by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
On Saturday, Sep. 14 — the solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross — I dedicated the Lumen Christi (“Light of Christ”) Monastery in Kansas City, Kan.
It is amazing that only a little over five years since the arrival of the Little Sisters of the Lamb, a Little Monastery has been built in the heart of Kansas City, Kan.
I am grateful for the warm welcome the people of the archdiocese have ex- tended to the Little Sisters of the Lamb. Their radical simplicity, their complete reliance on God’s provi- dence, the beauty and care with which they celebrate the liturgy, and their infectious joy have endeared the Little Sisters to the people of the archdiocese.
When the Little Sisters arrived, the archdiocese gave them the site of the former St. Benedict Church, which had been demolished. The only building remaining from the former parish campus was the rectory. On the positive side, the former rectory was spacious. On the other hand, it was
in need of major repairs. It was what some might call a “fixer-upper.”
Upon their arrival, the Little Sisters went to the local parish of All Saints to introduce themselves to their neighbors and fellow parishioners. Immediately, a group of dedicated volun- teers sprang into action to help the Sisters clean, paint, and renovate the old rectory to make it a suitable convent for the Little Sisters. Through articles in The Leaven as well as their visits to parishes, many others befriended the Little Sisters.
Though the Little Sisters and their new Kansas friends did a remarkable job renovating the former rectory, the building was just not well suited long term for the contemplative dimension of the charism of the Little Sisters. Little Sister Marie, the foundress of the community, understood for the Little Sisters to persevere in living their call to mendicancy — trusting completely in divine providence and beggars pro- claiming the good news of Jesus — they needed to have a very strong personal and communal prayer life.
The cloister of the Little Monastery will provide the Little Sisters with a space that is conducive to prayer, reflection and study. The cloister will be a place for the Little Sisters to allow the Lord to regenerate the fire of his love in their hearts so that when they go out on mission they will be able to bring the light of Christ to everyone they encounter.
The solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is a very special feast for the Community of the Lamb. In 1975, during her prayer for the vigil of this feast, Jesus spoke to Little Sister Marie’s heart, making clear to her that the cross and only the cross was the path to conquering evil and to making peace possible in our own hearts and in the world.
From the cross, Jesus did not curse or condemn those who inflicted this terrible injustice. Jesus actually interceded for his executioners, praying: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.
Our Lord promised the repentant thief: This day you will be with me in paradise. From the cross, Jesus entrusted Mary to the care of the Apostle John, while entrusting John and, through him, all the disciples to the maternal care of Mary. From the cross, Jesus was not absorbed with his own suffering, but attempting to care for those around him.
The wounded Jesus, the crucified Lamb of God, never ceased to love. This was the inspiration for what became the motto for the Community of the Lamb: “Wounded, I will never cease to love.”
The Little Monastery has been placed under the patronage of St. Agnes, one of the early virgin martyrs of the church, whose name is a derivative of the Latin word for lamb. St. Agnes is typically portrayed in art as holding a lamb in her arms.
During one of Little Sister Marie’s visits to the United States, one of the friends of the community, who works for the United Nations, gave her a tour of the U.N. headquarters in New York. At the United Nations, there is a statue of St. Agnes.
The Community of the Lamb strives to draw upon the beautiful liturgical and spiritual traditions of both the East and the West. The artwork adorning their chapels are icons — beautiful painted depictions of Our Lord, the saints, and the events of salvation history that are an expression of the prayer of the artist. Usually, the Little Sisters do not have statues.
However, in the chapel of the Little Monastery here in Kansas, there is a small alcove that contains a statue of St. Agnes. It was created by a South American friend of the community, whose name is Inez — Spanish for Agnes. It is modeled upon the U.N. statue. The following is a meditation composed by Little Sister Marie, found on the back of a prayer card with the image of the statue of St. Agnes:
“The statue of St. Agnes exposed today in the U.N. was found face down on the ground in the Catholic Cathedral of Nagasaki, which was entirely destroyed in the aftermath of the nuclear explosion of Aug. 9, 1945.
“In the midst of the ruins, she embraced the Lamb, set as a seal upon her heart, as a seal upon her arm.
“The Lamb victorious over all evil, even over nuclear fire itself, intact in the arms of Agnes.
“Christians, may we traverse the world, holding the Lamb close to our hearts. Then, no darkness, no hellfire, can defeat the divine tenderness that created us, consoles us and recreates us and that darkness cannot overcome.”
With war and violence scarring so many parts of the world today, particularly in Syria, and the possibility of the civil war there escalating into a world conflict, may we pray fervently for peace to Jesus, the Lamb of God, who from the cross revealed the only path to enduring peace — wounded, never ceasing to love.