Blessed Maria Celeste on 9/11
Today marks the first celebration of the feast day of Blessed Maria Celeste Crostarosa, foundress of the Order of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Redemptoristine contemplative nuns. This otherwise obscure 18th century native of Naples, Italy is being honored today all over the world in the monasteries of the order she began in 1731.
It was not until my pastor began his homily at Mass this morning that I thought about the coincidence of Maria Celeste's feast and the memorial of the tragedy of 9/11, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City in 2001. For Americans, at least, this significant day will always merge remembering her with remembrance of an horrific event, lost lives, and sorrowing survivors. Our fine priest focused on the question, "Where was God in all of this?" He emphasized God's presence in the generosity, bravery, service, community, cooperation and all good things and people we witnessed on that day and the days that followed to this time. He said that these were the presence of God and pointed to love as the response God invites us to have in the face of such horror - a turning away from vengeance, violence, prejudice and rejection of human beings.
Those who know Blessed Celeste's story will know that she endured more than her share of being misunderstood and rejected; of exile and pilgrimage to find her place. She also wrote a great deal leaving us an inspiring heritage of her spirituality. The image of her used here is my favorite because it is so real. Some in the order speak of her as Mother Celeste. I think of her as Madre Celeste or, even better, Mama Celeste, a wise and mature Italian woman who has been through her share of sorrow. She is a wisdom figure constantly pointing to her salvation; an extremely intimate relationship with Jesus, our Savior. In her writings I did not find a directive for severe personal penances or rigidity in community life. Her constant directive is for LOVE; love for Jesus and love for one another. What better antidote for the horror of the 9/11 tragedy? This is what my pastor was emphasizing. Was the Holy Spirit at work in the coincidence of these memorials?
Blessed Maria Celeste painted a picture of a precious hidden garden which she said was the image of the human soul. God wants to enter that garden and spend intimate time with the soul who generously opens the gate of the heart. Sharing her own experience of the interior garden she reported what Jesus told her, "If they ask you who I am, tell them I am PURE LOVE." It is this PURE LOVE which is our finest offering on this day of remembrance.