Thursday, July 31, 2014

A nun in a pink habit: The first sign of a Catholic Spring?

Sister Mary Lucy,DEF
The Catholic Church, the New York Times assures us, is a faltering institution. Its only a matter of time before we all become secular postmodernists, and the Catholic Church will be discarded in the dustbin of history, exposed as nothing more than a den of elderly white sexists and homophobes. President Obama has already written us off, and he's the smartest guy in the room--any room.

But what if President Obama is wrong? What if--in fact--the Catholic Church is on the verge of a great revival--something similar to the Counter Reformation, that wonderful revival of Catholicism that brought us St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross?

And this brings me to Sister Mary Lucy Astuto, the mother superior of a young religious order called the Daughters of the Eternal Father. I met Sister Mary Lucy at a Catholic Trade Conference in Chicago today and was drawn to her by her pink religious habit.
Although she heads a young religious order--only ten years old--Sister Mary Lucy is not herself young; she is 74. But her spirit is young and full of energy, and she conveys this spirit in a religious habit that she personally designed.

The Daughters of the Eternal Father wear traditional white habits enhanced by a pink veil, a pink cape, and a pink scapular. And such a pink--a bright, cheerful, childlike pink--the color of my granddaughter's Barbie bike.

Pink, Sister Mary Lucy told me, is the color of hope and joy. And after all, she pointed out, "joy is all around us; hope is all around us."

Wow! A young religious order has sprung up in the United States--the world-weary postmodern United States--an order that wears traditional religious habits enhanced with a bright pink flare.
Before Sister Mary Lucy founded her order, she encountered a Catholic woman--a mystic it seems--who told her that she had been visited by St. Ann, the grandmother of Christ. In this vision, St. Ann conveyed her assurance that Sister Mary Lucy would found a new religious order that would grow quickly.  And the mystic added this intriguing fact about St. Ann--her favorite color is pink.

So far, St. Ann's prediction has not come true; ten years on, the Daughters of the Eternal Father only has two sisters. But--as Sister Mary Lucy pointed out--God's time is not our time. Christ promised to return soon, and that was 2000 years ago. And in the Old Testament, God promised to heal our wounds quickly, and all our wounds have not yet been healed.

But the Holy Spirit constantly moves among us, and people who respond have changed the world. Edith Stein, a great Jewish intellectual, stumbled upon the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, read it, and declared, "This is the truth."  And Edith went on to become St.  Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, who triumphed over the horrors of Auschwitz. And Francis of Assisi, a hedonist who was born into a wealthy family, stripped himself naked, disavowed all worldly goods, and founded a religious movement that has thrived for eight centuries.

So, isn't it plausible that God has called an elderly woman to found a new religious order--an order of nuns that wear pink habits--to bring new life into the American Catholic Church just as God blessed St. Elizabeth, an older woman and past the childbearing age, who bore a son who became John the Baptist?

And isn't also plausible that St. Ann would bless this new order? St. Ann, let us recall, is the patroness of grandparents; and how many of us know people whose lives were transformed and revived by the birth of their first grandchild?

So may St. Ann continue to bless the Daughters of the Eternal Father as a grandmother would bless her first grandchild.  And may this new order, clothed in the raiments of joy and hope, flourish among us. Perhaps these nuns, dressed in pink, are the first sign of a Catholic spring.

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