December 15, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The Liturgy of the Hours, as called the Divine Office, is an important part of the spiritual lives of clergy and religious. It is the prayer of the Church that all ordained are required to offer, and that the laity may faithfully pray. All of us benefit from the responsible celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours by our priests, deacons, religious and laypeople. We are the recipients of their intercessions placed before God in the name of His Church.
On December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I sat in my chapel to pray the Office. Curiously, I turned the pages to the readings of the Saint of the Day and discovered readings for St. Jane de Chantel. I had forgotten that her feast was transferred to August 12, because Our Lady of Guadalupe is now celebrated on December 12. I always believe that certain unintended occurrences are directing my attention to assist me in my spiritual awareness.
St. Jane was the foundress of the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary. She is an important local figure because of her well-known spiritual relationship with St. Francis de Sales. I often give thanks for the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and laity who have been my mentors. They opened my life to the insights of God’s presence and the opportunity to serve Him. I often offer prayers of thanksgiving for them, realizing that my relationship with Christ and His Church reflects their input.
St. Jane followed the directions of St Francis de Sales, her spiritual mentor, who challenged her to live the life that God was demanding and to serve as an example to others who would hear her call. The religious order that she founded practiced the virtues of humility and gentleness with their motto, “Live Jesus.” St. Jane directed her community and conducted spiritual reflections for her sisters. These formation sessions are an important element in the development of the life of any religious and their community. Our own seminarians, in addition to the theological and intellectual development, are fashioned in spiritual formation to assist them with listening and growing in their faith.
The reading captured in the Office was from “The Memoirs by the Secretary of Saint Jane de Chantel.” St. Jane posed a question to her sisters: “My dear daughters, many of our holy fathers in the faith, men who were pillars of the Church, did not die martyrs. Why do you think this was?” St. Jane offers her insight that perhaps there is another martyrdom: a martyrdom of love. In 1936, seven sisters of her religious order were martyred during the Spanish Civil War because they practiced humility, gentleness and lived Christ. Pope John Paul II beatified them. They gave everything to the Lord, and He received them into His Kingdom.
When we commit ourselves to God, we hold nothing back. We surrender to God in love. We are called to turn over our loved ones, our health and eventually our lives to God. Through each of these mini-deaths, we are called to proclaim the priority of God in our lives and thereby witness to the faith. During this pandemic, we are challenged to make many sacrifices in the way we live, in our choices and the ability to control our present situations. Through it all, we can never lose our trust and confidence in God, who is with us. We surrender all to God, not in hopelessness, but in witness to the fact that God’s love is everything. As we prepare for Christmas, let us be witnesses of Jesus to our brothers and sisters as we LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee