Grace to you!
Many social media platforms exploded with millions of views during the last weeks of June at the news of a Discalced Carmelite cloistered nun, Sister Cecilia Maria from Argentina. The Carmelite, who has come to be nicknamed “the smiling nun,” captivated many with her electrifying smiles at the moment of death.
Sister Cecilia died on 23 June 2016 at the age of 42. She was diagnosed with tongue cancer in December 2015 and suffered from cancerous tumors in her lungs as well. She lived in Saints Teresa and Joseph Monastery in Santa Fe, Argentina, dedicated to prayer and the contemplative life.
Despite the excruciating pains she suffered, Sister Cecilia never stopped smiling. Even at her deathbed, her smiles never waned. According to a June 26 report by the Catholic News Agency, her fellow nuns testified there were no limits to her love for God and people. She was a channel of God’s love to many who knew her.
Sister Cecilia wrote a thrilling note expressing her wish for her funeral: “I was thinking how I would like my funeral to be,” she wrote, “first, some intense prayer and then a great celebration for everyone. Don’t forget to pray, but don’t forget to celebrate either,” she concluded.
The virality on social media of her pictures is, probably, revealing of the fascinations, as well as the yearnings of many hearts. “How I wish I would die with such smiles.” “Oh this is a peaceful death.” “She must be a saint.” These were a few of the online comments.
At the moment of death, when the will is weak and our muscles can’t withstand any pressure or pretense anymore, we see a fair perspective of the inner joy, peace or struggles.
Peaceful deaths are often indicators of inner peace. The nun’s story is not different.
Consider that we are driven by different concerns, some necessary, others not quite important. Fulfillment comes when we are able to distinguish what is necessary from what is not and stick to the necessary.
Read the lives of the great spiritual writers, you would see a consistency of the leveraging of this principle.
Take for instance; the founder of Western Monasticism, Saint Benedict, popularly called the Abbot (480-547 AD). His fascinating story, which when he was alive was unknown to many, was brought to the forefront of the world through the writings of one of the people he inspired, who became pope fifty years later.
This Pope, Gregory, also called the Great for his remarkable contributions in the world and the Church, wrote extensively about Benedict in the second book of his Dialogues.
You would marvel at how a young, promising son from noble and wealthy Roman parents of Nursia in the Sabine Country, who had an opportunity of the best education at the heart of Rome, pursued his dream and found fulfillment. The decay he saw at the prestigious Roman schools and how polarizing it was, made him opt for a more decisive life of prayer, divine knowledge and spirituality, which he found in the solitude of a cave very close to what used to be Nero’s palace, which was destroyed.
My reflection isn’t a biography, hence I wouldn’t tell much of his story. I recommend you read the wonderful story of his life, his practice of prayers and spirituality, the Benedict Rules, his writings and his beautiful relationship with his twin sister, Saint Scholastic. For these details see: Gregory the Great, Dialogue, Book II: “Saint Benedict,” translated by Myra L. Uhlfelden, Published by Bobbs-Merrill Educational Publishing 1967).
My main concern is to draw attention to how he discovered inner peace through a life of solitude, prayer, unwavering obedience to God’s Word – listening to God and his enduring love for community.
I believe that in a very noisy, busy and consumerist world like ours, a little solitude, detachment from stuff, switching off the gadgets and phones, and more openness to God and relationships with one another, could help us a lot.
Wisdom, which the biblical Book of Proverbs, chapter two, elaborately spoke about, is a great treasure, more valuable than gold. There is a sense of calm and discovery of the path to fulfillment in solitude.
May I ask: How often do you seek solitude, to reflect, to look inward and access the direction your life is going? A little more prayerful silence is helpful.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday, July 11, 2016, Ordinary Time: Saint Benedict, Abbot: Proverbs 2:1-9; Matthew 19:27-29]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.