Didn’t realize it at the time, but I actually got to celebrate the feast of Christ the King a little early this year.
There was something special – something very much “thin time” – about the few moments that Gerri and I spent wandering about the cemetery at the Adorers Motherhouse in Ruma, IL, on Monday.
We’d gone there on a whim. Heading back from Chester (where I’d spent the past few days serving at Menard on a Kairos Prison Ministry team), we drove right through Ruma. We were halfway through town (and if you’ve been to Ruma, you know that it takes hardly any time at all to get halfway through it!) when Gerri said she’d like to go back to the Motherhouse some day.
“Why not today?” I said. A quick U-turn later, and we found ourselves driving up the inviting tree-lined drive…to a place Gerri hadn’t been to since she was a little kid. She was last there as a six-year-old, maybe. Visiting her great aunts.
Get this: A whopping total of five of her grandmother’s sisters were members of the community there – Sr. Frances Grus ASC, Sr. Mary Mildred Grus ASC, Sr. Marcella Grus ASC, Sr. Virgilia Grus ASC and Sr. Walburga Grus ASC.
I knew Sister Virgilia a little, and I may have met Sister Mary Mildred once or twice back in the day. But for the most part, these holy women were strangers to me. I asked Gerri if they’d all been teachers – and she said some were, but others she thought had worked in healthcare settings.
And that’s the thing that blessed me most deeply, I think. It turned into a “Christ the King” moment for me when my morning prayer led me to this passage from Zechariah (9: 9-10):
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem. The warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
A strange, strange King this turns out to be.
A King who doesn’t seem to be the least bit interested in power or warfare or hierarchy. An almost unrecognizable King, by the world’s standards.
When I meditated on the lives of the Grus Sisters (and when I thought back to the blessed times I’d been in Sister Virgilia’s company), I realized something important: They would have had no trouble at all in recognizing this King. They rode with him, every day of their lives. They rode into the warzone…they traversed a deeply broken world…mounted on donkeys – and bearing no weapon other than their love of Christ.
A small (but not insignificant) part of me is grieved by this image – to confess how much the sin of sexism afflicts my Church. How we tend to marginalize the voices of women in our dialogue – on almost every matter of substance. How we persist in using incredibly sexist language in almost all of our liturgical forms. I could go on, and on.
But then, I remember Sister Virgilia’s smiling face, her deep-seated joy.
And I can almost hear her saying to me, “You really have to let this bitterness go, John.
“Yes, thank you for recognizing the sin of sexism. Thank you for speaking about it. Do what you can to change it. But don’t give it dominion over your heart.
“Follow me, as I followed Jesus. Often anonymously…and seemingly, without any access to power.”
“Let me introduce you to the Jesus I know,” Sister Virgilia says. “And together, we’ll continue working to transform hearts and heal a broken world.”
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.