For Redemptoristine Nuns April 25th, the Feast of St. Mark, has a great deal of added significance. On this day in 1725, Sister Maria Celeste, a novice living under the Rule of the Visitation Order, received a mystical grace. Jesus revealed to her that he wanted to give her a new institute, an institute dedicated to his imitation. He explained the content of the rule for the new institute and appeared to her with the habit of new order. Each day, during her prayer of thanksgiving following reception of the Holy Eucharist, Maria Celeste would write the Rule which expressed the spirituality of the institute.
As the lives of most religious founders reveal, their God-given inspirations are rarely met with ready acceptance. Much disagreement, jealousy and misunderstanding arose among the sisters of the monastery and their advisers in Scala, Italy nestled in the hills above Naples. All of this was a source of great suffering and humiliation for Maria Celeste. It was not until 1731 that her inspiration came to fruition and then only by the grace of God worked through the endorsement of a Neapolitan priest, Alphonsus de Liguori. In turn, her support and encouragement contributed to his move to establish a congregation of priests (Redemptorists) who would minister to the poor and most abandoned.
On the 25th of each month we also re-new our vows at Midday Prayer. Our order's charism is briefly expressed as the effort to become "a living memory" of Jesus Christ. The spirituality of our order of nuns is very incarnational. As Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, put on human flesh to become one of us, we are to put on Christ. Thus each 25th of the month is for us a "Little Christmas", a bit of expression of the great feast of Christmas, the Feast of the Incarnation. The 25th happens also to be the monthly anniversary of my own personal profession of vows. It is also the custom for the prioress to give a talk after the scripture reading at Midday Prayer. Today Sr. Paula Schmidt spoke of a number of experiences we have had in the last week or so, including the Pope's visit, and how we need to ponder their meaning for us in light of Benedict's consistent theme of HOPE. Be wise, be prudent, be compassionate, be generous, be fruitful, seek justice and peace all in the name of Jesus Christ and in vast and continuing, faith filled, hope.