As our young people embrace the Faith of our Fathers, the Church will be in good hands, very good hands indeed.
TUCSON, AZ (Catholic Online) - Yesterday morning, I met my friend Fernando Cuevas at morning mass, and told him that as My Dear Wife and I had to leave for Canada in a few days, we would like to get together with them so that I could complete the articles that I was writing about them for this series on Ordinary Heroes. A couple of hours later, we decided to have lunch together and 9 hours after that, life might never be the same.
Fernando and his wife Virginia came by our motor home to pick us up for lunch, and off we went. During lunch I asked them the questions that I had to complete the articles that I was writing about them, and slowly discovered more than I had imagined about their journey of faith, but you will have to wait for that story.
Near the end of lunch, Fernando and Virginia had a little tête-à-tête, and then Virginia asked us how busy we were for the afternoon. As we were flexible, an adventure began. About 3 hours later, we found ourselves at Our Lady of the Sierras Shrine in Sierra Vista, AZ. Virginia´s excitement to come and see her "Mommy" as she calls Our Blessed Mother was infectious, and we were immediately struck by the spiritual beauty of the place. We spent an hour there as the sun was preparing to set, visiting the chapel, praying the Stations of the Cross, and admiring the statues of Mary, the Cross there, and the beautiful view of the area. As we prepared to leave, Virginia suggested that we go over to the Diocesan retreat house, La Purisima Retreat Center, nearby, where the youth of Our Lady of Fatima were on retreat to prepare for the Sacrament of Confirmation. We arrived there after dinner was completed and the youth were moving on to their activities. We were warmly welcomed at the kitchen door, by the adults who were there to assist with feeding the youth. Fernando and Virginia had helped out often with these retreats, which are run by their son Antony and daughter-in-law Deanna.
We were invited to eat dinner with these folks, and as we were about to sit down and eat, Virginia spotted a young woman, she had not seen in 3 ½ years, who she embraced warmly, and who then joined us. At that moment, everything changed. Although there were about a dozen people in the room, I have no recollection of there being anyone present but My Dear Wife, Fernando and Virginia, and Sister Chiara Linker. Ruth Linker, now Sister Chiara, had known our friends since her teen years; she is now 24. She had been raised in Three Points AZ, a short hop west from Tucson, had gone to school there and had felt a calling in her heart to something more. She thought she would get married and have a family. She was active in her school, dating young men, enjoying life, but there was more. Eventually, she stopped dating so that she could be more attentive to something that was calling inside of her. After high school, this young woman who had seldom been out of the county she was raised in, was drawn to take a trip to Franciscan University of Steubenville. After arriving, she was introduced to a particular young woman, and soon in her heart, she knew that she needed to talk to her. So like so many of us, she resisted this urging for several days. Finally, the die was cast and she could no longer sit back. As they spoke, this young woman´s story of her search for her vocation mirrored Ruth´s own story up to that time.
This young woman was on her way with a car load of friends to visit the Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth at their monastery near Scranton, Pennsylvania. Ruth felt that she needed to join them, but the car was already full, and so she resolved that it was not to be. But, as the group was preparing to leave, and as she was starting to think about returning to her home in Arizona, one young woman had to pull out for personal reasons. Suddenly, there was a spot in the car for her, and off she went. She fell in love with the place, and the people there, and above all, even deeper in love with the Lord. Not too long after that Ruth returned home to Arizona, got ready and then entered the Novitiate at the monastery. She was given the name Sister Chiara, which is Italian for Clare, the actual name of St Clare, the compatriot of St. Francis. She spent the next 3 ½ years at the monastery, and is preparing for her first vows in another year or so. She hopes that her final vows will come a few years after that. But yesterday, she was back in Arizona, visiting for a while and praying, and helping out in the kitchen at the Parish retreat for the young people. As she shared her faith journey with some candour, and much enthusiasm, she glowed with the love of Christ that was in her. I looked over at Fernando, Virginia and My Dear Wife, Christina. They were all glowing as well. I saw to the side on a wall, the Divine Mercy picture of Jesus, and knew that we were in His presence and that we were His Body here on earth. The glow that I saw, I saw not with my physical eyes, but with the eyes of my heart. This precious young woman, Sister Chiara, has embraced a call put on her heart many years ago by Our Dear Saviour to a life of contemplation, and prayer, and service to her fellow man. This is not the call that many young women hear, or answer. Yet, she is choosing to walk the road less travelled, a road that leads to the foot of the Cross.
She told us of days of Hermitage that she undertakes as part of the Order, days to grow closer to the Lord in nature, in the model of Sts. Clare and Francis. She told us of things she misses back home, of the temptations that assail her in her journey, but most of all, she shared with us the Love of God that she carries with her. As our time to depart arrived, she asked us to pray for her, and I ask you, dear reader, to remember Sister Chiara in your prayers as well. She told us that she too would be praying for us, and some prayer burdens that I have been carrying in my own heart were made lighter as she made that commitment to us. I am reminded of the words that Julian of Norwich said she was told by God: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." As our young people embrace the Faith of our Fathers, the Church will be in good hands, very good hands indeed. I was blind Lord, but now I can see. Help me Lord, to see you, with the eyes of the gift of Faith you have given me, in those I encounter, and to be inspired to draw ever closer to You in Your Church, Your Body here on Earth.
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