“For Your Husband Is Your Maker”
by Sr. Charista Maria Lottinger
“Wear the ring that marks you as Brides of Christ,” Bishop Louis Kihneman pronounced June 6th as part of the canonical rite in receiving the vows of Sr. Mary Clare Wax and myself, (Sr. Charista Maria) as Canon 603 Hermits, within our MOME (Missionaries of Our Mother of the Eucharist ) Way of Life.
If anyone is struggling with the grave scandals and divisions apparent within our Church in these dark times; may our testimony bring you hope and consolation that the Holy Spirit is alive and working powerfully through the authentic hierarchy of Bishops and Priests who serve us.
We both experienced profound graces flowing through the presence and hands of our beloved Shepherd, Bishop Louis, as he received our vows and blessed us under the umbrella and protection of Holy Mother Church.”
Though each of us have been under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as brides of Christ for about 30 years (at times public in other communities, at times private); we have said yes to “a call within a call,” as St. Mother Teresa described it. Now we are hermits within the consecrated life, devoting our lives “to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.” (Canon 603)
“For your husband is your Maker,” (Is 54:5)… “I will betroth you to me forever,” (Hosea 2:19).
We have fallen in love with Jesus Christ, and chosen, not an earthly spouse, but to begin living wholeheartedly the espousal union with God, to which all Baptized Christians are ultimately called. But our special calling doesn’t stop with us; it is meant to be a witness of the invitation to us all, to begin living the ‘wedding feast of the Lamb’ (cf Rev 21) here on earth, no matter what one’s vocation.
We, as Church, are all called to be His Bride. When we are baptized, we are invited into profound communion of life with the indwelling presence of our Triune God; and our reception of Him in Holy Communion is meant to be a consummation of our Baptismal vows, where we enter into nuptial union, a one flesh union, with Jesus our Bridegroom.
Sr. Mary Clare shared after her vow day, “Just as Spouses go on a honeymoon vacation after their nuptial vows, I feel in my heart that Jesus would desire to do this with me. Years ago, when I was not yet a Consecrated Religious, I used to imagine a honeymoon in Venice, Italy with my husband and I in a Gondola, slowly making it’s way through the waters of Venice and me being serenaded by my husband. So I began to talk to my beloved Spouse, Jesus, about this. I then began to imagine He and I in a gondola going through the living waters of His love in His Sacred Heart, and then my beloved Jesus serenading me! This was so profound to me and may sound crazy to others, but it is a reality that Jesus desires to do with all of us! Jesus desires a spiritual intimacy (into-me-see) with each and everyone of us!”
DIFFERENT FORMS OF CONSECRATED LIFE
Many Catholics are not aware of the various forms of consecrated life within the Church. They see big religious communities as the only way. But the Father of Monasticism is St. Anthony of the Desert (251-356), who was a hermit. In the early centuries of the Church, many who felt called to give their lives to God in a special way became hermits. Some hermits remained in small groups (lauras), which MOME Hermits are living; others went off alone.
“We are not running away from the world as many might think, but running to something greater,” Sr. Mary Clare shared, “and His Name is Jesus!”
Some today can hear the word hermit and think of a recluse in the woods who doesn’t like people, or has had a hard time in life and wants to escape reality and responsibility; when in fact the opposite is true. An authentic calling to the eremitical life is for one to have a burning love for God as Spouse, and for all of humanity as spiritual children, and within this to have a desire to be a “living sacrifice.” As Abba Joseph, an early desert father, explains it, a hermit is not only called to strive to fan the flames of a life of ever greater love, prayer and sacrifice for God and all of humanity, but to actually “become fire.”
St. Mary Magdalene, according to tradition, became a hermit during the last 30 years of her life, living in a cave in St. Baume, France. St. John the Baptist as well was a hermit. And the Blessed Virgin Mary is considered to have lived the eremitcal life in particular after the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, which is why we named the Cloistered part of our property Ephesus.
OUR LIFE AND MISSION
As MOME Canon 603 Hermits, our life is one set apart for much prayer, solitude and penance. At the center of which is Jesus present in the Most Holy Eucharist. Also central to our spirituality and way of life is a living wholeheartedly our consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Our rule mentions:
“It is only to the degree that we seek to live our Baptismal Vows of communion of life with our Triune God with and through Mary, that we can live it wholeheartedly.”
As well, our rule states,
“Our primary hermitage is the Heart of Mary, in which we seek to dwell all the days of our lives, wherein we encounter the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to the full.”
Our primary ministry is prayer, from which flows writing and producing videos: to invite others into the great riches of the Catholic faith, and to encourage a response to Pope St. John Paul the Great in his words at the dawn of this New Millennium to “Put out into the deep.”
We also have a small Hermitage Retreat property available for those interested in silent retreats; in particular catering to priests and religious looking for a set apart place of quiet. As well, we have a weekly Marian/Eucharistic Prayer Cenacle every Saturday, open to the public, where we pray especially for the Pope, Bishops and priests (in particular Bishop Louis and the Diocese of Biloxi); and periodic days of retreat for the lay faithful who are interested in fostering and nourishing their spiritual life. For more information on retreats write to: RETREATSatMOME@GMAIL.COM.
LIFE OF PENANCE AND PRAYER
The Church in the West is much less familiar with the profound graces that flow from living a more ascetic or penitential way of life; but this we are called to do in order to transcend the natural and foster our spiritual life of union with God. The Eastern Church has continued on the tradition of the early Christians in the way of penance and austerity.
As St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “The contemplatives and ascetics of all ages and religions have sought God in the silence and solitude of the desert, forest, and mountains. Jesus himself spent forty days in the desert and the mountains, communing for long hours with the Father in the silence of the night.”
We in the west have been admonished again and again from Heaven to do penance, to fast, to let go of attachments to this world, and of course pray; whether through Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of La Salette, Our Lady of America and other approved apparitions.
Fostering a disciplined and penitential life is essential for all Christians, but especially for us as hermits. In our writings and videos as well, we look forward to encouraging among the faithful a greater awareness of Church teaching regarding prayer, penance, solitude, silence and communion with God; especially as has been past down by the early Desert Fathers and Mothers, as well as many Saints through the Centuries.
Following is Canon 603 which we have professed to live :
§1. Besides institutes of Consecrated Life, the Church recognizes the eremitic or anchoritic life by which the Christian faithful devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.
§2. A hermit is recognized in the law as one dedicated to God in a Consecrated Life if he or she publicly professes the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of the diocesan bishop and observes his or her own plan of life under his direction.
Why the name change? Some have asked.
Changing one’s name has been a fairly common practice in Christianity through the ages; beginning with St. Peter’s name being changed from Simon, to further emphasize his specific call and mission (ie. Peter means “rock”). St. Paul’s name was changed from Saul.; and, the many saints through the years, including St. Francis, whose Baptismal name was John. Not to mention the Old Testament name changes.
While Sr. Mary Clare of the Holy Eucharist will keep her name, which changed from Delaine Ann by Mother Angelica many years ago, due to her special devotion to our Holy Mother Mary, St. Clare and the Holy Eucharist; my religious name has changed from Sr. Lilla Marie to Sr. Charista Maria of the Holy Trinity. Many years ago some holy sisters had come up with this name for me because they were aware of my strong devotion to the Eucharist and Mary. I had presented it back then (almost 30 years ago) to my Reverend Mother, but she chose to keep my baptismal name when I initially made vows with the Franciscan Sisters, T.O.R., Community out of Steubenville, OH.
I have been inspired to change my name because it so depicts the deepest core of my spirituality. I long to become one with Christ as a “living host”, through my communion with Him in the Holy Eucharist, which I know can only come about more deeply in and through the Heart of Mary. Thus, “Charista” is taken from Eucharist, and of course “Maria” is our Holy Mother. I long to lift up, honor and anchor onto these two great pillars of our faith, which leads me to ever-deeper union with the Holy Trinity who dwell within us through Baptism when we are in a state of grace.
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“I spread My cloak over you … I pledged Myself to you, entered into a covenant with you, and you became Mine, declares the Lord GOD” ( Ez 16:8).