That I May Be a Sign to Others That Christ Has Come
There is a story told from the annals of World War II of a little boy who asked a soldier if he was God. At the end of that horrible war, much of Europe was left in complete ruins, a tragedy we see echoed in Ukraine today. Streets, cities, even homes were complete rubble as children wandered through them looking for food and water.
One day, a soldier was driving his jeep through an unrecognizable street in London and spotted a little boy looking through the window of a bakery just as the baker was setting up a tray of freshly made doughnuts, most likely wishing he could have one.
The soldier went into the bakery, bought a dozen doughnuts, came out and gave them to the hungry-looking boy and said, “Here, I bought these for you.” The boy’s eyes widened as he accepted the bag. At the same time, the soldier began to return to his jeep when he felt a tug on his uniform. As he turned, the little boy asked him: “Mister, are you God?”
What made the boy ask this question of the soldier? Simply put, the love in the soldier’s heart that prompted him to be kind to someone in need.
This same question can be asked of Blessed Mary of Jesus the Good Shepherd, foundress of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth, who was beatified on this day, April 23, 1989. Hundreds of children, adults and families of all races and backgrounds who crossed her path throughout her religious life might ask that same question: “Sister, are you God?”
Scripture teaches us that we are made in the image and likeness of God. In fact, many theologians tell us “God is within everyone and everything”. And so, Blessed Mary continuously reminded her sisters that “the Kingdom of God is within you”.
To be beatified means to be recognized as a person who lived a holy life through not only prayer but hardships, deep faith, and trust in God’s will in everyday ordinary living. Throughout her life, Blessed Mary sought to serve God in her sisters, in the places she founded convents, schools, hospitals, and everywhere she went. In particular, Blessed Mary showed great sensitivity towards abandoned children. She did all in her power to protect them, help them develop, and give them a home. She even adopted two young orphan girls who, as adults, kept contact with the Sisters.
“Sister, are you God?”
This question likely resonated with children who Blessed Mary found. Blessed Mary adopted or simply cared for children who were found wandering about the streets, those left at the convent door, those brought to them by their parents who could not care for them, and those she went on to adopt.
Blessed Mary and the Sisters gave the children a stable home, an education, and made efforts to place them in homes where they would be taken care of with the basic necessities of life.
I hope this reflection on the love and kindness, care and concern of Blessed Mary for all God’s people shows that she is a sign to others that God was within her. She certainly was what Fr. Richard Rohr calls the “imago Dei” Sister, are you God?
Sister Celeste Hupert, CSFN