The 20th century was a time of extremes. No year passed with - out conflict, turmoil and devastation. The 20th century began with World War I, the first war between several world powers across multiple continents. It ended with war in Vietnam and in the Persian Gulf. And, in between, the horrible genocides in Turkey, Germany, Russia, Cambodia and Rwanda.
Yet, those very same years witnessed great strides for the common good. The League of Nations gave birth to the United Nations. Salk successfully produced a polio vaccine. And the vacuum cleaner, the dryer, and the refrigerator — household appliances that we take for granted today — first began to appear.
At the very beginning of these years, when science was giving birth to optimism and humankind was bent on destroying its own future, God was secretly at work. He was at work preparing a way to show us, close at hand, what is most important, what makes for true progress and lasting happiness. He was raising up Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a young girl of the Ruthenian rite, to be a light along our Christian journey.
Sister Miriam belongs to that circle of chosen souls whom God himself elects for special graces, not merely for themselves, but for all his people. When she was born in 1901, the very year Marconi received the first telegraph signal, God was preparing her to show us the way to be in constant conversation with him through prayer. And, by the time she died in 1927, the year Lindbergh made the first flight between America and Europe, she had left behind, both in her life and in writings, the lesson that doing God’s will in all things bridges the distance between heaven and earth.
Miriam lived within the shadows of one of the world’s greatest cities. The world did not shine its spotlight on her ordinary, hidden life. But, heaven embraced her in divine light, lifting her to visions too great for human striving.
The Church is slow, patiently slow, in making saints. But, not God, who calls all to holiness. Sister Miriam Teresa’s life spanned only 26 years. From her entrance into the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth at Convent Station until her death, only 28 months. But, God does not need much time to draw us to himself, only our will to please him in all things.
Sister Miriam once said that “the saints did but one thing – the will of God. But they did it with all their might.” And this, Sister Miriam Teresa herself did. Whether absorbed in prayer, teaching in the classroom, scrubbing floors or, in obedience to her confessor, writing the spiritual conferences now known as Greater Perfection, she was careful never to offend God and to serve him by knowing and doing his will. Filled with the knowledge of Sacred Scripture, she anticipated the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on the Word of God as the source of authentic spirituality.
Just one month before she died, Sister Miriam Teresa became a professed member of the Sisters of Charity at Convent Station. She was joy-filled to be a member of a community whose members, by their zeal and dedication to God and their ardent love of neighbor, make Christ’s charity real in the lives of so many. Through their apostolates of education, health care and social work, the gospel the Church preaches continues to become deed in the lives of the needy.
In his all-wise Providence, God chose to entrust Sister Miriam Teresa to the Sisters of Charity and to grace her with mystical visions and deep insights to show that, only with prayer, can we, the branches, bear much fruit; to show us that union with God is the source for all we do in Jesus’ name; and, even more importantly, to show us, as she herself once wrote, that “Union with God…is the spiritual height God calls everyone to achieve — any one, not only religious but any one, … who says ‘yes’ constantly to God.” By God’s grace, she knew and understood; she spoke and lived, the universal call to holiness, later to be formally taught by the Second Vatican Council. For, as Sister Miriam Teresa teaches, “The imitation of Christ in the lives of saints is always possible and compatible with every state of life.”
At a time when many would like a religion without creeds and a faith without commitment, God is giving us a new Blessed whose total commitment to Christ and his Church in poverty, chastity and obedience, led her not simply to know the truth, but to know and love and embrace him who is Truth itself.
In our secularized age that shuns solicitude and silence, God is giving us, from among those who leave the world to be with Christ, a new Blessed who was, in the words spoken at her death, a living “monstrance that silently showed forth Our Lord to all that passed by.”
At a time when humankind is still capable of the noble, the loving and the compassionate and yet still responsible for the ugly, the brutal and the barbaric, at a time when we need to rediscover the wellsprings of all goodness, God is giving us a new Blessed who recalls us to the truth that, by baptism, the Most Holy Trinity dwells within our souls: a Blessed who reminds us that, when we live in such a way that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit remain within us, we find true joy in this world and the next.
Blessed Miriam Teresa, pray for us!
Special thanks to Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Brooklyn Diocese whose New Evangelization Television (NET), part of the communications arm of the Diocese of Brooklyn, provided live coverage and streaming of the Beatification Mass for Blessed Sister Miriam Teresa Demjanovich Oct. 4 in the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark.