During my 7 years in Wales I was privileged to serve with a remarkable religious Sr Mary of the Trinity. As a teenager she lost her Anglican Christian faith and worked hard to get her peers to abandon their faith as well. She then drifted into hippy-dom with all that represented. Finding herself lost in the darkness, the reading of JOHN chapter 1 was instrumental in regaining her Christian faith.
She converted to the Catholic Church and became a religious. She spend some 20 years in the Philippine missions and then a term as General Sister Servant before returning to England to help with its re-evangelisation. This was one of the burning passions of her life. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer back in 2008 and has struggled bravely ever since, never sparing herself when it came to pastoral work, street & door-to-door evangelisation, etc.
She is now reaching the end of her earthly pilgrimage and recently dictated this letter as a sort of Last Testament that was sent to all SOLT members. It is a testimony to a Christian life well lived and what it is to face death in the light of the Resurrection.
My dearest Fathers, Brothers, Deacons, Seminarians, Sisters and Lay Members married and single, consecrated widows, and SOLT friends,
How can I really answer all the kind and wonderful thoughts, prayers, sacrifices that you have offered for me in my present condition? Words seem a little cheap. But I do have a few things that I would like to say.
First, I want you all to know that thanks be to the most glorious Trinity and all your prayers, I am in deep peace. I am filled with the same joy that I’ve had all along. There is nothing more wonderful than these gifts of the Holy Spirit when you are suffering.
And I would just like to say to any of you who are suffering to throw your complete trust and hope in the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ, who in His great love for each one of us, wants us to share with Him in His great Paschal Mystery. I feel blessed, honored and privileged to be part of Christ’s suffering in my small way. And believe me, it is small! Although at times it can seem overwhelming. It seems small because of the great joy and peace that Jesus gives me, carrying me through it. So any of us with similar burdens, please remember that! I used to read things when I was a novice about saints who talked about how sweet is the cross of Christ, that was my personal big struggle. For deep inside, I couldn’t quite believe it. How could pain and suffering possibly be sweet, I used to think. Now I know the truth. It is not the pain and suffering that are sweet, it is Christ in His great love holding me, that is the great Sweetness, with a capital S. So trust in Him and throw yourself into His arms.
So I pray, as we all must pass through Calvary in our different ways that every single one of you will experience that Sweetness, with a capital S, too!
The second thing I really want to stress is the power of prayer. Again, we are religious, I heard so many times how prayer accomplishes miracles and I did believe it to an extent. But what has humbled me to the ground for the last 8-9 years with my cancer is how truly, truly, Effacious is prayer. For most of my life with cancer, perhaps 90% I have felt like someone floating gently down a warm river filled with peace and joy, harmony, at oneness with myself, my God and with others. But what is under me is not water but all the hands lifted in prayer for me. Who am I to deserve this? For everywhere I’ve been, every single place I’ve been, I’ve ended up having an army of prayer warriors praying for me and me praying for them. With me part of another river, with hands upraised. So, never let us doubt, the great power of prayer. Was I healed by all these prayers? Most definitely YES! Not from cancer obviously but from a deeper sickness. For what has been borne into my heart and what has been growing for the last 9 years has been the deepest trust, love and hope of God that I’ve ever had in my life. I tell a lot of people if Jesus Christ came down before me right now and said to me “Sister, I can heal you from your cancer. And you’ll have so many years to live. But I would have to remove the gift of hope and trust. You would sort of on your own, kind of.” And I would immediately answer, “No thank you Lord. I will keep the cancer and the trust and the hope.”
Oh golly, I hope I’m not beginning to sound like a preaching person now. I know so many of you know the truth of this more profoundly than me. I just wanted to share my lived experience and how grateful I am to almighty God and to you for your many thoughts, prayers and sacrifices.
The third point, its always a difficult one, is forgiveness. I just want to ask forgiveness for any ways I have hurt, put down, been insensitive to, sinned against any one of you, big or small, for we are all weak and human and I know I have my full measure of faults. I know there are people that I’ve hurt, whether it was during my time in the Philippines, Italy, USA, Wales, England. I know there are people that I have hurt in my roles as formator, regional, general, house servant and I ask you to forgive me. And I am also conscious of people who have hurt me and I want to say now, completely, totally, freely with all my heart, no grudges, no secret dislikes. I forgive you all freely totally, completely from my heart. And I love you all in the heart of Jesus and Mary. I mention their love and their hearts to make up for mine because my love is very poor and I know it. We are all weak, we are all sinful but I know that In Our Lady and the Trinity, that the dream of Fr. Jim that we become this wonderful Trinitarian family mirroring their love in our life and our love, and one day the world will look at us and say “see how they love one another.” Then we will know we have reached the vision, at least in our lifetime. Imagine, to love as the Trinity loves! Fantastic vision, mission and charism we have.
I guess that leads me on to my fourth point. I know that in the last few years’ (or actually the whole of SOLT life until now!) we have struggled to express our vision, mission, charism. We are sort of like the three wise men searching for Jesus. We have been searching to integrate our vision, mission and charism, at times lost, disappointed, discouraged. I’ve been in SOLT since 1975 and probably have tried to pack my bags and leave many, many times. Discouraged with myself, discouraged with SOLT. What kept me going was to remember why I joined. Let me put in a little story. Once one of our sisters in the Philippines told me that she was leaving.
I really admired this young sister and this really threw me into turmoil. She listed all of SOLT’s failings and weaknesses and I agreed with most of what she said! Later I was so discouraged and I went to my little prayer place to talk it over with God. And I said, “You know Lord, I agree with every reason she gave to leave. So why should I stay? I’m still young. Maybe I should get out while the goings good. Is the ship sinking? I’m still young. I could go to another community. Am I going to be wasting my life in this community?” Jesus answered, “Why did you join the Society of Our Lady?” Not expecting a question, I had to think. And I came to a realization. I joined the Society of Our Lady precisely for those people. For You, Jesus, the Father and the Holy Spirit and Our Lady. I love you. I want to be part of the Holy Trinity through Our Lady. That is why I joined. And this, even in my simplicity as being a new convert in the Church. That is what surprised me. So, Jesus said, “has this changed?” So I said, “no”. Well that was my answer so I didn’t leave. And I know that a lot of us struggle in SOLT. I’ve been in a lot of communities. We are going to continue to struggle but we have a gift. Let’s make sure that we love the Trinity and Our Lady more than anything else in life. If we have that we will persevere. The danger is always, a little thing that tries to be big, self! When we start loving ourself and putting ourself first that’s the time the vision will fade and the charism seem unimportant. It isn’t the faults of anyone else. We can’t take care of them. Its our own littleness. In fact I will go so far as to say, our own nothingness. So I guess I’m making a little plea to love the Society of OUr Lady of the Most Holy Trinity and let’s give our all because we aren’t promoting an ideal. We are living the greatest relationships that exist, with our God, the Trinity and Our Lady.
My prayer for each one of us is that we will become in our own lifetime like Our Lady, beloved sons and daughters of the Father, to mother Christ into being in all we think, do and say and to be His beloved sisters and brothers and beloved spouses of the Spirit. I think there is only one spouse, Our Lady but we can enter into her relationship. To be so sensitive to every thought, word and inspiration of God that we are like a feather in the breeze and be fruitful in Him. And yes, we all acknowledge that we can’t do this by ourselves but only in the help, love, power of the blessed virgin Mary, our Mother. So let us unashamedly cling to her as our mama, bringing us into eternal life with Jesus. Bringing us into those relationships with the Trinity that are deeply hers.
Perhaps my last point is at a very good place, last. I just want to say how important it is to know that we are the last, least and littlest of all, as Fr. Jim loved to say. I myself have never been happier until that realization hit me. I have to say that I fought the concept, I fought the reality for years. When Fr. Jim would say to me, as he frequently did, the Sisters of Our Lady are the last, the least and the littlest of all, I would always rebel by saying something like, “Yes, but….” and then have all my reasons why I didn’t have to be last, least and littlest of all. The only reason I’m broaching this is because many people have said so many kind and wonderful things about me. And I just want to make sure people have the right perspective. Any good, beauty in me, is purely a gift from God but in myself, I’m NOTHING, niente, nada and that is all I claim. Now as I said, I rebelled against that concept and I thought it was an old fashion concept but know I see that true nothingness is a happy thing. I can’t really explain it more in words but its a great, peaceful thing to be nothing. Only if you complete that statement by “because then Jesus is everything.” And that’s what we want, isn’t it? For Jesus to be everything in all of us, in the Spirit for the glory of the Father. I’m not boasting to say that I’ve reached that lofty height. I’m just happy to know that as one of Jesus’ little nothings, I’m on the way. And again even this is a grace and a gift of God!
I think I’ll have to stop.
It’s too short already, isn’t it?
Well, if anybody’s still awake or got this far, bravo! You know me I am a Gabbert. I kissed the Blarney Stone at age 15 and I have the gift of gab. That what comes out when I get started. I apologize for the lengthy tome!
I feel like telling a joke but I can’t think of one!
Well, I can think of one. Its not a joke but its a true story.
I was asked to give a talk in the cathedral in Albay and the person who introduced me said I was “the superior of the Holy Trinity.” This immediately struck me as funny and as I went up and I remembered a story of Pope John XXIII.
One day, he made a surprise visit to the hospital of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit. The Sister-receptionist at the front desk called her superior, saying the “Holy Father is here.”
The superior came hurtling down the stairs and said, “I’m the superior of the Holy Spirit.” And he said, “ahh, the Superior of the Holy Spirit and I am only the humble vicar of Christ.”
Well, my brothers and sisters, I wish I could be with you all, to see you all. Your calls, cards, emails, videos have brought joy to my heart.
Love you all in the heart of Jesus and Mary,
Sr. Mary of the Trinity, SOLT–
PS, you know me, I’m never quite finished…
I know you understand this, but all the same, I would like to say, that I would have liked to have answered each e-mail, card, message personally. But energy levels dictate that I can not do this any more. Therefore please except this letter not just as a general one but as personal to each one of you and even to those who couldn’t write to me at the moment. Thanks and God bless. Sr. Trinity.