Sunday, February 7, 2016

I am who I am


Today, as lector for the 2nd reading at Holy Mass, it was my duty to proclaim St. Paul’s ringing assertion:, “…by the grace of God, I am who I am.” But at the same time I did so, my mind flashed back to my childhood, and I heard my favorite cartoon hero sing, “I am who I am: I’m Popeye the Sailor Man!”  Restraining the laugh that came to my throat, I managed to finish the reading soberly enough.  Afterwards, I reflected that all of us, including apostles, and prophets, along with sailors and even Poor Clares, have to be clear on who they are and act out of that conviction.  Although her feast day is superseded today by the Sunday liturgy, St. Colette of Corbie is devotedly remembered by the daughters of her reform movement.  She was a contemporary of St. Catherine of Siena and St. Joan of Arc, though not as well known to the general public as they.  It was not hers to restore a king to his throne or to urge the pope to return to his city of Rome, but to revitalize the life of contemplative prayer in the Franciscan Order which would call down God’s blessings upon all political and ecclesiastical initiatives for reform and make them lasting and fruitful.  Like Isaiah in today’s first reading, St. Colette was a reluctant prophet, and had to struggle to come to terms with God’s will.  Paradoxically, her call was to travel incessantly in order to found monasteries of strict enclosure where women would stay forever in one place to pray.  She would be impelled to speak continually with nobles and churchmen for her nuns given to a life of silence.  But all that was secondary.  She knew who she was and who she wanted her daughters to be:  women given over to the love of God for His glory and the good of His Church and His world. 

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