Reflections on My Forever “Yes.”
Sr. Emi Magnificat’s Reflections on Her Retreat before Perpetual Profession
2015 is a special year for the Daughters of St. Paul; we are celebrating our Centenary Year! 100 years of God’s faithfulness has brought us together to where we are today and continues to call us out of ourselves to respond to him in always greater trust, availability, creativity and deep love.
2015 has also been also a special year for me, as I am preparing to make my perpetual profession as a Daughter of St. Paul, to say my forever “yes” to the Lord through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for all my life.
As I reflect on the journey of our Congregation in these 100 years and of my own journey that brings me to this moment of perpetual profession, I recognize that both journeys are stories of how God has loved us, worked in and among us, and brought life to our Congregation and my own vocation. It is a story of Magnificat, of praise for the great things that God has worked in my life and in our Congregation. It is also a story of Miserere, of sorrow for our sins, weakness and lack of trust and correspondence to God’s grace.
When I consider the beginnings of our Pauline Family and the moment when I first became more aware of my own vocation, I always return to the “night of light” experience of our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. I first read Alberione’s account of this experience when I was fifteen years old, about the same age of Alberione when he had this experience of prayer. I consider my “encounter” with Alberione’s story the moment when I first became more aware of the “fire” of the Pauline vocation within me and began to try to listen more attentively to the Lord’s call.
Recounting this experience of prayer before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, exposed for adoration on the altar, in the night between December 31, 1900 and January 1, 1901, Blessed Alberione recalls that a “particular enlightenment came from the Host and a greater understanding of the invitation of Jesus ‘come to me all of you.’…He felt deeply obliged to prepare himself to do something for the Lord and for the women and men of the new century with whom he would spend his life. He had a clear grasp of his own nothingness, while concurrently he experienced in the Eucharist ‘I am with you until the end of the age’ and that he could count on the Host, on Jesus, for light, nourishment, consolation and victory over evil” (AD 15-6).
Flowing from Alberione’s “night of light” experience at the turn of the 20th century, the Daughters of St. Paul had their first beginnings in 1915, with the faith-filled “yes” of a young woman named Teresa Merlo, who would later become Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, co-foundress of the Daughters of St. Paul. Alberione, at the time a young priest, invited the twenty-one-year-old Teresa to join him in realizing his vision of founding a new order of Sisters, who would dedicate themselves to communicating the Gospel with the “good press,” and later with all the means of communications that time and technology would provide.
Fourteen years after my first encounter with Alberione’s “night of light” and one hundred years after Mother Thecla gave her own first “yes” to collaborate with Alberione, I am now preparing for my perpetual profession. My own “yes” places me in profound communion with the Lord who, through my perpetual profession, consecrates my life to himself forever. It also puts my little “yes,” like that of leaven in the dough, in communion with the “yeses of all the Daughters of St. Paul in these 100 years. These “yeses, lived out in ordinariness and sometimes in darkness, suffering, weakness and uncertainty, testify to God’s faithfulness and the joy of belonging to him forever. Each “yes” contributes to the rich story that has brought us to this moment of celebrating our Centenary year.
With this act of perpetual profession, I am “putting all my eggs in the basket” of God’s faithfulness. I am publicly declaring that my personal weaknesses and sins and those of the Church and the world, with the daily experiences of the cross in all of the problems, suffering, violence, destruction and death that sometimes threaten to overtake us and strip us of peace, do not have the final word. I renew my faith in God’s saving and merciful action in my personal history, in the story of the Daughters of St. Paul and, more broadly, in the Church and in the world.
As we celebrate our Centenary year as Daughters of St. Paul, we look to our past with gratitude for the Lord’s presence in our history, ask for his mercy for the many times we have fallen short of living fully our “yes,” and look to the future with hope, believing that he, who “began a good work in [us] will continue to complete it” (cf. Phil 1:6). I unite my prayer to that of Mary’s Magnificat and pray with her, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my savior…” My prayer is that each day we may learn to more deeply recognize God’s action in our history and renew our offering of ourselves to Him in love, so that we may proclaim him to the people of our time.