April 18, 2016
Fr. Rafael Alonso Reymundo
"There’s a quote that you all have said many times when suffering is present: “The Lord knows.”"
Fr. Rafael's Homily from the evening Mass, April 18th, 2016, after the earthquake in Ecuador.
The audio is in Spanish, but the English text translation is below the player.
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
The reason we are gathered here in the celebration of the Mass, is to show the Lord our sorrow and at the same time, show him our firm adhesion, even if we don’t understand. There’s a quote that you all have said many times when suffering is present: “The Lord knows.” When there are moments of suffering, you have to make stronger acts of faith, if possible, in God’s holiness, wisdom, and goodness with us. And by making these acts of faith in the Word of God (through St. Paul), “All things work for good for those who love God.” (Rm. 8:28) Right before mass in the sacristy, Fr. Roberto said to me, “Now you’ll see how you’re going to receive many blessings.” To which I responded, “We are already receiving them.”
Suffering is something with which every Christian has to count on. Suffering is healthy… healthy, meaning to say, purifying. It purifies us, it makes us let go of earthly things and makes us raise our eyes to heaven, where our true joys and goods are, which never pass. When the moment of trial comes, we shudder, and in a moment of weakness, the devil takes advantage to discourage us in our heart and say, “See, God isn’t good, if he was good, he wouldn’t let this or that happen.” But this is a very false perception, because it comes from the devil. When one is tempted in this way, you should draw close to the Blessed Mother at the foot the cross, and from her gaze, look to Him who is crucified, and ask ourselves, “God the Father loves his Son? Yes, Infinitely. Then how does he allow this atrocious suffering of his Son, to which he associates the suffering of his mother and she, in her freedom, unites it with the destiny of her Son? Would it not be that we are the ones who can’t understand, or comprehend?
I’ve been saying to you all these past days, a quote from St. Augustine, “Believe, so you may comprehend.” Faith, in a wise God, in a powerful God, in a good God, who has power to rescue our life from death, introduces us into a new comprehension. Jesus, in John 6 says, “He who hears God, the Father, and learns, comes to me.” To learn, is the condition of drawing near to Jesus. Learn the mystery of suffering, of the redemption, and of the cross. When Jesus speaks to his disciples, he says, “He who wants to come after me, may he deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” We are there. We suffer, yes. But despairing? Not at all. Why? Because we believe in the words of Jesus, who entered through the door of death, and we with him enter through that door of death, knowing that after death, it’s not nothing, nor destruction, but if we have faith in the saving power of Jesus and we take seriously the Word of God, he rescues our life from death, especially from the second death, eternal death, from condemnation, because that possibility exists.
Our sisters truly lived in charity, giving themselves entirely, they truly forgot themselves. And one would say, “But what do you base this on?” Let’s see… I’m not saying they didn’t have their weaknesses. I’m saying that they lived in charity because they were united to Christ. They confessed frequently, received communion daily, … Even when there was the flood (last week) when the whole school was flooded and the dirty sewer water that entered even into the chapel, they went to the Church to rescue the Blessed Sacrament, from the parish church, and from their chapel below too, to bring it up to their house. Sr. Estela, when they rescued her, was clinging to the Eucharist. That was the first thing she did when the earthquake hit. She didn’t think first of saving herself, but she went to the chapel to save the Eucharist. That’s how much she loves the Lord. I say “she loves” because fortunately, Sr. Estela is alive, although with a broken ankle and crippled with many contusions and bruises. And our sisters were very frightened because of the shaking of the earth and the aftershocks continue. It certainly causes terror and horror. We've heard testimonies from those who live in Ecuador, and never have they seen the earth tremble like this, nor make such a noise so long and so loud.
Now the situation will probably begin to settle down and it will be a long time before all this can return to a situation of how things were before. But in the midst of all this, the sisters truly lived in charity. For this reason, I'm would not be surprised that the ones who died experienced the Good Shepherd, who went down to the depths where they were buried beneath the rubble and took them by the hand, to take their souls and bring them to heaven. How many times have they heard me say, and all of you as well, that we have to live with the inspiration St. Agnes lived by. She said in her martyrdom “I am going toward you…I am going towards You whom I have loved, sought for, and always desired."
The life of our sisters is now an example for all of us. And mysteriously, we were commenting this amongst ourselves: Mysteriously, the Lord has wanted that the first who have gone to heaven, have been as a foundation of our institution, who have chosen Jesus Christ, and have died in this way, giving their life for others all be young. Because they were there in the school and they could have lived very comfortably. Sr. Clare was a whirlwind of qualities, it was amazing. We're going to show a short video, in her remembrance, of what she was like, how she was, how she sang, what she did, because she always brought us such joy, always, always. Just as Jesus went about doing good, so too did she go about doing good with us. Just as her presence, the way she was, the way she brought joy to our hearts and to the community, so too she brought joy to children as well. And today I think, especially the children will cry. And the little girls. I remember when she was a teacher in the school of Assumption, she had organized a group of children to pray the rosary. And she had a way of doing it, which was so great, splendid, that the children went like little lambs behind her. There's an anecdote that they reminded me of recently: Someone had bought, or I don't know where they got it from, a statue of Mary, very ugly, about this high, that they brought in procession to a tree and there they prayed the rosary there, and it was very ugly. And Sister Clare said she always thought... "How ugly this statue is, I don't know how the kids can pray before this statute." And our Lord and our Blessed Mother gave her a lesson. A little boy came up to her, very excited about that statue, said, "Sr. Clare, you look just like the statue of Mary that we carried in our procession." And she later said, "I was left without words…I couldn't say anything".
Today is a day of joy and sadness at the same time. A joyful day because they're in heaven, I'm sure, because the Lord has come to bring them with Him to heaven, all of them. One of them was a young girl, 15 years old, student of our school. All her life she desired to become a sister. And all the kids wanted to be with her, because, as they said, "She's so good, she's so good". And I've heard even boys who weren't really that good, say, "It's because Valeria, she's just so good". And all wanted to be with her. And this Valeria, who hasn't had an easy life at all, was a little saint, really. They called her, they said of her, "she's St. Dominic Savio's twin". She had said, "I've understood that I have to become holy now, because I have don't have much time to become holy". And she entered as an Aspirant with permission from her grandmother, because it was her grandmother who had custody over her. And in the end, her intuition was correct. The Lord has taken her, so young, being only 15 years old. We have her in our heart, and our sisters are alive, I think. Look, I'm not partial to saying like some people, "Our brother, who is now seeing the face of God..." What do I know? I'm not someone who canonizes people... But I can tell of the life that these girls lived, and the way they lived, and what they reflected in their faces. I believe I'm not mistaken when I say that, and it gives the impression for all the facts that we know, that they're in heaven already or very close to heaven. Even one of them who had a bit of a crazy life before in her youth, and later had gotten things straightened out, has asked to enter, and we, Mother Ana and I, were saying, "Yes, I think it’s time to let her enter". She spent two years hoping to enter as a Servant Sister. I think that she, with this desire so great of wanting to serve the Lord, and this desire wasn't theoretical, but lived in reality, I'm sure she is probably very close to God. Maria Augusta was in the middle of her fourth year of studying Medicine. And she had made the firm decision to live as a Servant Sister. And she had already been a candidate for two or three years, showing the seriousness of her decision. Jazmina was the first one they had found. I would like you to pray for her parents, especially her mother, Lilia. Mother Ana and myself went to visit with her daughter at her house. Her father was in the entrance of the house looking on from a distance. Mother Ana and I were there with the family. Well, Jazmina’s mother has metastatic cancer and she was receiving chemotherapy. And in this situation, with so much suffering, she went to get her daughter’s body to bring her back to Chone to bury her. This is a tremendous situation, a moment of suffering for everyone. These are sorrowful moments, there is no doubt about it. However, it is an opportunity to truly live with an authentic Christian hope. “If we have died with Him, we will also live with Him.” (2 Tim. 2:11) If we enter with Him and through Him, who is the door, then we having nothing to fear. “The Lord is my shepherd...” Therefore, I fear no evil. “He makes me lie down in green pastures…” (Psalm 23)
I ask you to pray as well for all those who remain alive. Mother Ana said to me, "I'm not so worried about those who died as for those who are still living." Put yourselves in their situation: You have built your own home with so much excitement and within a few minutes, everything crumbles to the ground. It's such a great suffering. Then, in the same moment the ones you love die. This is what has happened with the Sisters there. They formed one community. Half of the community died, and the other half is alive. The ones who live on this earth have experienced such a bitter situation, very bitter. One must have compassion for them and support them with our prayer and in anyway that we can. Overall with your prayers. Because the Lord has the power to heal the hearts and heal their wounds. Now, they have to heal. Not only the physical wounds, but also the wounds of the soul that come in the form of fear, horror and terror. Yesterday afternoon there was about 137 aftershocks between 2 and 5 on the Richter scale. One's heart is torn apart just thinking about it, because they were underneath the rubble and at the point of death. Sister Merly, one of the sisters who survived, said she was suffocating. The ones who remained alive are Sister Estela, Sister Merly, and Sister Therese, who was Irish. Guadalupe was an aspirant to be a Servant Sister was only 17 years old. Mercedes who was 21 or 22 years old, also survived.
My daughters, if anyone is ready to go and take their place, well just let us know. Yet, I know that it's useless to say this, because I know that each of you are ready and willing to go there and rebuild the school. There are 400 students who need their "mothers." The Sisters were truly "mothers" to them. There were only 180 students at the time when they were just about to close down the school. Then the Archbishop came and asked us: "I ask you all to please be in charge of this school. Because I cannot find anyone who can do it."
We accepted the task in obedience to the Archbishop, although we did not have a clue about how to run a school. Today, we can estimate that in the area of Manabí there are about 1,600 schools and ours was in the top 130. This is a consequence of the work the sisters do, day in and day out. They teach so that the children may grow to become interactive men and women of society. The sisters teach them, not only to become men and women of this world, but also to direct their lives towards God.
Well, now we’re going to continue celebrating the Mass, in which the great protagonist is Jesus Christ Himself. And we do hope that our dear sisters are now at His side. Recall the vision of St. Peter, in which he saw a large sheet coming down by its four corners and in it were all kinds of wild animals. “Slaughter and eat,” a voice said to him, and this occurred three times. Look, I know this is far-fetched, but it would be nice if the Lord permitted one of you, or some of you, to have a vision. And in this vision, you saw our dear sisters together with Our Blessed Mother and the Lord. There they would be and Sister Clare would be writing a song to sing to the Lord. That would bring us a lot joy. I know it sounds crazy to ask this, but at the same time it could happen. Sounds silly, right?
Well, I don’t know if our sisters in Ecuador are connected? Are they connected from where they are? In Guayaquil? We don’t know if they are connected. How many connections are there? There are 120 connections. Well, how I wish that one of those connections were our sisters in Guayaquil to be able to tell them, “Do not be afraid, dear sisters. The Lord knows all things, He can do all things, and moreover, He loves you all.” The Lord will put an end to this trial in such a way that his glory will shine forth with tremendous strength.