Letting go and holding fast
Sister Joyce Lehman • President, Sisters of the Precious Blood
This issue of Sharing and Caring will give you lots of facts and plenty of stories related to the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics. You’ll find as much history as can be reasonably put into a newsletter, Sisters’ recollections of the Shrine in their youth and as adults, how it is presently a ministry of evangelization and hospitality and how the local people have expressed their appreciation for the Shrine by working to keep it going while the Sisters work to pass it on.
Every time I go into the main chapel at Maria Stein, I am vividly aware of the utter sanctity of that place. In my mind’s eye I see the Sisters in the early days praying there, whether in stifling heat in their serge wool habits or shivering in the cold of a barely heated building. I see the two or three before the Blessed Sacrament in profound adoration at night or during the day. They are there rising from sleep, from field work or studies, kitchen duties or teaching, caring for the sick or slopping the hogs and shearing the sheep. The hour before the Blessed Sacrament draws their attention away from their duties and allows them to engage in the deeply nourishing respite of prayer. The needs of the world and their own needs are gathered together and placed in God’s hands. Whether reciting prayers, chanting the psalms or sitting in silent contemplation, these women held and still hold us all in the heart of God.
A few steps away is the awesome sight of a thousand relics. Although not necessarily an uplifting thought on their own — these bits of bone and hair and clothing — the individuals they represent comprise part of the “cloud of witness” that the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes about. These are the women and men whose lives shone with goodness, courage, compassion, humility and most of all a deep abiding love of the God who created, redeemed and sanctified them. And amazingly, when searching their stories, we find that they are not all that different from any one of us: human beings responding to the “universal call to holiness,” in search of the Love and Goodness made flesh in Jesus Christ. Saints are a reminder that life’s ultimate meaning is found in our God. By our baptism we are called to the same sanctity they exhibited: responding with “yes” to the invitation for deeper and deeper union with God.
The hours of prayer by the Sisters and by the countless pilgrims who have come to Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics over the years make this place very holy ground indeed. And we Sisters of the Precious Blood have tried to be faithful guardians of this treasure of holiness, building it up, sharing it, reminding others that this is everyone’s place.
As we reflect on our final act of stewardship of this treasure that is the Shrine, we are confident that those into whose hands we are entrusting it will build on the legacy that was given to us and that we leave to them. They will continue to make the Shrine a place of peace, prayer and hospitality, will continue both to be and to spread Good News to a world all too often hurting, confused or adrift, and will continue to be a sign of hope to those who are searching.
Although acknowledging with sadness this very necessary letting go, the Sisters forever will hold fast in prayer the saintly men and women, yet uncanonized, who will work to conserve this treasure and who will companion on the path of holiness all those who come to the Shrine. Thank you to everyone who visits, supports and tells others of the Maria Stein Shrine of the Holy Relics.