Lives Given to Bear This World's Burdens
Anna Maria Canopi
Foundress of the Benedictine Abbey "Mater Ecclesiae", San Giulio Island, Orta, Italy

Lives given to bear this world's burdens by lifting hands in prayer

The heart of a nun reaches far beyond the cloister: the witness of a Benedictine and Poor Clare

"So much is said about wasted lives but only that man's life is wasted... who never received an impression of the fact that God exists" (S. Kierkegaard).

On the liturgical memorial of the Presentation of Mary. (21 November) Christians are urged to pray especially for cloistered nuns. According to tradition, Mary was taken to the temple at a tender age to be educated at the school of the Word of God and prayer.

Just as the Virgin Mary, fully enveloped in God's gaze and intent solely on him, received and reflected the sacred light without keeping any of it for herself; so every consecrated virgin is wholly given to God and is wholly gift for others: she lives freely given without reserve.

Immersed in meditative silence and in prayer, Mary is an incomparable teacher of spiritual life for all Christians and especially for cloistered nuns.

If there is a cause of hope for the future of the Church and of humanity, it lies precisely in the fact that in our time too, alongside such widespread corruption, humble suffering is also widespread, consummated in silence, in so many sacrifices generously offered, so many prayers of praise and supplication hidden in the heart of the Church and in particular in the hearts of many women who, having renounced human marriage and physical motherhood, can live more intensely the mystery of spiritual motherhood, taking part in the mystery of Mary's fruitful virginity.

Perhaps few people imagine the burden of anxiety and suffering in which prayer communities arc engaged and few imagine how intensely involved contemplatives are in the lives of their brothers. Consecrated to the ministry of prayer, they live the travail of spiritual birth, concerning which St Paul says to the Galatians: "My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!" (Gal 4:19)

The cloister separates the nun from the world, not from love of neighbour. Indeed, precisely in the solitude and silence of the cloister, where she is abundantly nourished by the Word of God and the Eucharist, the cloistered woman religious grows in oblative love for God and for her neighbour, to whom she comes close by overcoming every boundary of space or time with prayer.

In particular, all possible barriers created by ethnic, cultural, ideological and religious diversity are overcome, since those who live in Christ communicate solely with the universal and unequivocal language of love.

In order to evangelize, in addition to verbal proclamation, they also have the mass media at their disposal as instruments for its instant dissemination. But to open minds and hearts to faith and charity, grace is indispensable.

This is the ministry proper to contemplative nuns: hidden from the eyes of the world they are like springs that make fertile the valleys and plains.

It may seem superfluous to some to pray for those who pray. On the contrary, it is more necessary than ever so that they may be as springs that never run dry.

Just as in periods of drought prayer is invoked for rain, so is it necessary to pray the Lord to inspire ever numerous and holy vocations to the contemplative life, to counteract the hyperactivity of the men and women of our time who immerse themselves so easily in the noise of things that deafen the senses and detach the heart and mind from the unum necessarium (cf. Lk 10:4.2).

Instead, to quench the thirst of their parched hearts, they rush to drink at the wells of polluted water that the consumer society offers in abundance. In the Church and in the world, the mission of contemplatives is to pray that all people may cleanse themselves and quench their thirst with the living water of grace that wells up from the source of salvation: the Crucified and Risen Christ.

One day, presenting himself at the door of a monastery, a poet said: "I am covered in soot and I see how ugly I look, so I have come to wash myself in the pure water of your innocence". And, after a half of silence and prayer he went on his way, leaving this message: "Thank you! Here I have rediscovered beauty. Thank you!".

Perhaps he did not even realize that before him someone had already said: "Only beauty will save the world": the beauty that is holiness.
 


Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
3 December 2008, page 13

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