23 January 2015

Saint Marianne Cope: Creep into the heart of Jesus

"Creep down into the heart of Jesus," said Saint Marianne Cope, adding, "He alone can comfort you in your supreme hour of sorrow." When she offered this counsel in 1904, she had already been living and working among the lepers of Molokai for sixteen years and would continue to live among them for another fourteen until her death on 9 August 1918.

At this point in her life she knew all of the miseries of the human heart.  So many of her lepers could rightly echo the words attributed to Moses:
For all our days pass away under your wrath, our years come to an end like a sigh. The years of our life are threescore and ten [70], or even by reason of strength fourscore [80]; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away" (Psalm 90:9-10)?
And likewise the words of Job:
Has not man a hard service upon earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling? ... My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and come to their end without hope (Job 7:1, 6).
But like Saint Damien before her - whose work she continued and upon which she improved - she was not content to leave their lives filled with misery; rather, she sought to bring a ray of hope, the Light Unfailing, Jesus Christ, who knows well their suffering.

Indeed, as he hung upon the Cross, similar words passed his lips: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" (Mark 15:34). Jesus quoted from Psalm 22, which begins as a great lamentation but turns toward tones of great hope: "For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him" (Psalm 22:24). Mother Marianne's greatest desire was to lead her lepers deeper into the love of Jesus Christ, and what better way to do so than to urge them to "creep down into the heart of Jesus"?

We know that the heart of Jesus is open to us because "one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water" (John 19:34). What is more, Jesus invited Saint Thomas the Apostle, saying, "put out your hand, and place it in my side" (John 20:27). His side remains open to us; the way to his heart has not been closed!

We may not know the misery of those lepers torn from their families, who suffered from hunger and cold and boredom and pain, but in each of our lives there are moments of doubt, moments of grief, moments when all seems lost. Mother Marianne knew them, as well, but she also knew the cure for them: "Creep down into the heart of Jesus."

To enter into his heart is not easy. It requires that we let down our guard and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be vulnerable to love. It requires a recognition that we do not have all of the answers, that we are not in control. It requires us to simply trust and, as such, is very difficult in times of hardship and fear. This is why she tells us to "creep" into his heart, one step at a time.

From her place in the heavenly kingdom she continues to speak these words to us. She made her home, like her spiritual father Saint Francis of Assisi, in the wounds of the Crucified Lord and in his heart, in the sign of his love, found the strength to tend to the dying and to prepare them for death for thirty years. Let us seek to do the same, that resting securely in the peace of His heart, we, like Mother Marianne, may attend to the needs of our brothers and sisters who long for joy and hope.

Praying at her original grave at Kalaupapa, 6 March 2013.

Saint Marianne Cope, pray for us!

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