Sister Mary Cecile is home.
She was doing the work she had long done – tending her parish – when she died unexpectedly, with her boots on.
I know this because I am folded into the community of Our Lady of Grace monastery outside of Indianapolis. As guest of this house, I was here for Sister Mary Cecile’s homecoming.
For four services of worship – morning prayer and noonday prayer, a wake and her funeral, her casket was open for the prayers that washed over her. Prayers chanted, silence held, the gaze of her sisters who honored her with the caress of their eyes, stories told and tears shed. Sister Mary Cecile was held by her community even as she was held by the God she had served for eight decades.
As the group moved out of the chapel and to the cemetary on the monastery grounds, the names of the saints were chanted, followed by the names of each woman from the community of Our Lady of Grace who had gone before. The litany of the saints wove Sister Mary Cecile into the web of the community past, and it will weave her into the community future as her name is voiced with the passing of each sister who follows her home.
Ritual. It holds us. It reminds us of the huge of mystery and the power of what we can know: the love and witness of holy flesh in the being of our beloveds.
Some day my name will be voiced as one who has moved into a new way of being and I pray that my soul too will know the washing of prayer and the weaving of witness borne on the lips of my community.
May it be so for us each.