24 July 2007

F is for Father

This month's spotlight on St. Francis de Sales features our Sister Jacqueline who writes about three important men in her life ... and the "man in the middle" is St. Francis de Sales.

Sister's introduction to St. Francis de Sales came through her father, the late John Burke, Sr. who is the "first man" she credits with nourishing her spiritual life. Her father began attending daily Mass at the Visitation Monastery in St. Paul, Minnesota following the untimely death of her four-year-old brother James. Mr. Burke's attendance at daily Mass both inspired his daughter and led others -- mostly neighbors -- to follow his example. Several people returned to the Church and the sacraments thanks to Mr. Burke's witness. Little did he realize it, but his seat in the Monastery chapel found him right under a window of St. Francis de Sales. Just as St. Francis de Sales watched over Mr. Burke so the Sisters of the Visitation watched over his four daughters who were their students.

Our dear Sister Jacqueline began school at the Visitation at age five. Sister describes her life prior to the convent as one teeming with social events, parties and boys. From her bedroom window she could see the bell tower of the monastery and she reports that the tower was a meaningful -- if not "nagging" -- presence during those years. In the summer after her junior year after a visiting to a missionary community, Sister suspected that the Lord was calling her to what was in her front yard. So, she promptly went to the convent to meet with the superior Mother Jane Margaret Cullinan and confided her vocation to her. Mother told her to come back in a year and she enjoyed a carefree last year of high school: dances, parties and boyfriends galore. (Not altogether unlike her namesake, Sister Jacqueline Favre, one of St. Jane de Chantal's two companions in the foundation of our order.)
St. Francis de Sales, whom she came to know more intimately after entering the monastery was the first saint she "met" who really spoke to her. The miracle and grace of that relationship, Sister adds, is that he continues to be the saint of her life. He is the "man in the middle" as he was introduced to her by her Father and his devotion to daily Mass at the Monastery. The "third man" who has been an important companion for Sister joined the journey during her last years of novitiate: St. Augustine. She was first introduced to him in a reading of his Confessions and he has been a welcome companion ever since.
We share here one of Sister's favorite quotation from each of these three men.

"To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement."
St. Augustine
"Abide steadfastly in your determination to cling simply to God trusting in his eternal love for you."

St. Francis de Sales
"Stick with him (Jesus), kid and you'll wear diamonds."
John Burke, Sr.

Those of us who are privileged to live with Sister Jacqueline all know how closely she clings to the Lord and we're sure that her father is right ... the Lord will have a crown of diamonds awaiting her and their luster will be out of this world!

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