Profession of Sr. Rose Caritas, PSSC
In the book of Revelation, Saint John describes his vision of a great battle in the heavens. It is a cosmic drama with three main characters: a huge red dragon; a woman clothed with the sun; and the woman’s child. This vision in the last book of the Bible resumes the story begun in the first book of the Bible about the conflict between Satan and the human race. In Genesis, God said to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will strike your head and you will strike his heel.” This woman is Mary of Nazareth. She is the new Eve. The angel Gabriel addressed her with the most beautiful name: “full of grace.” God filled Mary with His grace from the first moment of her conception. He preserved her from any stain of sin, thus putting enmity, absolute hostility, between her and the ancient serpent. He did so because He had chosen her to bear His Son in her womb and to give birth to Him, the Incarnate Word, the Savior of the world. Jesus, Son of God and Son of Mary, victorious over sin and death, has indeed struck the serpent’s head and Mary has struck the serpent’s heel. And so, Saint John heard that loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the Kingdom of our God and the authority of his anointed.”
In the vision of Revelation, Chapter 12, Mary represents and is the living icon of the whole Church. In fact, we know that the woman clothed with the Son represents both Mary and the Church. In the vision of Saint John, she is radiant, clothed with the light of the sun, moon, and stars, an anticipation of the glory of God that will one day clothe all God’s people in the new Jerusalem. The Blessed Virgin Mary now reigns with Christ, the martyrs, and the saints in heaven, and she intercedes for us, her children, the children of the Church on earth. After her Son, Mary is the most exalted member of the human race, as we prayed in the Responsorial psalm: “the highest honor of our race.”
My brothers and sisters, the battle described in the book of Revelation is not only a battle that took place in heaven. This great and cosmic battle between darkness and light, between the huge red dragon and the Lord of glory, extends across generations, across nations and empires, and into the depths of every human heart. In the midst of our often bloody and violent world history, Mary has come to help us to battle the dragon. Through the holy rosary, she was there turning back the invaders at the battle of Lepanto. She was there between the two world wars at Fatima with a call to repentance and prayer. And in the face of the brutal conquest of Mexico, in the face of bloodthirsty Aztec gods, she came to bring comfort and hope to Juan Diego and, through him, to the native people of our continent. In the midst of the darkness of that time Mary appeared at Tepeyac, enveloped by the rays of the sun and standing on the moon, with stars adorning her mantle and clouds dispersing at her approach. In this miraculous image imprinted on the tilma of Juan Diego, we cannot help but be reminded of the woman in the book of Revelation: “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” Whenever Mary comes, and not only in apparitions, but whenever she comes into our lives, we can say that she comes clothed in the sun because she comes with the light of the Gospel. She shines on us the love, tenderness, mercy, and compassion of her Son. The appearance of Our Lady of Guadalupe began the greatest and most successful story of evangelization in the history of the Church.
In every appearance on earth, Mary’s message is simple. It is simply the Gospel: repent and believe the Good News. She tells us to pray and to trust in her Son. And she says to us what she said to the waiters at the wedding feast of Cana: “Do whatever He tells you.”
Notice that when God extends the rose of His love, Mary, down through the centuries, he sends her to the most hidden and humble of people: to Bernadette Sourbirous, a peasant girl; to three young children of Fatima; and to one of the earliest native peoples to become Christian in the New World, the devout and humble Juan Diego. They were not scholars or theologians. They were not kings or queens. They were not famous or wealthy. Saint Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians: “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
My friends, the pride of this world will only be conquered with humility. This pattern began with the Incarnation itself. God sent Gabriel to a young woman in a town so small that there was not even a road that went into it. Nazareth, a town of 300 people, was accessible only by footpath. God sent his angel there to the humble Virgin Mary. With the humility of faith, Mary said yes to the angel’s message, a great yes to God, a yes that brought forth the Redeemer of the world. The forces of the powers of evil were defeated by that yes.
Today, on this beautiful feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a faith-filled woman of our diocese says yes to the Lord as she makes her perpetual profession as a Poor Sister of Saint Clare. She does so with humility, trusting not in her own merits, but in the grace of the Lord. Sister Rose Caritas will make the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, as well as a vow of special consecration to Mary, the woman clothed in the sun, the first and greatest disciple of her Son. We commend Sister Rose Caritas on this day to Mary’s loving care, particularly under her title as Our Lady of Guadalupe.
At the Annunciation, Mary gives an example of obedience to God’s will, even as it is shrouded in mystery. Sister Rose Caritas, a beloved mother and grandmother, has listened to the Holy Spirit and discovered God’s call to the consecrated life as a cloistered nun. Like Mary, she puts her trust in the Lord and says yes to this call. She is following the lead of our Blessed Mother as she puts her life at the disposal of God’s will. Her religious name, Sister Rose Caritas, reminds us of Mary, the rose God extends to the world, and of charity, the perfection of all virtues. After Mary conceived the Son of God in her womb, she immediately set off to perform an act of charity. She went in haste to help her cousin Elizabeth and to bring Jesus to her. Caritas – charity. The vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience mean nothing if not rooted in caritas. They are meant to be expressions of love. In the hidden life of the cloister, the Poor Sisters of Saint Clare are called to live together in charity and, through their prayers and sacrifices, their intercession for the Church and the world, they extend God’s love and serve the Church’s mission of salvation. They will seldom know what fruits will be borne of their prayers, but they leave that in God’s hands.
In coming to this day, Sister Rose Caritas has not asked “What’s in it for me?” Her only question has been, "What is God’s will?” This should always be our question, too. Sister Rose Caritas has carefully discerned God’s will and, at this Mass, embraces that will, like Mary did, with love and joy. By virtue of her vows and the special charism of the cloistered life, we pray that she will bear much fruit for the good of souls, including her family and the family of the church in our diocese. Last month, Pope Francis spoke of the mission of cloistered nuns as “the praying heart of the Church.” I am grateful to Sister Rose Caritas and to all our Poor Sisters of Saint Clare. Sisters, you are the praying heart of the Church in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
Sister Rose Caritas, on this beautiful feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, you make your perpetual profession of vows as a Poor Sister of Saint Clare. You do not lose your freedom today any more that Mary lost her freedom on the day of the Annunciation. In entrusting yourself totally to God, you find true freedom. In entering the cloister, you did not distance yourself from your family and friends or withdraw into your private salvation, but you have become closer to them through prayer and the love of God.
May Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Juan Diego intercede for you and for your family and friends! May Saint Clare and Saint Francis intercede for you! Through your life as a Poor Sister of Saint Clare, may glory, adoration and love be given to our Most High Lord, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
-- Bishop Kevin Rhoades (December 12, 2018)