene.However, on the Beatitudes, he says the translation is wrong. Jesus did not say “blessed,” rather he said, “walk through.” The Beatitudes then become active, not passive.
Not “blessed are the poor in spirit,” but, rather, “those who walk through poor in spirit.” In other words, those with the fortitude to grapple with poverty of spirit, or lack thereof. Those who struggle to become poor in spirit. Those who strip themselves of the attachments that displace God, theirs is the Kingdom of God.
It’s not just mourning, for who can be happy in mourning? No, those who walk through the molasses of mourning, those who are cleansed by the process, who see through the pain with the grace God offers while continuing to offer solace to others, they will be comforted.
Those who walk through to accepting their gifts and talents as God sees them, they come to humility and meekness by coming face-to-face with who they really are, gifts and weaknesses. These will inherit the land. They have walked through to spiritual maturity.
Those who walk through hunger and thirst for justice, developing the thirst, being transformed into justice, living the thirst with all its pain and frustration, they are satisfied.
Those who develop the gift of mercy by the struggle to be compassionate and forgiving to all, especially ones to whom they are least attracted, these will receive the same mercy.
The pure of heart who walk through the emptying of self to focus only on God, they do see God.
For those who form themselves through the walk to becoming peaceful, struggling with personal anger, prejudice, and developing ways to heal chasms between others, they are called “children of God.”
Those who bear the pain of persecution, of exclusion, of isolation, while walking through the path to righteousness while not becoming righteous, they are of the Kingdom.
This is our Beatitude call; this is the path to the “white robes.” This is the path through the cleansing to the Kingdom. Eckhart would probably say this is the path to the mystical life, the union with God. This path takes faith, courage, and availability. To make this walk, we need to deepen our faith through grace. We need the courage to change our hearts and behaviors, and the availability to God’s grace so we can respond with the constant changes to which we are called.
That is what we celebrate today. This beatitude “walking-through” is the journey to which we are all called. Our sisters who have gone before us offer their hands for the journey still ahead of us. Let us offer our hands to each other as we continue. Perhaps we could spend this month praying with some of the 196 sisters and associates who have completed their journey. Let us walk through our personal call to holiness, and walk together to our call as Hope.
And so let us struggle to be blessed by walking through the conversion of heart to which each and all are called. We do so alone and we do so together. And let us ask those who have gone before us for their assistance on this journey. Sisters of Hope bless us. Sisters of Hope pray for us. Amen.