Allocution for the Clothing of Francesca Cannas
Solemnity of St Joseph, 2015
Thou shalt be a crown
of glory in the hand of the Lord … thou shalt be called my delight in her and
thy land inhabited. Because the Lord has
been well pleased with thee; and thy land shall be inhabited.
When we make petition to be clothed
in the monastic habit, we offer ourselves for God’s service in a hidden life of
praise and sacrifice, exemplified for us in many ways by the silent
Joseph. We hope also to find acceptance
in the sight of Him who offers Himself totally to us. We hope to be loved by Him and admitted to
the contemplation of His Face. The
passage from Isaiah which we have just heard reassures our hearts that God will
indeed receive our offering and, more, that He will receive it rejoicing.
Drawn into the monastery by the
Beauty and Truth of God, we are attracted also by the assurance of His
fidelity. Unable to deny His love for
His creature, God cannot disappoint or deceive us. If we needed proof, we have it in the Passion
and death of His only Son out of love for mankind. Again, He draws us by making us aware of His
complete comprehension of our being; in allowing us to perceive, even
fleetingly, the reality of His admiration for all He has made.
There is a sense, then, in which we
do not stand a chance; we cannot resist easily this sweet pressure to answer
love with love. We feel compelled to
entrust ourselves to this love, not, perhaps, without a certain human fear, in
a response of obedience to the upward call. Unwilling to waste the costly fruit of
suffering, we do not seek to reclaim the self once offered, but, instead,
conform ourselves more and more to Christ, poor, chaste and humble of
heart. In our desire to correspond to His
fidelity, we embrace stability of place in a community.
Community life, despite its
challenges to human nature, reflects the harmony of the Trinitarian
Community. The liturgy of the Hours has
been called a foretaste of the music of eternity; not as reference to the beauty
of its execution, but because it is a symbol pointing beyond itself to the
Source of all Beauty. It seeks, says M.
Élisabeth-Paule Labat, “an interior reality from which it springs and which it
can communicate.” We thus become
“cantors on behalf of all creation”.
The Divine Office feeds prayer and
lectio divina, by means of which one may pierce the clouds, on one hand, and,
on the other, listen with receptivity to the voice of the great Cantor. In Him all things hold together. The Chant, which is the song of His Church,
expresses both spiritual joy and the yearning of exile, yet is able to create
from this tension a unity which transcends them. Likewise, contradictions in our hearts and
our community are resolved by love, which binds everything together. Our whole existence then becomes a harmony of
apparently disparate elements. For this
to happen, we need the insight of faith and a willingness to be a part player
in the symphony of communal living.
There is a saint whose life was
likewise woven together in paradoxes; who loved austerity and all creation; who
was free and yet Christ’s total servant; for whom poverty of spirit and wounds
were the foundation of his joy. His life
with its enduring influence on the Church was at first a “holy risk”, based on
“rash vows that turned out right”. He wandered everywhere, yet could say: “Never
give up this place. If you would go
anywhere or make any pilgrimage, return always to your home; for this is the
holy house of God.” His praise and
thanksgiving sprang out of possessing nothing for himself. The monk, quotes Chesterton, should own
nothing but his harp, with which to play “the song of the joy of the Creator in
His creation and the beauty of the brotherhood of men”. Thus with childlike cheerfulness, he was
forever starting afresh, in forgetfulness of the past.
I am speaking, of course, of St.
Francis, the Poverello of Assisi, whom you will continue to claim as patron
under the name of SR. FRANCESCA.
Following the “great giver”, may you always give pure praise to the
Giver of all good things and aspire to the union of beauty and holiness in your
own life. May St. Francis intercede for
your dear family also, that they may share in this flowering of your baptismal
gaudebo. The land, like Our Lady,
“the chosen and consecrated one”,
is inhabited by God’s good pleasure. A
fine expression of this gaudium may be found in a prayer of St. Francis:
“Almighty, eternal, just and
merciful God, grant us in our misery the grace to do for You alone what we know
You want us to do and always to desire what pleases You. Thus inwardly cleansed, interiorly
enlightened and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, may we be able to
follow in the footprints of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. And, by Your grace alone, may we make our way
to You, Most High, who live and rule in Perfect Trinity and Simple Unity, and are
glorified, God all-powerful forever and ever.