Fr. Richard's Homily, September 12, 2017
Funeral for Sister Mary Diana

The Power of the Veil

It’s the power of the veil. You and I would have gotten traffic tickets if we drove the way Sister drove. But she never did. You and I have to pay for our lunches, but many times someone else paid for theirs. And I could go on and on about the power of the veil but you get the point. So why is it that in our very secular society, as I spoke of last Sunday, a society and culture that believes it can find ultimate meaning and purpose in this material world without any outside reference to God, without believing there is any benefit in worshipping God, how is it that the power of the veil can still move secular people?

There are plenty of attractions for secularized people to look to in today’s world. Attractions to entertain, to gratify the senses, to promote a feeling of satisfaction, or to fulfill the desires of lust, or greed, or revenge or a whole number of other self-centered and selfish desires that are always available and we are fairly well used to seeing people indulge in them. As sinners, we are not free from guilt ourselves. But how is it that secular people are still able to be touched by two ladies who lived lives dedicated to the service of God in vows of poverty, chastity and obedience?

I think it’s because there are still many secularized people who, deep in their hearts, know that there is more to this life than just the material world, even if they do not want to pursue it themselves. So they see the hand of God in the persons of two nuns in grey, they see the goodness of God in the warmth and charity of two nuns, they see the witness to a life that goes on past Social Security into the security of everlasting joy in Christ our Lord.

If you notice the way nuns are portrayed in modern films and on TV, they are usually shown just as symbols of religious faith, or else as social activists, doing good deeds out in the world, and usually facing opposition of some kind from the bureaucratic, uncaring institutional Church. Writers and directors can sympathize with such women at least to some degree. At least they’re out there doing good works. Secular people like good works. But it’s hard to find any portrayal of nuns who are primarily devoted to a life of prayer because this is something secularists have a hard time understanding. The Hermit Sisters are a mystery to them. They did not marry, have sexual relations, no children, no home that they owned, no fat bank accounts, no vacations in the usual sense of the word. Their wardrobe was rather limited, they never had their hair or nails done and cosmetics were never on their shopping list. They left family and friends and took up lives as consecrated women living apart and hidden from the world, first as members of religious orders, and then together as Hermit Sisters, where they were no longer strictly cloistered, but still spent large portions of each day in solitary prayer. They had always hoped that other women would join them in their faithful lifestyle, but no one ever did. Yet they were still at peace because they were not, first of all, worried about creating a legacy, but rather they just wanted to live lives for God. I think they did very well. And so do you.

We may not be secularist people, but we still have lessons that can be learned and reflected upon as we think of the lives of Sister Mary Magdalen and Sister Mary Diana. The pull of the secular world is powerful, because it involves the world of touch, sight, sound and taste—and since we are weakened by sin we are tempted all the time to think that this material world is all for me, it’s all mine for the taking, and the using, and the gathering up of people and things according to my own desires and as much as I am able to make that happen. This world is for me to have and hold. That’s the temptation we face every day and all the time. But the lives of two nuns remind us of a greater reality and a larger truth. This world is a sign to us of God’s love, mercy and salvation, and it is to be lived in, appreciated, and used according to His plan for us. No matter how much we are loved here, there is One Who loves us more. No matter how much property we own this is not our real home. No matter how much wealth we may have gathered, there is only one treasure that is eternal. Only in Christ are we fully alive. Only in Christ is eternal life.

So today we pray for Sister, for the repose of her soul and the pardon of all her sins. But let us also reflect on the Christian life she lived so that we might choose also to live more deeply and faithfully in Christ, Whom we often ignore in favor of worldly concerns. May the power of the veil work on our minds and hearts today so that the grace of God may be increased within us.