Catherine McAuley was a truly Christian woman. She believed that everyone, every sister, associate, co-worker in mercy and person in need was an incarnation of Christ and she ministered with and to them with the tenderness of Jesus. She wanted those who belonged to the Mercy mission to be ‘other Christs’ who would be as Jesus was. She echoed the sentiment of another feminine powerhouse, St. Teresa of Avila, who wrote: “Christ has no body now but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours; yours are the eyes through which God looks compassion on the world; yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.”
The Mercy charism has always been deeply, spiritually rooted in Christ, yet is completely practical. Catherine believed the mission of Jesus had an urgency, the poor could not and should not have to wait to be helped, and love was shown forth in deeds.
For all of us who work and minister here at Maria, we can relate to this experience of mission. Most of our students need help in many forms, which can stretch our resources, and our good will, especially when we know we are going above and beyond for a student who may not be that aware…or grateful!.
We can often find ourselves trying to balance mercy and justice, or as John often puts it, rigor with heart, but to be just, is to be merciful, and to show mercy is to be just, even for the undeserved, and for those who come back to us again and again. It is a mission which takes a special courage, not perfection, and special people…all of you!
This expression of mission is not just to our students, but more importantly, it is to be shared with each other. When Catherine McAuley died, her legacy was more than an Order, an institution….as she put it….her legacy to Mercy was union and charity. Pope St. John XXIII, a great reformer of the Catholic Church puts it this way: “in essentials, unity; in doubtful matters, liberty; in all things, charity.” To live our mission this way is radical, and depends on each of us, the body of Christ, to play our part, to stand firm where we need to and to yield where we can.
But we can only receive and live the mission to the extent we steep ourselves in it. As Thomas Aquinas said: “whatever is received is received according to the disposition of the receiver.”
When the gospel writer, Matthew, told the story of the sower, it was the seed which fell on rich soil which took root and blossomed. This academic year I invite you into a deeper, personal, knowledge and appreciation of the catholic, mercy heritage of Maria so that it continues to takes root in all that we do here, and how we are with each other. May those who encounter us this coming year be nourished by our presence, our example, our work, and our service.
[Pause for silent prayer]
God of Mercy, God of Wisdom, God of Mystery,
You who are ever ancient yet ever new,
Be with us at the beginning of this new academic year.
Keep us rooted in our true identity which lies only in you,
And draw us forward in hope to whatever will unfold this year.
May our service to each other, be an example to our students
Of the union and charity which dwells among us.
May all our labors bring forth your kingdom of love and justice with urgency,
and in a spirit of peace and mercy.
We ask this through Jesus, our friend and brother. Amen.
Victoria L. Battell RSM
August 23, 2017