The Eucharistic heart of Jesus is central for the Sisters of Life

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Sisters of Life
Sisters of Life prostrate themselves during profession of vows. Courtesy photo

The monitor flickered on, black and white blurs rippling across the screen. The nurse said, “Your baby is only about six weeks old, so there’s no guarantee we’ll be able to see anything yet.” Another sister and I had the gift of being present at the first ultrasound of a young woman. We received her call a week prior and had been speaking with her every day since. She shared with us her fears of telling her boyfriend and parents and of her doubts that she could be a good mom. She feared the loss of her plans and hopes that now seemed impossible. We listened and reflected back to her the goodness and strengths we saw. We accompanied her as she shared the loud and noisy fears of her circumstances and the deep desires and dreams of her heart.

The silence in the small room was broken again by a collective gasp as we stared in awe at the screen. A tiny pulsing light, no bigger than an apple seed, shone in the dark room. There was her little one — so small that all you could see were the strong, flashing beats of his heart. “Look,” said Sister, “your little one is all heart!”

The Eucharist is the life of the Sisters of Life. Our faith in Christ’s presence in the Eucharist helps us to discern his presence in every human life, especially when that life is vulnerable, silent, hidden or diminished in any way. As we process to an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe each night, I often remember the tiny, beating heart from the ultrasound as I gaze on her black sash, indicating that she is with child. In Mary’s womb beats the hidden, little heart of Jesus. As our founder John Cardinal O’Connor loved to say, “The Christ that she fed within her womb is the Christ who feeds us in the Eucharist. It is the same Christ. Mary is the womb of the Eucharistic Christ.” Jesus, in the womb of Mary and in the Eucharist, makes himself totally dependent, utterly vulnerable and small enough for us to approach. His love — incarnate, crucified and risen — reveals the truth of the beauty of every human person, created in God’s image and likeness. In response to such love, we join Christ in laying down our lives in poverty, chastity and obedience, and vow to protect and enhance the sacredness of every human life.

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Our primary mission as Sisters of Life is prayer. All our mission flows from this union with Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist. We spend four hours each day in prayer, including adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Rosary, periods of meditation, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours. Speaking to our sisters, Cardinal O’Connor said, “It seems to me if we have a special devotion to the Eucharistic Infant in the womb of Mary, this … enhances our devotion, our respect, our sense of the sacredness of the infant in the womb and of the mother.” We desire to be in union with him, becoming as vulnerable as Christ in the manger, on the cross and in the Eucharist, and as vulnerable as the child in the womb.

In each Mass, the priest breaks off a small particle of the host, about the size of an apple seed, and places it in the chalice. This minuscule fraction of the Eucharist is truly the whole of Christ. As the child’s heart shone through on the sonogram, so too Christ’s heart shows through in the tiny host, where Jesus is really, truly present! There is nothing too small or too hidden for him. Jesus cares about all the broken pieces of our hearts — each is precious and capable of being made new in his merciful love. As we grow in recognizing Christ hidden in the Eucharist, he draws our gaze to other places he is hidden — in the vulnerable pregnant woman, in the searching college student, in someone suffering the pain of abortion. Like Our Lady, we seek to allow Jesus, conceived beneath our hearts and actually received within our bodies in holy Communion, to radiate through us to everyone we encounter, that each person may know they are good, loved, unique and unrepeatable.

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Sister Catherine Joy Marie is a member of the Sisters of Life. She writes from Toronto.