Given at the Mass to commemorate the 150th anniversary of St Maria Micaela at Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St Simon Stock Church in Kensington Church Street on 4 March 2016.
Maria de la Soledad Micaela Desmaissieres y Lopez de Dicastillo
The Spanish certainly do have a way with names!
It is Maria Micaela for whom we thank God this evening: for her life, her faith, her inventiveness, her dedication, her trust, for her initiatives and foundations, and for her holy death. We thank God for them all because they all come to us as his gifts.
We do so with renewed joy and thanksgiving as we mark this 150th anniversary: she died just over 150 years ago, on 24 August 1865 and her Foundation was formally established just less than 150 years ago, on 24 November 1866.
In Spanish names are so important. They carry the story of the person, of their family and often of their aspirations. This is true for the names chosen by Maria Micaela. For her Foundation she chose the name ‘Adorers, Handmaids of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity’ and for herself she chose the name ‘Mother Sacramento’. Both names reveal all that we need to know.
Perhaps Mother Sacramento chose the readings for our Mass this evening. They resonate with all that she lived and believed.
The Gospel reading shines brilliantly with the message of the Bread of Life. The words of Jesus: ‘I am the living bread which comes down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh.’ The words of Mother Sacramento: ‘The Holy Sacrament is my life and my element’, adding in a time when the priest wanted to take away from her Centre the Blessed Sacrament, ‘If the Lord goes away from this house, I will go with him; nothing will make me leave the work…But without Him I will not stay here, not even for an hour!’
In the Second Reading we heard the words of St John: ‘He who does not love abides in death. If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth.’ The words of Mother Sacramento: ‘God chose us for his divine work of saving souls and saving ours with them!..The whole world is a Tabernacle for me, what a joy my dear Sisters, we are adorers, the perpetual handmaids of the Blessed Sacrament.’ And her actions are even more eloquent, giving up her own considerable share of ‘the world’s goods’ to open her heart completely to the needs of the little ones, of the lost and abandoned.
And here we find the echo of the First Reading, from the Prophet Ezekiel: ‘I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out…I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness…I will bring back the strayed and I will bind up the crippled..I will feed them in justice.’ From her first meeting, whilst still a youngster, with poor and uneducated girls through her first meeting with a victim of prostitution who was the daughter of a prominent banker , Maria Micaela sought out the lost and brought them compassion, love and true light.
In our world today we are surrounded by people who are lost and abandoned. Today we think especially of women trafficked into prostitution, here in this city and all around the world. It is, in the words of Pope Francis, ‘a great wound in the flesh of humanity, in the Body of Christ.’ I cannot easily describe my sense of wonder when I first met the Adoratrices and learned that the healing of this wound has been their charism for 150 years! In the course of those years they have seen so much, learned so much, given so much. Let us not forget the 27 Sisters martyred during the Spanish Civil War. Today their work goes on. There is much to do. There is so much to do together. I thank the Sisters for all they do here in London, not least in Bakhita House. Thank you!
And there is still a deeper truth for us to grasp this evening. Yes, the Sisters are inspiring handmaids of charity, responding with intelligence, experience, skill and compassion to the plight of the poor in 162 houses spread across four continents. They are missioners of mercy of the first order. Yet we must always remember where that inspiration comes from, what truly is the source of that mercy. It is, of course, in their love of Jesus, constantly present to us in the Blessed Sacrament. It is in his company that we will find the true and living mercy with which he can fill our hearts and which we then hold out to others. We love because he first loves us. We are merciful because we first receive mercy. We are servants because he is first our Servant King.
Adoration: that is our true fulfilment. To be before the Lord in humble adoration is the purpose for which we have been created. Charity: that is our pathway, the day by day expression of all that adoration moves in our hearts, stirs and inspires in our lives. Yes, there are many ways in which we can serve. But today, in this great anniversary, we remember that the true depth and beauty of service, its deepest source, lies in that coming together of our adoration of the Lord in his abiding presence in the Blessed Sacrament and our service of him in the flesh of our brothers and sisters.
May God bless the Adoratrices, in every part of the world. May they provoke in us all a great love of God and a more effective service in our world. St Maria Micaela, pray for us. In your words, ‘Let us be genuine Adorers; may the fire of divine love, which burns like the volcano’s lava, burn always in us.’