Father Simeon Daly, OSB - Finding Grace in the Moment: Stories and other Musings of an Aged Monk


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Sister Mary Charboneau, IHM
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Sr. Mary Charboneau was an important woman in my life. I met her when I was 13 years old in 1935. We became fast friends and remained so until her death in the mid-80s. I loved her with a tender affection and she responded in kind. I had preached for her 50 years of commitment and was ask by her to preside at her funeral.

The Gospel reading for the funeral Mass was from Luke 24:13-35.

You know Sister Mary chose this text we have just read from the Gospel of Luke. She made that choice in a season of long and cold nights of personal discomfort. It fit hand in glove with the Gospel for the day she died. She could not have known. In any case, she chose well. If we take a few moments to reflect on this passage, we may not evoke the full meaning she intended, but I think we will be able to see its appropriateness for this occasion and come to appreciate at least some of the reasons she has asked to have it read tonight.

The encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus and what follows is surely one of the most charming and touching stories about Jesus, certainly of the resurrection stories. Here we see two disconsolate disciples trudging along the seven-mile road from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Disillusioned and disappointed, they hardly noted the stranger who joined them. They did not recognize him even when He opened the meaning of the Scripture to them. They invited Him to supper. It is likely that they were a married couple, Cleophas and his wife. At table in the breaking of the bread, they recognized Him. After He had gone, they recalled to each other how their hearts were on fire as He had expounded the scripture. So excited were they at the momentous realization, which they were now able to absorb, they rushed back the seven miles to Jerusalem to tell the others. There they heard of the other appearances of Jesus to the disciples and they told their exciting story of their encounter with Jesus along the road to Emmaus, and how He walked with them and shared a meal with them.

I believe Sister Mary would be partial to this story because she believed very deeply that Jesus is present in our encounters with one another. Sometimes He reveals Himself to us through the other; sometimes He reveals Himself to other through us. No encounter is insignificant. Often they are life-giving or life-healing moments in our otherwise deadening, humdrum lives. Many of us here will be forever grateful to Mary for being present to us in just such moments. Sharing this Scripture is her way of thanking us for our loving presence to her through the years and her way of urging us to be mindful of the presence of Jesus even in the seemingly insignificant encounters of our lives.

Perhaps more to the point, Sister Mary would have chosen this text because it foreshadows and reflects the reality of our liturgical assemblies and especially our Eucharistic liturgy. We all know how fully she entered into the meaning of our worship. She was a thanksgiving person. She focused all her energies toward making our worship authentic and responsible. Her musical contributions were not self-aggrandizing or even simply aesthetic interludes. She used her musical talent to enhance the celebration, to provide responses to readings and to nurture the faith experience taking place. The disciples on the road had the Scripture laid open before them and they shared bread with Jesus at table. We in our Mass have both the Liturgy of the Word and the liturgy of the Eucharist, which is completed in the sharing of His Body and Blood from the table of the Lord. I think this is a further and more cogent reason for Mary’s choosing this text for us tonight. This one last time she speaks to us. This one last time she teaches us to strive to deepen our appreciation for word and sacrament. She teaches us to find in these things, as she did, an encounter with the living God. It is difficult to let go. There are so many things—even very personal things—each of us might like to say at this time. My own fond memories of Mary go back 50 years, even into this chapel. Not too many months ago, there were rounds of celebrations for Mary’s 50 years of service to the Lord and His church. At that time, she was overwhelmed by the many signs of love, respect and appreciation that were heaped on her from every side. How grateful we can all be that we took the time to do the things we did. The consolation of those hours helped her face the soul-shaking weeks and months just past. She bore them in peace, looking forward with joy to a new life with Jesus, regretting only that she must leave us behind for a time. She passed through that narrow gate now, and who can even imagine what our loving Savior has had in store for her. We will miss her, but we must believe that she is with her God. For our part, we can do no better, here in this sacred space where she labored for most of her life, we can do no better, than to encounter Jesus in word and sacrament in the sharing of these Scriptures and the breaking of the bread. And then, perhaps, we too will be able to say, as did the couple on the road to Emmaus: “Were not our hearts aglow as we did these things!”

May she rest in peace.

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