10.30am Mass Sunday September 10th 2006

I think that I can tell you that Sister Clotilde was not at all keen on making a fuss about her Silver Jubilee. She felt that a quiet Mass with the other sisters would have been enough. I think I can also tell you why we felt that that would not be right. In one sense, of course, we are here to honour Sister Clotilde, as she completes 25 years in Religious Life. But there is much more to it than that. We are here to celebrate what God has done for her, and through her for the Church. In a short while the sisters will sing Mary’s great hymn of praise, “The Magnificat”. Mary cries out to God: “My Soul glorifies the Lord. My Spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”. She goes on: “For He who is might has done great things for me and Holy is His Name”. It is in that spirit that we have come here today. Like Mary, Sister Clotilde knows that everything that she has, has come to her as a free gift from God. It was God who inspired her to offer herself for the Religious Life with the Sisters of Providence. It was God who began the good work in her, and it is God who has brought her to this day. What we are celebrating is the Faithfulness of God.

We are living at a time when many people find the whole idea of commitment difficult. People can be wonderfully generous when the occasion demands it, but they are fearful of making a total commitment. The Religious life, like the priesthood, and like Marriage, involves a radical choice to commit oneself for life to what is truly a vocation, a calling from God. Humanly speaking it can seem an impossibly difficult choice to make. How can I know how I will feel in ten years from now? How can I commit myself to this person for the rest of our lives? But today, as in the Gospel Christ invites us to do just that. The history of the Church is the story of countless men and women who have made a great act of faith in God, and have set out on the path of total commitment.

The fact that Religious Life, and the Priesthood, and Marriage are true vocations, does not mean that life becomes easy or straightforward. It is easy to start out with romantic ideals, and to imagine the kind of life it will be. But you know as well as I do, that there are always ups and downs. Whether you are Parish Priest of Seaford or the Pope there is still the inevitable tedium of the daily routine. You may imagine that your marriage will be a romantic dream with the most wonderful husband or wife, but, as the wedding service reminds us, you take each other “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health”. It is the same with the religious life. One of the great virtues we all need is the virtue of perseverance. But I hope that you also know how God is always faithful to his promises.

Looking back over 35 years as a priest, I can say that God is never outdone in generosity, and that He gives us so much more than we could ever have imagined. I am sure that sister Clotilde would say the same.

Today as we give thanks with her, we pray for ourselves that we may be faithful to our vocations. We pray for our young people that they may not be frightened of making a commitment in love for life. The Church very much needs today the witness of faithful and loving married couples. The Church needs many more men to come forward for the priesthood, and many more man and women to offer themselves for the Religious Life. I cannot promise that any of these vocations will be easy. Nothing really worthwhile is!

But I can tell you that if you are generous enough to make that commitment God will never let you down, and you will experience in a wonderful way The Faithfulness of God which we are celebrating with Sister Clotilde today.

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