> Lent Through a Franciscan Lens – St. Marianne Cope

Lent Through a Franciscan Lens – St. Marianne Cope

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Lent Through a Franciscan Lens 

 In turning his life over to Jesus, St. Francis recognized his calling to dedicate his life to the poor, work for peace and interreligious dialogue, and find God in all creation. Francis’ charisma and evangelical drive to live like Jesus drew many followers, some of whom are also saints. 

We enter this sacred season of Lent looking for inspiration to strengthen our faith. With this intention, each week during Lent, we will feature a “Sister reflection” of a Franciscan saint who found Jesus by walking in Francis’ path. 

St. Marianne Cope 

Be Humble and Compassionate 

By S. Alicia Damien Lau 

Basic spirituality is really no more than basic human qualities of goodness, kindness, compassion and caring. Whether we are believers or non-believers, this kind of spirituality is essential.  

A woman with a true sense of her spirituality was Saint Marianne Cope, also known as Mother Marianne. Whether managing a hospital, leading her congregation, or gently tending to the broken lives of those with Hansen’s disease (leprosy) in the Hawaiian Islands, Mother Marianne reached out in faith and love to restore dignity, grace, and healing.  

Here she is today, a Saint canonized on October 21, 2012. She was an ordinary woman, just like you and me. So, what made her so special? Mother Marianne followed St. Francis of Assisi’s Rule and Core Values and daily lived the gospels as Jesus taught us. 

Mother Marianne was an unassuming leader. One characteristic was her deep humility. There is no indication that she thought of her accomplishments as anything other than a means to achieve desired ends for the good of God and her neighbor.  

Realize that less than a month before they arrived in Hawaii in 1883, the sisters had been caring for patients in bright, clean, and cheerful rooms at Syracuse’s St. Joseph’s Hospital. Mother Marianne, administrator since 1870, brought in students from a nearby medical school where the physicians had updated information from Europe regarding Pasteur’s guidance on infections and infection control. Who would have known that God was preparing Mother for Hawaii?  

Shortly after arriving in Hawaii, the Sisters visited the Kaka’ako Receiving station and saw people with leprosy. As they toured the facility, they found roaches, patients laying on dirty mats, and uncared-for people left to die. Mother said to her Sisters – We have our work cut out for us.” The next day, everyone rolled up their sleeves and started cleaning the place. Mother saw an opportunity to provide the acutely ailing members of society with a safer and more comfortable place to live.  

Mother Marianne and the Sisters brought with them the gifts God so freely gave them for carrying out the Corporal Works of Mercy. 

In a letter, S. Antonia wrote about the grounds surrounding Bishop Home as a windy, barren waste, lacking trees and grass, and said: Mother Marianne was the humblest of souls and took part in the roughest work such as washing, digging, and planting flowers and fruit trees…..” Fifteen years later, there were 321 varieties of fruits growing on the Bishop Home grounds. Among the fruits were Chinese oranges, avocados, mangos, grapes, lemons, and other Hawaiian fruits. Among the trees were the Kamani Nut trees, shading the barren land. Those of us following in her footsteps are still raking up the numerous nuts and leaves. 

There is no self-glorification; instead, there is a hunger to do the work of God for the poor people. Mother Marianne’s empathy made her suffer with the suffering of others, both physically and mentally. She felt pain as others did; she did not turn away from their suffering or let them turn away from God. Her presence and care for the most abandoned among God’s sick and distressed illustrate her compassion. In her words, What little good we can do in this world to help and comfort the suffering, we wish to do it quietly and so far, as possible, unnoticed and unknown.” 

WHERE DO YOU FOCUS YOUR ENERGY – DO YOU PUT OTHERS BEFORE YOURSELF?  

DO YOU SHUN AWAY FROM UNPLEASANT TASKS OR SITUATIONS? 

DO YOU FEEL THE NEED TO BOAST ABOUT YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS?  

DO YOU PUT A SMILE ON PEOPLES FACES?  

WHO ARE YOU NURTURING?  

ARE YOU TAKING CARE OF THE AINA (the land)