Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Nun in a barn gave a bishop to the Church

*This story was told to me a few weeks ago. I was so moved by the profound nature of God's movement in our lives. Your daily work is so important and contributes greatly to the Kingdom of God. As humans, we think so small. We must think LARGE and MANY. This single act of self-denial and work of love united to Christ could be responsible for tens of thousands of souls. Can you even imagine? A simple nun in a barn gave a bishop to the Church. She didn't care for the work in the barn. In fact, she very much disliked it. She united her work to Christ and look what it did! I am certain you will love this story. God used Bishop Ketteler's priesthood to bring many souls to Christ.  Only a very small handful knew that behind his holy priesthood was a lowly nun offering her barn work for some unknown soul.  Do not waste your work!

My Priesthood and a Stranger
William Emmanuel Ketteler (1811-1877)
Each of us owes gratitude for our lives and our vocations to the prayers and sacrifices of others. One of the leading figures of the German episcopacy of the 19th century, and among the founders of Catholic sociology, Bishop Ketteler owed his gratitude to a simple nun, the least and poorest lay sister of her convent.
   In 1869, a German diocesan bishop was sitting together with his guest, Bishop Ketteler from Mainz. During the course of their conversation, the diocesan bishop brought up his guest's extremely blessed apostolate.  Bishop Ketteler explained to his host, "I owe thanks for everything that I have accomplished with God's help, to the prayer and sacrifice of someone I do not even know. I can only say that I know somebody has offered his or her whole life to our loving God for me, and I have this sacrifice to thank that I even became a priest."
   He continued, "Originally, I wasn't planning on becoming a priest. I had already finished my law degree and thought only about finding an important place in the world to begin acquiring honour, prestige and wealth. An extraordinary experience held me back and directed my life down a different path.
   "One evening I was alone in my room, considering my future plans of fame and fortune, when something happened which I cannot explain. Was I awake or asleep? Did I really see it or was it just a dream? One thing I do know, it brought about a change in my life. I saw Jesus very clearly and distinctly standing over me in a radiant cloud, showing me his Sacred Heart. A nun was kneeling before Him, her hands raised up in prayer. From His mouth, I heard the words, 'She prays unremittingly for you!'
   "I distinctly saw the appearance of the sister, and her traits made such an impression on me that she has remained in my memory to this day. She seemed to be quite an ordinary lay sister. Her clothing was very poor and rough. Her hands were red and calloused from hard work. Whatever it was, a dream or not, it was extraordinary. It shook me to the depths of my being so that from that moment on, I decided to consecrate myself to God in the service of the priesthood.
   "I withdrew to a monastery for a retreat, and I talked about everything with my confessor. Then, at the age of 30, I began studying theology. You know the rest of the story. So, if you think that I have done something admirable, now you know who really deserves the credit—a religious sister who prayed for me, maybe without even knowing who I was. I am convinced, I was prayed for and I will continue to be prayed for in secret and that without these prayers, I could never have reached the goal that God has destined for me."
   "Do you have any idea of the whereabouts or the identity of who has prayed for you?" asked the diocesan bishop.
   "No, I can only ask God each day that, while she is still on earth, he bless and repay her a thousand-fold for what she has done for me."
The sister in the barn
   The next day, Bishop Ketteler visited a convent of sisters in a nearby city and celebrated Holy Mass in their chapel. He was distributing Holy Communion to the last row of sisters when one of them suddenly caught his eye. His face grew pale, and he stood there, motionless. Finally regaining his composure, he gave Holy Communion to the sister who was kneeling in recollection unaware of his hesitation. He then concluded the liturgy.
   The bishop who had invited him the previous day came and joined him at the convent for breakfast. When they had finished, Bishop Ketteler asked the Mother Superior to present to him all the sisters in the house. Before long she had gathered all the sisters together, and both bishops went to meet them. Bishop Ketteler greeted them, but it was apparent that he did not find the one he was looking for.
   He quietly asked the Mother Superior, "Are all the sisters really here?"
   She looked over the group of sisters and then said, "Your Excellency, I called them all, but, in fact, one of them is not here."
   "Why didn't she come?"
   "She works in the barn," answered the superior, "and in such a commendable way that, in her enthusiasm, she sometimes forgets other things."
   "I would like to see that sister," requested the Bishop.
   A little while later, the sister who had been summoned stepped into the room. Again Bishop Ketteler turned pale, and after a few words to all the sisters, he asked if he could be alone with the sister who had just come in.
   "Do you know me?" he asked her.
   "I have never seen Your Excellency before."
   "Have you ever prayed for me or offered up a good deed for me?" he wanted to know.
   "I do not recall that I have ever heard of Your Excellency."
   The Bishop was silent for a few moments and then he asked, "Do you have a particular devotion that you like?"
   "The devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus," was the response.
   "You have, it seems, the most difficult task in the convent," he continued.
   "Oh no, Your Excellency" the sister countered, "but I cannot lie, it is unpleasant for me."
   "And what do you do when you have such temptations against your work?"
   "For things that cost me greatly, I grew accustomed to facing them with joy and enthusiasm out of love for God, and then I offer them up for one soul on earth. To whom God chooses to be gracious as a result, I have left completely up to him and I do not want to know. I also offer up my time of Eucharistic adoration every evening from 8 to 9 for this intention."
   "Where did you get the idea to offer up all your merits for someone totally unknown to you?"
   "I learned it while I was still out in the world," she replied. "At school our teacher, the parish priest, taught us how we can pray and offer our merits for our relatives. Besides that, he said that we should pray much for those who are in danger of being lost. Since only God knows who really needs prayer, it is best to put your merits at the disposition of the Sacred Heart of Jesus trusting in his wisdom and omnipotence. That is what I have done," she concluded, "and I always believed that God would find the right soul."
Day of birth and day of conversion
   "How old are you?" Ketteler asked.
   "Thirty-three, Your Excellency," she answered.
   The Bishop paused a moment. Then he asked her, "When were you born?" The sister stated her day of birth. The Bishop gasped; her birthday was the day of his conversion! Back then he saw her exactly as she was before him now. "And have you any idea whether your prayers and sacrifices have been successful?" he asked her further.
   "No, Your Excellency."
   "Don't you want to know?"
   "Our dear God knows when something good happens, and that is enough," was the simple answer.
   The Bishop was shaken. "So continue this work in the name of the Lord," he said. The sister knelt down immediately at his feet and asked for his blessing. The Bishop solemnly raised his hands and said with great emotion, "With the power entrusted to me as a bishop, I bless your soul, I bless your hands and their work, I bless your prayers and sacrifices, your self-renunciation and your obedience. I bless especially your final hour and ask God to assist you with all his consolation."
   "Amen," the sister answered calmly, then stood up and left.

A teaching for life
   The Bishop, profoundly moved, stepped over to the window in order to compose himself. Some time later, he said good-bye to the Mother Superior and returned to the apartment of his bishop friend. He confided to him, "Now I found the one I have to thank for my vocation. It is the lowest and poorest lay sister of that convent. I cannot thank God enough for his mercy because this sister has prayed for me for almost 20 years. On the day she first saw the light of the world, God worked my conversion accepting in advance her future prayers and works.
   "What a lesson and a reminder for me! Should I become tempted to vanity by a certain amount of success or by my good works, then I can affirm in truth: You have the prayer and sacrifice of a poor maid in a convent stall to thank. And when a small and lowly task appears of little value to me, then I will also remember the fact: what this maid does in humble obedience to God, making a sacrifice by overcoming herself, is so valuable before the Lord Our God that her merits have given rise to a bishop for the Church."
 

6 comments :

  1. What a glorious story. Dear Lindsay, I just want to thank you for your calm and joyful wisdom. I write to you from Poland, maybe you'll find it interesting how far your good words spread :) My name is Marcelina, I am a mother of five born children and we are expecting our sixth in June. It is very important to me - just knowing we are all the same, we struggle with the same problems and we experience the same blessings. May God bless you. I am so glad to read a note after such a long pause.

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  2. Oh I love this! Thank you for sharing such an amazing story ❤

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  3. Wow. Just wow.

    Also, I wanted to thank you for a post that is nearly 8 years old now. "My plan, His plan" - it resurrected itself on social media a couple weeks ago and I've shared it all over the place because it has been so life-giving. Thank you for your apostolate of the written word.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing this very moving story. The trust and faith of that nun is inspiring -- you are right, we should think BIG!!

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  6. What a lovely story. Welcome back - you have been missed.

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