I’m actually writing this on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, when we celebrate the incredible love Jesus has for us. This feast dovetails with recent projects I’m involved in. Over the past weeks, I’ve come to learn about Mother Teresa Casini, foundress of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Pope Francis declared her Blessed this year, and the ceremony will be this October. The miracle that led to this honor occurred in Youngstown, Ohio, the only site of the Sisters in the USA. A five-year-old child from one of their schools drowned in a pool. After intense prayers to Mother Teresa, forty-eight hours later he was miraculously healed on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. The boy not only lived but was spared the severe brain damage predicted. Thirteen doctors of different faiths testified to the miracle.
Let me introduce you to Mother Casini. She was born in Italy in 1864, and in 1882, she had a revelation of the Sacred Heart pierced by a single thorn. Jesus more or less repeated to her his message to St. Margaret Mary: He loves us so much but is so little loved in return, sometimes by those who were consecrated to him. Jesus asked Teresa to make reparation by prayer, sacrifice, and always doing God’s will. Attempting to carry out this request, Teresa met one dead end after another, crisis after crisis, and one eccentric person after another. Does this sound familiar?
After ill-fated stays with two religious communities, Teresa began her own community of Sisters whose purpose centered on the priesthood because, she reasoned, priests are the ones who are most responsible for the whole people of God. Therefore, her Sisters foster vocations (originally by running pre-seminaries for boys), support priests in their parish ministry, and make reparation for bad priests. Today they mostly work in parishes and operate retirement homes for priests.
When Teresa was seven, she promised Jesus, “I will become a Saint.” Now she is well on her way to being declared one.
In reading her life’s story, I was thinking, It seems that God could have made her life a little easier. After all, she was utterly devoted to him. Instead, her life resembles that of St. Julie Billiart, foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, in its unusual difficulties and setbacks. The recipe for saint-making calls for a lot of crosses. Didn’t Jesus say that we could expect them? His life too was no easy journey. It ended in a gory crucifixion and a pierced heart.
Reading about Mother Casini prompted me to consider whether or not I prayed enough for bishops and priests. Do you?