A homily given on January 28, 2006 by Fr. Steven Szakaczki.
My dear friends,
It is truly a great privilege for all of us to be here on this special occasion, this Solemn Profession and Veiling of Sr. Teresa Magdalene of the Passion. I am sure most of us have a fairly good idea of what this ceremony entails, what it is all about. But, as you well know, there are many people who simply do not understand, many people who might ask why she is doing this. Why would anyone want to do this?
Why is she doing this?
The world has so much to offer, so many good things to see and enjoy, so many people to meet, to share our lives with. Sr. Teresa is giving up all these things; she belongs to a cloistered community, so for the most part they are completely shut off from the world. It is as if she has locked herself up and today she is making sure that the locks are secured and permanent. Why? Why is she doing this? What for? For a life of Poverty, Obedience and Chastity? For a life of prayer, labor and penance? From the point of view of the world, this would seem to be the height of foolishness, a tremendous waste, even some believers may question why would she not want to serve God in the world as most of us do?
A Human Marriage
Whatever has led Sr. Teresa Magdalene of the Passion to this point in her life must have some great appeal. It must be something far better than what the world has to offer but if we think about it, what Sr. Teresa is doing today is really not all that different from what the majority of women in the world do. They get marry and once they are married, they leave their families and friends and move in with their husbands. Much of the woman’s focus of attention goes to her husband, her children and her home. If she has many children, she has very little time for worldly things or for selfish pursuit – it is as if she too becomes cut off from the world, it is as if she too is cloistered within her own home. Of course, it is not exactly the same but what Sr. Teresa Magdalene is doing today is indeed very similar. She is entering into a spiritual espousal with Christ.
A Spiritual Marriage
Today, Sr. Teresa is becoming spiritually married to Christ. We all know that the bride of Christ is the Church. He has died for her. He has given His life for her and He continues to give her graces, His love, His blessings for He loves her as a perfect husband. But the Church is not something abstract or vague; it is not some sort of a vague entity. The Church is made up of people, of all of us and so, all of us are called to be brides of Christ, to be loved by Him, to receive His blessings and graces and to be made happy by Him and to be loved by Him and, we are to love Him in return and to be one with Him. All of us are called for this but a nun enters into this call more definitively, more explicitly, more fully, more perfectly and so, a solemn profession is a true espousal, a true spiritual marriage with Christ.
The reason why most of us unfortunately do not receive what Christ has to offer, the reason why we do not benefit from all the graces that Christ offers us, is too often, our hearts are not open enough, too often we don’t love Him enough, we don’t love Him as we should and too often due to selfishness and inordinate love for the things of this world. A cloistered nun wants to be able to focus completely on her beloved, on Christ. She wants to be free to love Him with her whole heart. It is not that she does not love her family or friends whom she leaves behind. In fact, because of the separation, she has a far greater love for them and she also understands that becoming a nun is the best thing not only for herself but also for all her loved ones whom she leaves in the world. Sr. Teresa Magdalene of the Passion has opened her heart to Christ; she has responded generously to His offer of love. And because she has responded so generously, she has already experienced some of the joy and consolation, and the love that Christ is offering her. I am sure that she can testify to this experience that she has experienced a far greater love, a far greater joy than any human love could provide and it is this experience of her, the possession of these things that enable her to give to this momentous occasion in her life as any bride completely gives herself to her husband. So today Sr. Teresa is giving herself completely to Christ. This union of her with Christ is a far greater union than even a union of a man and a woman in marriage because it is a spiritual marriage. Sr. Teresa is enabled to attain a perfect union of mind and heart. She is enabled to become truly one with her divine spouse and it is actually this type of oneness that makes any marriage successful and fulfilled and it is this lack of oneness, this lack of agreement that causes conflict and miseries within our relationship.
Living in Faith
Of course, there are differences between a human marriage and a spiritual one to Christ. As you know, a human husband, you can see, you can hear, and you can have a physical union with him. It is true that many do not see Christ, but a nun can see Him with the eyes of her faith. She can hear Him in prayer as He guides her thoughts. She can know His will with the events around her and the people of her community. She can have a perfect spiritual union with Him. She can love and be loved far more perfectly than any human couple can ever be. There are other obvious differences; an earthly husband will grow old, he will die or you may lose him in so many other ways, he may offend or hurt you; he may not be faithful. He may be more of an obstacle to your happiness or your salvation. Christ however never grows old, He is forever young, forever beautiful. He will never die again. He favors her with His many grace and blessings. He will always remain faithful. He will always be with you, genuinely caring for you and helping you towards greater and greater happiness in this life and in the life to come. Christ is always accessible to His bride, He is always willing to help, always willing to listen. He is never distracted by any selfish desires. He puts His bride before Himself as He has shown - He willingly lays down His life for her.
There are, of course, similarities between a human marriage and a spiritual marriage. This divine espousal which Sr. Teresa is about to undertake is not without offspring. When an earthly couple has children, we say that their children are the fruit of their love. In like manner, the love of Christ and His spiritual bride is also fruitful. By her prayers, by her labor and by her penance, a nun obtains God’s graces for individual souls and she obtains the grace of conversion for sinners. She brings God’s life, His eternal life into a soul so that such souls become God’s spiritual children and her spiritual children. The closer is one to God as a nun is, the more effective is her prayer. Through her prayers, a nun gains countless graces for her family and friends in the world. She keeps followers of Our Lord faithful to their calling and through her prayers she can even prevent horrible crimes from being committed. She can also obtain prayers for priests to be able to be more effective in their ministry. And, of course, she secures her own salvation, and her own happiness. As beautiful as a human wedding can be, they do not compare with a heavenly wedding, the solemn profession of a nun.
The Beauty of Spiritual Love
At a regular wedding between a man and a woman, the couple looks great, and their love for each other is so beautiful. The bride is beautiful; the bride is all decked out but her physical beauty is somewhat artificial. A lot of it is just make up and a fancy dress. Whatever true physical beauty she may possess is passing, she will get old and she will lose her beauty. There is something before us today, something of a far greater beauty, a beauty that can endure for all eternity. Sr. Teresa Magdalene of the Passion and the love she has for Christ and also the love that He has for her. God is the source of all love and so for one who loves God and one who is close to God possesses a far greater love, a far more beautiful love than the greatest love that can ever exist between a man and a woman.
Christ's Calling out of Love
Why is it that Sr. Teresa has been so fortunate to be called to be the bride of Christ? Surely she is not doing this on her own initiative. It is Christ who has called her to this moment. Christ is calling her today. But why her? Is it perhaps because she is spiritually more beautiful than other women , more virtuous, more loving, more generous, hard working and self-sacrificing and faithful? No, this is not the reason. Sr. Teresa Magdalene is unworthy of the honor that is being conferred upon her today. She is totally unworthy of the honor that is being conferred upon her today. It is fair to assume that, like most of us, she is probably far from perfect. She too is a sinner. I am sure she has faults of her own. It is almost as if the most noble and most beautiful earthly king is asking the lowest and the poorest, the least educated of the subjects of his realm to marry him and become his queen. Christ is King of kings. The King of kings has chosen Sr. Teresa not because she is worthy but because He loves her and he wants to make her exceedingly happy. He wants to make her a queen. Christ loves her even though she may be far from perfect, far from beautiful and far from virtuous. This makes His call all the more significant, all the more something to truly marvel at, all the more beautiful. Christ has called Sr. Teresa Magdalene to a perfect union with Himself and He calls so many others but there are so many who say NO to His call because they are afraid and they do not understand and there are so many who do not even want to think about the fact that Christ may be calling them. When a woman says YES to His proposal, He gives her the fullness of His heart. He holds her close to His heart and takes her into His heart, gives her more of Himself, more of His love than he would give to anyone else and in doing so, He makes Him one with her so that she becomes more and more like Him.
Christ Who is Eternally Faithful
Have you ever noticed that human couples, couples who have been faithful to one another as they grow older together, they become more and more like one another and sometimes even physically they start to look more and more like each other even physically. This is even more so in the case of a marriage to Christ. In the giving Himself to His bride, Christ transforms His bride making her more and more like Himself. He replaces her human failings and weaknesses with the strength of His divine power and love. If she is afraid, He fills her with His courage and His love. If she is anxious, He fills her with calm trust and hope. He loves her, He gives her everything. He gives her Himself, He wants to make her happy - the many blessings of Christ are already evident in the life of Sr. Teresa Magdalene of the Passion.
A Mutual Gift of Love
In preparation for this day, she has sought to make herself more presentable to her divine spouse. She has grown in faith, in virtue, in goodness and in beauty, and in her humility, she seeks to hide these things from everyone; she seeks not to draw attention to herself, but try as she may, she cannot hide these things from us today. Today we admire Sr. Teresa Magdalene of the Passion as we would any bride of a human wedding. When a prince or a worldly king gets married, everyone takes notice. Today, Sr. Teresa Magdalene is marrying the King of kings, the most noble, the most beautiful and the most loving being and yet so few take notice. We who are present here today are extremely fortunate to be able to witness this event. We are extremely fortunate to be able to marvel at the beauty of this spiritual espousal. Today we are deeply moved as we consider the tremendous love Our Lord has for Sr. Teresa and the tremendous love she has for Him.
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My dear friends, let us pray for Sr. Teresa Magdalene of the Passion and all those who may be called to follow her, to imitate her. And may Sr. Teresa remember all of us in her prayers since she is privileged to be able to be so close to Christ. May she remind her divine spouse to share His love and blessings with all of us and may all of us open our hearts ever more fully to our Lord. If we truly understood what Sr. Teresa’s spiritual marriage is all about, we would realize that she is not so much as making a sacrifice, she is not so much as rejecting the good things of this world but rather, she is saying Yes to all the honors, all the glory and all the gifts that God wants to confer upon her. Oh, Sister Teresa Magdalene, how very fortunate you are, how very much you are envied by those who truly understand.