Every year we begin October, the month of the rosary, with the Feast of the Doctor of the Church, Therese of Lisieux. No saint in modern times has so caught the essence of spiritual longing in the hearts of Christ’s disciples than this “Little Flower” with her “Little Way”. That great moment in ch. 9 of her Story of a Soul is like the sudden discovery of God when she cries, I now know what my vocation is in the Church: MY VOCATION IS LOVE!
I bring her to your attention today because there is a direct connection from all of you who are being honored to her spiritual discovery to the readings of today. St. Paul never hesitated to give the members of the Churches he founded instruction on how to live their lives. There are indications in his own letters when he himself knew he was overdoing it. But he always saves himself because he, like Therese, knew the essence of the vocation to be a disciple of Jesus. Over all these put on love that is the bond of perfection…And be thankful…Whatever you do, do from the heart…knowing you will receive from the Lord due payment. And what is that payment. You and I know! As the Father loves me so I also love you. Remain in my love.
That is what lies at the heart of the Saint Agnes Medal. The whole purpose of this gathering today is to recognize in you, the recipients, how you let your love become the force to make you true witnesses of Christ’s love in your loving care of your brothers and sisters in all the parishes of our Diocese. Your families who are so proud to be with you today know that the love that made you the catechists and the lectors and the ministers of holy communion and so many other ministries were extensions of the love you show them in your homes and with your parents, children grandchildren and all who make up the domestic church of your family.
Six of those whom we honor today have already returned to their eternal home in heaven. But I bet God gave them a pass to be with us in spirit today! May I mention one of them: Eileen Tracy who dedicated her life to helping young people. So many of you are teachers of the faith and volunteers in parish social outreach and food pantries and soup kitchens. You serve on school boards and parish pastoral councils and finance councils. You are active in ministry of consolation and so many of the liturgical ministries that enhance our worship: altar servers, ushers, music ministry and leaders in Eucharistic Adoration.
Your social ministry includes welcoming new peoples in your parish, Hispanic community growth, St. Vincent de Paul Society, bringing food to the elderly. You are the faithful proponents of Respect Life activities year after year since Roe v Wade and more recently have risen to the challenges against freedom of religion through Catholic for Freedom of Religion. Many of you are proud and active members of the J of C or the Columbiettes. You visit nursing homes and homeless shelters, hospitals and homes for single mothers. Your pastor described one of you as “a man of many hats”. Another pastor told me you “do even the most mundane thing with joy and dedication”.
The Rosary Society is at the center of many of your lives while another is more involved in an Art Auction and the parish Diamond Ball. One teaches citizenship to newly arrived desiring to become citizens and another teaches ESL to help integrate new peoples into life in our country. Another pastor told me that you ”embrace the poor and the suffering”.
You care for the spiritual needs of your neighbors and the material and financial needs of your parish and Diocese. How many of you have led parish capital campaigns, worked hard to bring your parish over goal for the CMA or are members of Friends of the Seminary, involved in Catholic Charities, hospital volunteers and visitors to those in prison. One pastor summed you all up when he said of the recipient from his parish: “She lives and teaches others to BELONG MORE DEEPLY.
Today in light of all you represent in and for the life of the Church, I want to make an appeal through you to your families here and to the next generations. Many of you are my age and maybe one or two even older. Your children and grandchildren need to come forward and become the next wave of committed, active parishioners in your home parishes. We cannot have the quality of spiritual and pastoral life without the common commitment and effort that you and your pastors and parish staffs have created in our 133 parishes. As I approach my 75th birthday I am so conscious of how much more remains to be done and how much the Lord needs us to be his heart and his hands, his voice and his witness so that others may believe and know the joy of which he speaks in the Gospel today. You and I know it. We have experienced it by our service to the Church and all who turn to her in their needs. Encourage others by your word and example to know what we know: we are friends of Jesus. He chose us and called us. And herein is our joy.
At the close of her life, St. Therese wrote, I feel as though my mission is about to begin, my mission of making others love God as I love Him. If God answers my requests, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world. Yes I want to spend my heaven on earth doing good.
It is not you who have chosen me but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…This I command, love one another.