Happy New Year! Today we begin a new liturgical year- the Year of Faith. We are all present at a unique moment in history – as Advent 2011 dawned, we inaugurated the use of the third edition of the Roman Missal. This sublime rendition of the Roman Missal reflects a more accurate translation of the Latin. The phrases we (and our priest celebrant) now pray are more direct translations from scripture and the ancient Mass. This third edition of the Roman Missal is truly beautiful- and affords us the opportunity to enhance our worship of God, by participating in a rich and vibrant liturgy.
A year ago today, my family and I had the privilege of being present at another new beginning- arguably the most beautiful, unique wedding we had ever attended. We were guests of the bride’s family- acquaintances for many years. The church was packed to standing room only – indeed some of the crowd stood in the vestibule. The flowers were lovely; the choir angelic. The nervous parents, and family of the bride shone with delight as the guests entered the chapel.
The bride was our friend Rachel. We were acquainted with her family through homeschooling, attending the same parish, and together frequenting the Holy Hill Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. From a distance, I had watched over the years as this bubbly carrot-topped girl matured in wisdom and grace into a lovely young woman. She and her equally awesome sister, Gabe, were baby-sitters for our young children. As the guests entered the chapel, I remembered that Rachel had recently graduated from Thomas Aquinas College. I recalled the year prior, lending Rachel the many volumes of Copplestone’s History of Philosophy for a course she was taking at TAC, and being impressed at her intelligence and philosophical maturity.
Well here I sat, sincerely praying for this lovely couple- for this formidable young woman and the enormous step in life she was about to take. The music began, the bride glowing in her elegant white wedding dress emerged – wisps of her lovely red hair peeking through the veil. The jubilance of the congregation- full of family and friends – was palpable, as the radiant bride slowly walked up the aisle. There couldn’t have been a dry eye in the chapel. She nervously smiled at her sister Brides of Christ as she approached her seat. Yes – remember I said this was unlike any wedding I had ever attended- our dear friend Rachel was about to become Sr. Maria Faustina.
As the ceremony progressed, Rachel, clad in an elegant white gown, was escorted out to exchange her secular wedding clothes for the raiment appropriate to her chosen vocation. She returned wearing her new wedding dress, the lovely blue habit of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. She professed her promises as a novice, and the celebration of the Holy Mass continued. I remember praying intently for this beautiful young woman, and her fellow novices- four of whom sat supportively nearby. Sr. Faustina is part of a novice class of eight young Brides of Christ. On another part of the globe, two of her fellow novices were being received simultaneously in similar ceremonies in their homeland of Puerto Rico. They would soon return to Wisconsin to resume prayer and study with their novice class.
After the ceremony, the Sr. Faustina with her family and Community of Sisters walked across the drive to the tiny Schoenstatt Chapel, where Our Lord is always present for Adoration. Here they were able to give thanks for the tremendous graces of this sunny November day. Like any nuptial celebration there were hugs and kisses, smiles and photographs – all mingled with a few joyful tears.
Like any wedding, the reception was an exuberant celebration- the culmination of hours of preparation and labor. At the Schoenstatt Retreat center, the tables were lovely- set with china, candles and flowers. Sr. Faustina’s Mom and Dad (Judy & Joe) greeted guests, beaming with genuine pride and satisfaction as their daughter mingled with visitors and accepted the heartfelt congratulations of so many well-wishers. Her sister Gabe, and brother Tom, shone with approval as well. After the Blessing, there was delicious food, prayer, songs, and much laughter. The celebration lasted for hours.
In the year that has followed, Sr. Faustina and her seven fellow novices have grown close to their Groom through intense prayer, study, and work. I love chatting with Sr. Faustina’s parents after Mass, hoping for a word on how she is doing. Throughout the year, while on weekend retreats at the Schoenstatt Shrine, three of my daughters and I have often seen Sr. Faustina attending to her daily duties. Each time we see her, she is full with joy, just as on the day of her reception. Whether she is working in the kitchen, fielding calls on the switchboard, or in silent prayer in the chapel, there is a sense of peace that envelopes Sr. Maria Faustina.
Each day, she and the sisters of her community give a perpetual fiat– an everlasting “yes” to Christ, just as the Mother Thrice Admirable- Our Blessed Mother did with every day of her earthly life. Their witness is a profound reflection of the love of Christ alive and well in today’s world. Thank you Sr. Maria Faustina and fellow Schoenstatt Sisters for your yes! Thank you Joe and Judy for raising such a incredible daughter! Thank you Jesus and Mother Thrice Admirable for the graces you have given us all through these children of yours!