We are happy to share with our reader the homily which Fr John Harris OP preached at Sr Mary Cathy’s Profession on the 2nd of February:

Today’s feast begins with a young married couple bringing their newly born baby to the Temple.  Today’s celebration of Sr Mary Cathy’s profession began in the very same way, when her parents, Imelda and John, carried her to a church to be baptised.  On that day a sword began to pierce her heart. In mystical theology the image of a sword is often used as a way of describing how the love of God penetrates deeply into our hearts and lives and transfixes us with the living presence of the divine love. This life of grace which begins at the very moment of our baptism continues to pierce us all our lives through until in the end, the words spoken by Simeon become words spoken of us: “our secret thoughts are laid bare”.

That sword of divine love began its journey to the centre of Cathy’s soul on the day of her baptism, it continued in her reception of the sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation and Cathy herself would say it made little if any progress in her life. But once the sword begins its journey, to use another image taken from the words of Jesus himself speaking of the seed that is planted: night and day while we sleep, when we are awake the seed is sprouting and growing, how, we do not know”. The love continues to bring life in its own mysterious way. This is the true story of grace in every Christian soul. How that sword of divine love continues to wound and in its wounding brings healing and new life.

The sword made a deep cut into the soul of Cathy when she became involved in the Legion of Mary. In a most amazing way through the members of Mary’s Blessed Legion Christ’s love was revealed to her. By their love and concern for her she came to believe in the deeper love that Jesus had for her. In so many ordinary ways, of welcome and friendship, of encouragement and support Cathy began to feel the piercing love which Christ has for her.

During this time she came to know us Dominicans in Dominick St. She often recalls how at the end of the annual novena to St. Martin de Porres, the preacher that year, Fr. Bede McGregor, didn’t allow her to slip out of the Church, but insisted that she shake his hand  and tell him her name. A blessed moment: for he too knew all her friends in the Legion. In that simple moment of encounter Cathy realised that she was someone with a name, a story, and friends, someone she could be happy and proud to be. In that simple encounter the sword went deeper. In that ordinary moment Christ spoke to her of his personal love.

The Legion allowed Cathy not only to experience that love for herself but gave her the wonderful opportunity of herself becoming an evangeliser (a carrier of the sword) by helping others to come to know that love for themselves.

The sword continued its journey, at times painful and challenging, she developed her prayer life through adoration and her connection with the Carmelites in Roebuck. And all the time the secret thoughts of her heart were beginning to be voiced by her, as she endeavoured to speak in her own direct and “no-nonsense” way of her spiritual life.

I remember one afternoon in the parlour in Dominick St.when she spoke to me of her love of Eucharistic Adoration the idea entered my head, “should I mention Sienato her”. I was extremely nervous but speak the word I did. She said she would love to visit and I contacted Sr. Breda (novice mistress). Driving her up here on a Friday afternoon a few weeks later, she kept telling me how nervous she was and I couldn’t tell her I was even more nervous. What if she didn’t like it, if the nuns didn’t think she was suitable? Thus began her journey here in Siena. A journey that is given its deepest meaning by today’s feast.

Today’s feast is about a redeeming and a presenting, a releasing and a binding: indeed a dying to be born. When Mary and Joseph went to the Temple it was to buy-back as it were their first born from God, but in their presenting him to God they are teaching us a fundamental Christian truth; it is only by giving that we receive, by saying yes to God that we learn true freedom. So many of us believe it is by freeing ourselves from God that we become free, that was the mistake made by Adam and Eve at the very beginning of the story of humanity, but the Good News tells us the complete opposite. As Pope Benedict spoke to us at the very beginning of his pontificate: “Are we not perhaps all afraid in some way? If we let Christ enter fully into our lives, if we open ourselves totally to him, are we not afraid that He might take something away from us? Are we not perhaps afraid to give up something significant, something unique, and something that makes life so beautiful? Do we not then risk ending up diminished and deprived of our freedom? … No! If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. No! Only in this friendship are the doors of life opened wide. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed. Only in this friendship do we experience beauty and liberation”.

By handing ourselves to God we discover who we truly are. In this true friendship we meet ourselves. To quote our Beloved St. Catherine of Siena, “the souls can only know herself when she sees herself in God”. Some might say that Cathy by locking herself up here in Sienais burying herself away from life and freedom, but the opposite is the truth. It is here in the cloister that Cathy is learning true freedom, a life totally focused on God, the truest living out of human freedom. Here Cathy is opening herself up to the full wound of the sword of divine love; here there is nowhere to hide from that wounding – A piercing that is at once painful and life giving, healing and refreshing: A dying to come to life.

Today as she makes her simple profession she is laying bare the secret thoughts of her heart before us all. She is saying in the midst of Holy Church that she is discovering God’s love for her and her only response is to love him fully. Here in prayer and adoration her heart is opening up to be wounded by love, but not just for herself but for all of us as well and indeed for the whole Church. For her evangelising, learned in the Legion of Mary is continuing. By making profession in the Church we are all being built up by her offering, for love is the one thing that builds the Church, and causes her to be renewed. 

So we pray this day that the journey begun on the day Imelda and John presented Cathy to be baptised will continue now in this holy place of Siena Monastery; that the sword of divine love will continue to wound her bringing her deep joy and happiness. And as she lives out her life in secret the whole body of the Church will be build up in faith, hope and love; so that all the nations may see the light that enlightens, the love that gives life and the peace that gives hope, Christ Jesus our Lord. To whom be honour and glory for ever and ever.  Amen