GOING LOCAL WITH HOLINESS

Aug2-2011 005In recent years it is has become popular to “go local” purchasing produce, eggs, etc. from local farmers. Beginning this year, we nuns also have gone local, purchasing the produce we don’t grow from area farms through a new (local) business called “Just Farmed”. With Saturday’s beatification of Bayonne native Bl. Miriam Teresa I found as we watched the Rite of Beatification on television (seeing more than our extern sisters who were there but couldn’t see much of anything!) about the significance of having our first truly local saint. Not just someone from North America or the United States or even from the East Coast, but someone the Church has raised up to the altars as worthy to be imitated in the way of living the Gospel and becoming a saint who is from RIGHT HERE—New Jersey. Not New York but NEW JERSEY! Finally, one of our own!

As a (very) young novice of an active religious congregation I first got to know Bl. Miriam Teresa through her writings and the biography by Sr. Mary Zita Geis, SC. At the time she was only a servant of God like so many other holy people held up for veneration and possible future canonization. It was much like hearing from the older sisters of our saintly forebears in the community.

But when I entered the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary here in Summit, NJ it was different. The sisters here had a long relationship with the Sisters of Charity both communally and personally. Sisters had been taught in their schools or even taught for them. Others had attended St. Elizabeth’s college in Convent Station as Bl. Miriam Teresa had. My own novice mistress had been in the juniorate program and even started out her religious life as a postulant with the Sisters of Charity. As a community we have been blessed with their friendship and service in many ways: philosophy classes, counselors, and volunteer drivers, to name a few.

Sr. Mary Zita, Sr. Eileen Dolan and Sr. Marian Jose Smith, all Sisters who actively worked to promote Bl. Miriam Teresa’s cause weren’t just names but friends of Sisters in my community. Convent Station wasn’t in a state far away but a mere 8 miles from the monastery and it wasn’t unusual to pass the Sisters of Charity and chapel where Bl. Miriam Teresa is buried on the way to a doctor’s appointment. Our own saint-in-the making was as much a part of our lives as well, old shoes!

I still have powerful memories of watching on TV the canonization of our first native born American saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1974. Over the years the Church has held up for our veneration and imitation others from our continent and country and as Dominicans we continue to rejoice at the beatification and canonizations of brothers and sisters of our own Order.

So, it was a bit of surprise for me when participating in the Beatification Rite held at Sacred Heart Basilica in Newark when I began to reflect on the special importance of having a local beata, much like the towns and cities have in Europe. In fact, Pope Benedict XVI wanted to “bring home” this very aspect of beatification when he decided that the beatification rite should no longer take place at St. Peter’s in Rome but in the locale of the new beata. Watching the beatification in our own cathedral and seeing the faces of so many bishops, priests, religious and laity people that we know further confirmed this for me.

It doesn’t really matter if one has or has not a devotion to Bl. Miriam Teresa. That’s not the point of being declared a blessed or canonized a saint. With the beatification of Bl. Miriam Teresa the Church is saying, “You, too, right there in Summit, New Jersey on Springfield Avenue is called by God to become holy! You, too, can become a saint, right there, here and now. God gives the grace of holiness to every person and in every place. “

Even in New Jersey!

Blessed Miriam Teresa pray for us your sisters, friends and neighbors!