By Fr. James Smith, C.PP.S.
I know not how to speak, I am too young. I usually cringe at these words from Jeremiah when they arise in the lectionary. I realize I’m at the younger end of the spectrum of ages in an older and aging religious congregation. I realize too that I’m at the older end of my friend group for some reason. With Community members I get called a “baby.” With friends I get called “old man.”
Today’s feast recalls the life and ministry of Maria de Mattias, the founder of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC). Her vision of some great work outside of the comfort of her upbringing came at the age of just 16 after hearing Gaspar preach. (St. Gaspar founded the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in 1815.) With the help of Giovanni Merlini, Maria founded the Adorers, and in roughly 30 years she established nearly 70 schools, most of them serving people in rural or underserved areas.
The Gospel from John for this feast day recalls the first resurrection encounter in the Gospel. Before the encounter with the beloved disciple, the seven disciples, Peter, Thomas, and the disciples locked away in fear in the upper room, before appearing to anyone else, the resurrected Christ appears to Mary at the tomb. Why are you weeping? What are you looking for? Jesus asks her. Mary hears her name in the voice of Jesus and recognizes him. Who we are, or maybe how we can recognize ourselves and others, is in the voice and embrace of God.
In my few years in the C.PP.S. Community, I have had little interaction with ASC sisters outside of formation and Adorers in ministry in Chicago. In the first half of my time in Chicago, that was interaction and a friendship with Sr. Maria Hughes, ASC, who ran the Institute for Religious Formation program at the Catholic Theological Union. She was a regular guest in our house (and a welcome critique of the couch pillows).
My Vietnamese confreres had a really tough time pronouncing her last name. Struggling with the phonetics, they settled on “Sr. Marie Hugs.” It might be smug of me, but I always get a kick out of mispronounced names as it is exceedingly rare for me to experience. For some reason, it’s this image of Maria being called “Sr. Hugs” that marks one side of my mind’s diptych of the Adorers, with the other side being the necklace around Maria’s neck displaying the symbol of the sisters: a heart with three drops of blood on it. The Precious Blood of Jesus shed for all but also wrapped in the embrace and offering of God’s compassion and love to each of us.
May the example of Maria de Mattias continue to inspire us and lead us to care for the vulnerable in our midst and to give witness to the cry of the blood in our world today.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. James Smith, C.PP.S., is a student at Graduate Theological Union pursuing studies in pastoral and practical theology. A 2009 graduate of Saint Joseph’s College, Fr. James was ordained in 2017. He resides at the C.PP.S. Sonnino Mission House in Berkeley, Calif.