Sr. Maria Veritas Marks, OP • July 12, 2018
The host was lifted high in young hands, and I suddenly realized: some grains of wheat, originally unremarkable, had now become Christ’s Body. They had been “chosen,” so to speak. Chosen, too, was the priest, ordained just twenty-four hours earlier for the Dominican Order, now to carry the priestly imprint upon his soul into eternity. Both wheat and friar had been selected by God and elevated infinitely beyond their natural capacities.
The Liberty Bell is pictured in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. In religious life, bells signify the calling of members to prayer, meals and fraternity, but all vocations are called to hear the voice of Christ in their lives, the true “bell” of liberty.
We Sisters were attending a First Mass, and the mystery of “chosenness” had been occupying my mind as I readied myself for my final vows, to take place, God willing, this July 25. One of the most imaginative objections to my own vocation came many years ago from my high school history teacher, who had considered religious life in his youth. He described how, on a “come and see weekend,” he settled himself comfortably one afternoon in the priory’s library, only to have his reading rudely interrupted by the ringing of a bell; he watched in consternation as the room emptied within seconds. The phenomenon repeated itself throughout the weekend, and he realized he could never live like that. Neither, he thought, could I.
At the time, I had no opinion on this particular aspect of religious life, but I now recognize in the bell that calls me to prayers, meals, and recreation the voice of my Bridegroom. It is freeing for me, because it expresses my identity as a Bride of Christ with duties toward Him and toward my Sisters. On the other hand, the bell’s call would not have been freeing for my teacher, because God was not calling him to the priesthood. As a devoted teacher, coach, and uncle, he has other responsibilities inherent in his lay vocation.
When we Sisters visited the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia this year, my teacher’s story came to mind. The Liberty Bell is a symbol of our country and its freedoms. Forged in 1751 for the Pennsylvania State House, it summoned lawmakers to their work and citizens to public news readings. Ringed with God’s command from Leviticus 25:10, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof,” the Bell reminds us of the very first “chosen” people, Israel, whom God set apart to be his “treasured possession” (Ex 19:5).
How was Israel God’s “possession”? From our vantage point after the Incarnation, we know that Israel was “purchased,” as are we all, by Christ’s precious Blood (1 Cor 6:20). Consecrated persons live this chosenness in a unique and especially visible way, but you, too, are chosen! You have been bought by Christ’s Blood and baptized into His death. You, too, have been transformed and can act infinitely beyond your natural capacity.
Act, therefore, as a “treasured possession,” a member of the Church, Christ’s beloved Bride. Make sacrifices, pray confidently, cultivate the virtues — and let yourself be interrupted, not, of course, by a bell but by the demands of charity. Let your life ring clear and sweet, calling all to recognize that Truth sets us free.
Sr. Maria Veritas Marks is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.