Yesterday I said a jubilee Mass for Loreto sisters, the nuns who are responsible for the Loreto colleges in Hulme and Altrincham. Sister Therese was celebrating 60 years as a nun. She used to be a university chaplain here in Manchester – three years at The University of Manchester and six at Manchester Metropolitan University. She still lives in Hulme. At the service an extract from Mary Ward, the Loreto sisters’ foundress, was read.
Mary Ward, a 17th century Englishwoman, had taken a vow to enter a strict Poor Clare’s convent, should her spiritual director continue to advise this. One morning she had a two-hour vision, apparently while she was doing up her hair. God insisted she should do something different or more; something which would give greater glory to God. This “something more” was not disclosed at this time. Eventually she became one of the first women to found an order which worked outside of enclosed convent structures. Her nuns taught in schools, worked in parishes and gave retreats.
What interested me was this “something more that would give greater glory to God”. Foremost now in her discernment was not “what does God want me to do?” but “how can greater glory be given to God”; less focus on self; more on God.
God is wonderfully glorified in today’s Acts of the Apostles. The Apostles have filled Jerusalem with their teaching. Peter proclaims “The crucified Jesus has now been raised up: he is our leader; our saviour. Obedience to God comes before obedience to men”. Yet this is the same Peter who in today’s Gospel appears unfocussed (“I’m going fishing” – why wasn’t he thinking about preaching the Good News in Jerusalem?). However, in Acts Peter has clearly found a new ally: the Holy Spirit; “we and the Holy Spirit”. Not the words now of a disorientated man. The miracle of the 153 fish, a clincher for fishermen, the magic of breakfast on the beach and a charcoal fire, the kind and consoling best of hosts – the risen Lord – turn fickle disciples into powerful apostles. The Acts of the Apostles is a wonderful witness to the mighty deeds done to glorify God. Glorifying God need not be difficult. It means doing what we do daily as best we can, whatever our work or study is, always recognising that the gift of life, like all good gifts, come from the Creator.
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Ian Tomlinson SJ