To the Band of Brothers: February 23, 2024

Fr. Willie ‘87 | President
How’s your Lent going? We have one week in the books, and I thought it would be a good idea to check up and see if we have been able to stick to our Lenten promises. Hopefully, you have been taking advantage of the Hallow app we have access to. That forty-day challenge they put together is fantastic. Following the life of Fr. Walter Ciszek and focusing on surrendering is perfect for the season of Lent.

One of the people who is featured on the Hallow prayer exercise is Sr. Mary Bernice. She is a religious of the Missionaries of Charity, one of the sisters of St. Mother Teresa. I love listening to her and her thick Southern accent. When she speaks, she creates such comfort and warmth, it’s like being a wet dog behind a hot stove. Last week she referred to Mother Teresa as her “spiritual momma.” She credits Mother Teresa for her love of Jesus and the intimate relationship she has with him. Mother Teresa was her spiritual momma because she nurtured her vocation and desire to serve the poorest of the poor.

I thought about my own “spiritual mommas.” Who have they been? Do I have any in the first place? There’s no question there have been a few, both spiritual mommas and pappas. But this morning in particular, I remembered an army of them. A few years ago, I was asked to celebrate Mass a couple of times at Holy Trinity Monastery in Homestead, Florida. This is the home of the Discalced Carmelites, a cloistered congregation of nuns. Cloistered means they never leave the convent. They spend their whole day, seven days a week, four weeks a month, twelve months a year, behind closed doors praying and working.

On one occasion, I took a small group of Belen students who were discerning a vocation to the priesthood. I remember after Mass they invited the boys to breakfast. We walked out of the chapel and into a small hallway where there was a table where a simple breakfast was served. In front of the table was another room with a large opening where the sisters sat. What separated us from them was a grille, literally steel poles from the top of the opening to the bottom. The boys were surprised by this. So much so, one of them humorously asked the sisters, “Why are you behind bars?” I will never forget how Mother Superior responded, “The grille is not to keep us in, but to keep the world out.”

It was then I realized we were having breakfast in a spiritual bunker. It was a sort of command center for spiritual warfare. And it wasn’t manned by fierce soldiers in fatigues strapped with AK47s, but “wo-manned” by 17 nuns in brown habits whose focus and dedication to prayer was more lethal than any high-tech drone. If we truly believe in the power of prayer, then these women launch spiritual missiles that reach far across the world striking down evil wherever it may lurk. They are fully aware of where the needs are and they hone in with precision accuracy to make sure the beach is cleared for the rest of us to tread with greater safety.

Look, with all the challenges, scandals, shortcomings, and shortfalls inside and outside of the Church, we have survived and even thrived for over 2,000 years due in great part to these spiritual mommas. In the gospel of St. Matthew, when Jesus sets Peter as the rock upon which he will build his church, the reason why he follows up and assures him that, “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (16:18), has a lot to do with these contemplative armies he had waiting in the wings of the future Church. They sustain our Church with their prayer. Aren’t you glad we have them in our corner?

Auspice Maria.
500 SW 127th Avenue, Miami, FL 33184
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Belen Jesuit Preparatory School was founded in 1854 in Havana, Cuba by Queen Isabel II of Spain.  The task of educating students was assigned to the priests and brothers of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), whose teaching tradition is synonymous with academic excellence and spiritual discipline.  In 1961, the new political regime of Cuba confiscated the School property and expelled the Jesuit faculty.  The School was re-established in Miami the same year, and over the next decade, continued to grow.  Today, Belen Jesuit sits on a 30-acre site in western Dade County, only minutes away from downtown Miami.