A momentous event took place recently in the heart of the United States. Rosalind Moss, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, was named foundress of a new institute of apostolic life, the Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope, which will follow the age-old Rule of St. Benedict. Her name in religion is now Mother Miriam of the Lamb of God, and her vows were received by His Excellency Edward Slattery, the bishop of Tulsa, Okla., in whose diocese her community will live.
In his address, the bishop noted, “From Apostolic times, unmarried women and widows have sought to imitate the Daughter of Sion, the Blessed Virgin Mary in her unconditional surrender to the will of the Father and the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit.” So with Mary as their model, Mother Miriam and her companions will follow the path of countless other women over the many centuries, those who have given all in order to follow the Bridegroom.
But the bishop’s subsequent words show that there’s more than just a pattern for consecrated souls. Women of God, he noted, “observe Anna, the Daughter of Phanuel, who gave thanks to the Lord and spoke of Him to all who were looking for the redemption of Israel;” he also referenced St. Lioba, who evangelized Northern Europe in the eighth century, St. Frances of Rome who served the poor, the sick and the lonely in the 15th century — and countless other women who committed themselves to “apostolic works of evangelization, to the consolidation of family life, and to the promotion of a Catholic culture of goodness, beauty, truth and life.”
And yet, don’t all Catholic women have opportunities to do those very things? We begin in our homes — consolidating what is good in the heart our own families; we embrace what is beautiful, while shunning what is harsh or evil, dangerous or deadly. We share the faith in our own creative ways, and we do all that is possible to promote authentic culture amidst a world that is constantly bewildered and dazzled by counterfeits.
The feminine vocation allows us to do this through both our physical and spiritual motherhood. The first receives particular human persons entrusted to us by God’s creative love, and the second expands our hearts to receive all people in our path — from those we encounter for the briefest of moments to those with whom we share lifelong bonds.
For her part, Rosalind asked to be clothed as a religious so that she might “appear outwardly, in the sight of angels and of men, as an image of the Church, Virgin, Spouse, and Mother, and as one whose heart belongs to the Lamb alone in a covenant of bridal love.” And in that way she was clothed for life in her own distinct garb — a long black habit with scapular and veil. She will forever be easily recognized as a bride of her Lord and King.
So what about the rest of us? Our work is more visible in some ways, and less in others. We may be more integrated with the world, but with that integration we remain hidden for other reasons — being less distinct and often less focused on God. Our vocation is to prioritize our faith and to use that integration for the good — to enhance the beauty of the world, and to nurture truth and life. As gifted as Mother Miriam has been in her many years of discernment, God has been no less generous with us. It remains for each woman to find her path of service in the vineyard of the Lord.
[The Anchor 9.16.11]