Posted December 13, 2010 in New Millennium:
A Letter to Catherine

Dear B,

It’s been a long time since I’ve written you. In fact, I don’t think I’ve written since I was a seminarian some thirty years ago.

This December 14th, it will be twenty-five years ago since you passed away. That seems like a significant milestone, so I thought I’d drop you a line.

Know what? I took a few minutes this evening to look at some of the notes and letters you sent me. One was written in December 1976, when I lived on the farm.

You were in a lot of pain at that time. Remember? You wrote to me about pain being the kiss of Christ: "I shall go in what they call a bed of pain, but to me it will be a bed of joy for I can offer it for all of you. So I am remembering that pain is the kiss of Christ. So if he kisses me, he kisses you."

Then there was that handwritten note you sent me in April 1977, when I told you I didn’t think I could stand doing little things at the farm much longer. I was anxious to begin studies in the seminary.

The note was on a card that said, "Life’s purpose is to purify us, not to gratify us." On it, you said, "Peace and charity. He who desires to follow the Desired One must steep himself in little things, like planing a board well, like spending hours to make a rocking chair or a table.

"For thirty long years, so they said, that’s all he did; except in childhood when he just gathered what St. Joseph did not need. Yes, for thirty years, they said, he was just a Galilean carpenter.

"Consider who [this was], and keep singing, dancing that you, too, can do tiny, small things. Love, B."

A few months later I was in the seminary and wrote you to say that I wasn’t all that certain how to live out the Little Mandate (MH spirituality) in that setting. This is what you said in response:

"Of course you know how to, you idiot! Of course you should know how to live the Mandate there. You are right, He dismantled and didn’t dismantle [your illusions] because he wanted you on your knees to pray so that you could have a heart like his that understands what it means to go into the depths of men’s hearts. Yes, don’t worry, it will come.

"I certainly pray for you, so many, many times I do, Dave, and I thank you for your prayers. I wouldn’t worry about theology.

I had a very good definition the other day of a theologian during the first nine centuries after the Lord’s death: A theologian was considered a saint, and theologians were saints in those days because they didn’t absorb the knowledge of God with their head but absorbed it with their heart. And that is what theology is all about."

A year later, during my second year of seminary, I wrote Catherine again and this is what she wrote back to me:

"Dear Dave: Thank you for your good letter of March. I was so glad to get it and I have a poem for you; it is called "I am a Wanderer." You write such good poetry; I enjoy it so."

She responded to some of the points in the letter and then concluded with this paragraph: "But it all takes faith, my dear. It takes faith and love and you have both. So together let us keep on praying that our faith and love grow."

Here is the poem B sent me with that letter:

He asked me once, long, long ago, if I would love Him as He loved me.
Young, joyous, I answered, "Yes! Indeed!"
And then He smiled and instead of a wedding ring, He gave me His pain.
Since then, I have not slept. My soul refused all rest.
It was on fire with one desire: to heal His pain.
I have become an outcast of Love and Fire.
My desire urges me on.
That is why you see my heart a wanderer, a fiery dart
That goes right up into His heart and falls right down
Back on the earth to shed His fire.
I wonder as I wander, where shall I find oils and balms to heal His pain?
True, I am a beggar, but I know that silver and gold will not buy love’s healing.
I know that I must pierce my heart and die of love.
Drop by drop, my blood will mingle with His.
The mingling will be the only balm He will take to heal His wounds.

At this point, B, you might be getting a bit impatient with me quoting you back to yourself! Please forgive me, but I just felt the need to hear you again speak the words you had shared especially with me.

They weren’t that copious, but they were weighted with love and truth. How consistently you pointed me to Christ. How gently but firmly you refused to ever let go of him as the Example, the Model, the Lover, the Savior!

You never ceased to call me to share in his pain out of love for him and for others. Yet this pain was not to be seen as a curse, but a blessing, a gift, even the highest gift, because it presented an opportunity for union with our Crucified Lover.

I knew that you never wrote such words to me except from the vantage point of your own union in pain with Christ our Beloved.

Twenty-five years have passed since you died, and these years, too, have borne out the truth of your words to me. I think it would not be too presumptuous to say that words such as these have been life-giving for many.

In the end, for all I learned in theology—and some of that theology was written by very holy men, as you wished—I have found that it is these simple truths that give life to people once they begin the journey of faith to meet the God who dwells within.

How wrong it would be to think that you meant by that "journey inward" a kind of pious self-absorption.

As you taught us so well, those who truly meet Jesus Christ in person—in faith and in love—are propelled outward to console him in their brothers and sisters.

Above all, I want to thank you for the gospel inheritance that you left us in Madonna House.

When I first came here in 1972, I was so hungry to touch God as a living reality, a living flame. In your eyes, and in those of Fr. Eddie and others, I saw it! I saw that you had been taken up into a Love so much greater than yourself.

You weren’t perfect, but you were in love, and that love seemed a reality so much greater than all the rest.

It is this Flame that the world needs now, more than ever.

Somehow I think you would not be surprised. Nor would you fail to chide us for our lack of faith in the fact that the light of Christ is so much greater than any encroaching darkness.

May that Light be yours for all eternity, my dear B, and may we continue to be enflamed by it and to share it far and wide. There could be no greater calling than to be this for the Church and for our world today.

Thanks for the gift.

Love in Our Lady of Combermere,
Father David


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