Imagine walking across a frozen pond or creek in early winter after a few days of icy weather. With each tentative and cautious half step you listen for the sound of cracking ice knowing the farther you get from the bank the thinner the ice becomes.
That image from my youth captures what the past 12 months have felt like: uncertainty, fear, isolation and unsure footing. Mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing and not touching your face are now an integral part of all of our lives.
Who among us could have predicted a year ago the extent to which our lives would be altered? Even now as we attempt to anticipate the future, our vision is unclear and uncertain.
There is a saying that in every crisis there is opportunity. Perhaps in the context of our Glenmary charism we may ask, “What is the missionary opportunity in all of this?”
I suggest that a missionary response is contained in this beautiful prayer written by Glenmary Father Steve Pawelk to our patroness:
Our Lady of the Fields,
The Seed of your womb
Is the Hope of the earth.
Help us sow this seed
To all those in need.
In the soil of sorrow,
Help us sow fields of comfort.
In the dry ground of discrimination,
Help us sow fields of rich harmony.
In the hard clay of doubt and despair,
Help us sow abundant fields of hope and care.
O Mary, Our Lady of the Fields,
Patroness of Glenmary,
Pray for us.
Our mandate is to reach out to those in need. Father W. Howard Bishop, Glenmary’s founder, exhorted his young missioners to “Adopt all of the people in your mission area as your own. Christ died for every one of them. They are yours because you are his ambassadors.”
Let that sink in. We (and I include you, our partners in mission) are the ambassadors of Jesus Christ!
For those who have lost loved ones during this pandemic, let us give comfort. During this time of heightened awareness of the racial divide, let us be the seeds of harmony by promoting dialogue. For those who despair as they gaze into the future, let us be beacons of hope.
As ambassadors of Jesus we are empowered to embody this prayer. More often than not our missioners labor behind the scenes, quietly, without fanfare. An excellent example of this is contained in the ministry in one of our Glenmary brothers in North Carolina, who would be embarrassed if I mention him by name. He volunteers at a nursing home in the town where he lives and paints the rooms of the residents. Why? He describes this as his beautification ministry. He replaces the institutional white of their rooms with a brighter, more cheerful color.
As we conclude the Lenten season and celebrate the glory of Easter, I invite each of you to pray the Our Lady of the Fields prayer with us. Let us implore our Blessed Mother to intercede for us to have her Son, shower his Holy Spirit upon us that we might embody the sentiment of this prayer.
Mary, Our Lady of the Fields, pray for us.