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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: June 21, 2020
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor preached the following homily during a Mass to prepare for the election of a new prioress at Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro on Sunday, June 21, 2020. it is based on the following readings: Isaiah 11:1-4ab; Psalm 145; 1 Corinthians 12:4-13 and Matthew 16:24-27.
Every three years we gather for a votive Mass to the Holy Spirit in preparations for the election of the prioress to guide your community over the course of the next three-year term of office. Those of you who have been prioress in the past or have worked with one as part of the council know that this is a difficult job.
That is why I suggested the Gospel reading you just heard: “Whoever wishes to come after me, deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” I can think of no better job description for a prioress of your community than that.
Whoever you elect is going to have to die to herself in order to serve you well. Just ask any of your sisters who have taken a turn as prioress of this community. It isn’t easy. This isn’t about getting power or gaining prestige or any other kind of “upward mobility.” Your next prioress is going to suffer, so you’d better elect someone who can do difficult things; embrace the cross with sacrificial love. That’s what Jesus says is the unavoidable price of following him.
Your next prioress is going to suffer, so you’d better elect someone who can do difficult things; embrace the cross with sacrificial love. That’s what Jesus says is the unavoidable price of following him.
But none of us can do this on our own strength alone, and God knows it. That is why he gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit to enlighten us and empower us with his grace. In our first reading Isaiah lists six of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit which all of you received in confirmation.
These are the tools God gives you to be used in his service: Wisdom to see the big picture and keep things in perspective; understanding to grasp clearly what we are dealing with; counsel to help us make good, practical decisions; fortitude to overcome obstacles in doing God’s will; knowledge to see the path to follow; piety to place our confidence in God; and fear of the Lord to make pleasing him our greatest priority.
I’m sure you can see how all of you, not only your prioress, need all these gifts if you hope to deal well with the challenges likely to come your way during these next three years. COVID-19 will be with us for quite a while. And then many of your community members are elderly and new vocations are scarce.
And hospitals are challenging. You need a prioress who is a strong, wise, understanding, knowledgeable, pious leader for whom pleasing the Lord in everything is her number one priority.
But she can’t do it alone. Hence the encouraging words of St. Paul in our second reading, taken from his first letter to the Corinthians. Here Paul focuses on the multiple gifts of all the members of the community and how all the gifts are needed and how everyone has something valuable to contribute.
You need a prioress who can draw forth your gifts and support you as you serve the Lord in whatever responsibilities are entrusted to you. She needs to be like the conductor of an orchestra, helping all the musicians play their instruments in harmony, contributing their gifts to produce a more beautiful work than any one musician could ever produce on her own. “Different gifts, but the same Spirit, different forms of service, but the same Lord, different workings but the same God who produces them in everyone.”
Quite a challenging role, right? Which is why we have this votive Mass of the Holy Spirit to ask God to help you discern well who the Lord would like to lead this community during the next three years. She needs to be someone who will die to herself out of faithfulness to Christ, embracing the cross with sacrificial love.
She needs to be someone who will draw on the gifts of the Holy Spirit that she received in confirmation, thus enlightened and empowered in her ministry by the Holy Spirit. And she needs to be someone who will call forth the gifts of all of you in this community, helping you to flourish in your relationship with and service of the Lord!