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Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Sister Kathryn Daughters of St. Paul: Final Tip for Lent: Stay with Him!

Final Tip for Lent:
Stay with Him!
The all-too-brief private audience with Pope St. John Paul II that I shared with a group of about 30 sisters, was a huge moment of grace! As I walked down the steps of Saint Peter’s afterwards, I clutched the rosary that he had given me. This rosary was much more than a memento to treasure—it was a tangible reminder of my meeting with a saint, and all of the ways that Pope John Paul II had influenced my life. Praying with this rosary was something I knew I would treasure always.

Excited as the other sisters, I opened the little pouch to touch the rosary beads he had blessed. And then I stared. And tried to swallow my disappointment. The rosary itself was beautiful, but the upper body of Christ on the crucifix was misshapen, without a face!  

I didn’t say anything as the other sisters admired their rosaries and talked about how they would use them, or what wonderful gifts they would make. I held the rosary for a while, still treasuring it, and then quietly put it away.
It took me a few days to decide how to pray with those rosary beads, I was so disappointed. But when I finally did, something shifted inside me. I found myself drawn to the deformed image. In so powerfully imaging the brokenness of Christ on the cross, that disfigured corpus seemed to be saying that Jesus might be able to understand my brokenness: the way that sin had twisted and deformed what was good in me to the point that, at times, I couldn’t see any good in myself. At the time, I was struggling to believe in my dignity and beauty as a child of God. The misshapen crucifix reminded me that, for love of me, Jesus dared to take on the deformity of my sinfulness in his passion and death. And by doing so, he proved that he would never give up on me. However sinful and broken I am, Christ can heal and transform in me, by the power of his love.

Lent is not about sin, suffering, or doing penance.

Lent is a path that leads us 
to more deeply encounter 
the soul-staggering mystery of God’s love: 
a love that calls us by name, 
forgives us, 
invites us to conversion, 
heals us, 
nurtures us, 
and draws us into the very life of God.

We can learn much in our “close encounter” with Love in the Paschal Mystery during Holy Week. This week, my final “Tip for Lent” comes from Jesus himself.

The night before his death in the garden of Gethsemane must have been the loneliest moment of Jesus’ life, as he looked forward not just to the physical torture of his passion and death but also the burden of humanity’s sinfulness that he would take on. That night, Jesus made a special request. He told his three closest disciples that his heart was breaking with grief, that he was sad "unto death," and would they stay with him and keep vigil with him? It seems to me that Jesus asked this for their sakes—for their prayer to strengthen them so they wouldn’t give in to temptation—but also for his own sake, so that he would not feel so alone.

These last days of Lent, I hear Jesus' invitation: “Stay with me. Keep me company. Don’t abandon me.” Can we give Jesus the gift of our attentive, loving presence now, these last days of Lent and Holy Week? 

Perhaps “staying with him” means inviting him into our own broken places; perhaps it means reaching out in love to someone nearby who is suffering; perhaps it means taking time for quiet prayer in which we are simply with Jesus. If we can do this, we will receive much more than we could ever give. For when we stay with Jesus in his brokenness, we will discover Jesus staying with us in our moments of brokenness.

I still have that rosary given to me by Pope St. John Paul II. I use it often to pray the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary. And every time I kiss that misshapen crucifix and let those beads pass through my fingers, they remind me to “stay with Christ Jesus,” opening my heart anew to God’s healing love and amazing grace.

Let us pray for one another, that we each have the courage to “stay with him” during these holy days, immersing ourselves in his love.

God bless you,
Sr. Marie Paul Curley, FSP

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