Mystery of Life and Death, and an Immaculate Heart

March 27 and March 30 brought us news of the deaths of two early members of Saint Benedict Center, Abbot Gabriel, O.S.B., and Sister Maria Cordata, M.I.C.M. Coming just before and during Holy Week, when the events of our Lord’s most holy Passion and Death are lived in the liturgy, these two deaths are a reminder of that great truth articulated by Blessed Dom Columba Marmion: “Christianity is a mystery of life and death.”

The Church’s liturgy demanded that the two funerals take place after the sacred Triduum, during Easter week, which circumstance provided ample opportunity for us to reflect on St. Paul’s doctrine that “we are buried together with him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).

It is no secret that Saint Benedict Center has had its share of internecine strife over the years. Not unlike many orders founded by saints, our congregation has been afflicted by numerous “splits.”

That’s the bad, and thankfully, old, news. The good news is that the animosities of the past are withering; charity is taking root; and the common purpose and religious consecration of all the disciples of Father Feeney are taking precedence over division. As these beloved and battle-scared early members go to their judgment, we who remain come together to pray for them, and sing together the song of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart, Father Feeney’s lovely, “Tis For the Love of Mary.”

When I heard the Sisters from St. Ann’s House, the Brothers and Sisters from Saint Benedict Center, Still River, and our Brothers and Sisters from Richmond all singing this song together two days ago, I could not help but get emotional. For one thing, many of those religious have wonderful voices. For another, I was right next to the simple pine coffin of Sister Maria Cordata, who was highly regarded by us all. (She always called me, in her delicate Yankee accent, “deah,” even when I didn’t feel very dear. On the other hand, she really was, semper et ubique, a deah.)

I know that there are members in all the houses who, like us, desire real unity. We in Richmond pray for affective and effective unity, if not de jure, at least a solid de facto unity based in truth, charity, and a common patrimony. And how important that patrimony is for the Church! Right now, a new era is dawning (thanks largely to Pope Benedict XVI), and groups like ours are being encouraged to work for the extension of God’s Kingdom on earth. This, even as hatred for Christ’s Church grows daily. (Are the battle lines being drawn? I think so.) We all see this change, and each religious house, I sincerely believe, has an important role as another phalanx in the army of the Queen of Heaven, our august Mistress.

May we ever carry Her banner with fortitude — for, as St. John Damascene said, to serve Her is to reign!

I’ll close this number borrowing some thoughts from our Tertiary Prefect, Brother John Marie Vianney, M.I.C.M., Tert., on our Order’s song:

Every sports team has a fight song. Every country has an anthem. Many cities have a special song dedicated to them. The Italian, the Irish, the French, the Polish, all have songs that speak to their ethnicity, their culture. And, of course, Our Lady has many hymns dedicated to Her. Well, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have a rousing song written by Father Feeney himself. It is entitled, ‘Tis for the Love of Mary. If you never heard it before, here it is. We sing it here at the Center during special times, e.g., the recent profession of the two sisters, on First Saturday when we have our regular Third Order monthly business meeting, when we end our school plays, programs, etc. We hope you will love it as we do.

‘Tis for the love of Mary
Each heart becomes a slave
A heart that once was wary
Is through her love emboldened to be brave
Her banner is the only one to wave.

Remember, Virgin Mother,
That never was it known
One needing thy protection
And seeking it was ever left alone
You always come and take him for your own.

Despise not our petitions,
O gracious advocate,
And after this our exile,
And after all the years we still must wait
Take us unto your Heart Immaculate.