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Bible Reflections View Comments

In the Right Place at the Right Time
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014
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February 2 is the much-ballyhooed Groundhog Day. In Wisconsin, where I grew up, if we got to see Spring six weeks from this date (which is, in fact, the first day of spring on the calendar), it was an early spring indeed, terrified rodent or not.

That groundhog afraid of his own shadow might be a good mascot for us in these dreary February days, though. Far too often we act as though there’s a monster under the bed, something in the dark that’s waiting to pounce on us. We wake up from our sleepy lives and as soon as we’re confronted with something new and perhaps startling, we run back to our caves. We think we must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and we scurry back to where we’re comfortable, even if it’s a dark, underground den.

For the past few Sundays we’ve heard accounts of Jesus calling his first followers. We might be feeling exhilarated by that challenge, or we might be feeling not quite up to the task. Today, the liturgical calendar takes us back to the Christmas season with the feast of the presentation of the Lord. But if we think it’s going to be time to bask once again in the soft glow of Christmas lights, then we need to take another look at the Gospel reading.

While the infant Jesus is recognized as the promised messenger of salvation, the revelation also brings with it the promise of discord and contradiction. Salvation isn’t going to be a cozy retreat. Simeon prophesies that a sword will pierce Mary’s heart. He also says the thoughts of many will be laid bare.

While this feast has its somber moments, however, it is celebrated as a feast of light and often referred to as Candlemas. In times past, the year’s supply of candles were blessed on this feast. We include it among the joyful mysteries of the rosary.

Simeon and Anna both seem to be well-known in the Temple precincts. You know people in your own parish who are always around. They attend daily Mass and all the extra events in the parish. They’ve been part of the parish for as long as most people can recall. They keep the faith and their very presence is part of handing on the faith to new generations. They’ve been around long enough to know that all life is a mix of darkness and light, but they believe the light always prevails— no need to run from its rays.

When these two holy people see Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus, they recognize the divine presence and herald the good news. Luke tells us that both of them proclaim prophetic words about this child. They were truly in the right place at the right time. But I suspect they would also proclaim the wonder of all the infants being brought to the Temple to be presented to God. Yes, Jesus was special, but each child was part of the Chosen People. Jesus was being claimed and redeemed in this ritual presentation. In the same way, each child brought to our churches for Baptism increases our family of faith. And, like Simeon and Anna, we welcome those children and proclaim the wonder of their lives as they’re presented to God.

At the end of our lives, we will be brought forth once more to be presented to God in the funeral Mass of the Resurrection. We will be welcomed into eternity with wonder and awe. What we do between those two presentations will determine how much we ourselves are in the right place at the right time.


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Rose Philippine Duchesne: Born in Grenoble, France, of a family that was among the new rich, Philippine learned political skills from her father and a love of the poor from her mother. The dominant feature of her temperament was a strong and dauntless will, which became the material—and the battlefield—of her holiness. She entered the convent at 19 and remained despite their opposition. As the French Revolution broke, the convent was closed, and she began taking care of the poor and sick, opened a school for homeless children and risked her life helping priests in the underground. 
<p>When the situation cooled, she personally rented her old convent, now a shambles, and tried to revive its religious life. The spirit was gone, and soon there were only four nuns left. They joined the infant Society of the Sacred Heart, whose young superior, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, would be her lifelong friend. In a short time Philippine was a superior and supervisor of the novitiate and a school. But her ambition, since hearing tales of missionary work in Louisiana as a little girl, was to go to America and work among the Indians. At 49, she thought this would be her work. With four nuns, she spent 11 weeks at sea en route to New Orleans, and seven weeks more on the Mississippi to St. Louis. She then met one of the many disappointments of her life. The bishop had no place for them to live and work among Native Americans. Instead, he sent her to what she sadly called "the remotest village in the U.S.," St. Charles, Missouri. With characteristic drive and courage, she founded the first free school for girls west of the Mississippi. </p><p>It was a mistake. Though she was as hardy as any of the pioneer women in the wagons rolling west, cold and hunger drove them out—to Florissant, Missouri, where she founded the first Catholic Indian school, adding others in the territory. "In her first decade in America, Mother Duchesne suffered practically every hardship the frontier had to offer, except the threat of Indian massacre—poor lodging, shortages of food, drinking water, fuel and money, forest fires and blazing chimneys, the vagaries of the Missouri climate, cramped living quarters and the privation of all privacy, and the crude manners of children reared in rough surroundings and with only the slightest training in courtesy" (Louise Callan, R.S.C.J., <i>Philippine Duchesne</i>). </p><p>Finally at 72, in poor health and retired, she got her lifelong wish. A mission was founded at Sugar Creek, Kansas, among the Potawatomi. She was taken along. Though she could not learn their language, they soon named her "Woman-Who-Prays-Always." While others taught, she prayed. Legend has it that Native American children sneaked behind her as she knelt and sprinkled bits of paper on her habit, and came back hours later to find them undisturbed. She died in 1852 at the age of 83 and was canonized in 1988.</p> American Catholic Blog It was important for some saints to vanish from view, to “decrease” so that God could “increase” in the scheme of things. Many saints actively fought promotions. If obedience required embracing them, they found other ways to remain lowly.

 
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