God asked Moses, “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy’”
(Lv. 19:2). St. Peter, Apostle, repeating these words asks us to follow the example given us by Jesus Christ, “but, as He who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy’”
(1 Pt. 1:15-16).
In the year of the Beatification of Elizabeth Eppinger, Mother Alphonse Marie, let us consider the words of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI about “Holiness”. “What does it mean to be holy? Who is called to be holy? We are often led to think that holiness is a goal reserved for a few elect people.” The Pope continues, “holiness has its deepest root in the grace of baptism, in being grafted on to the Paschal Mystery of Christ, by which His Spirit is communicated to us, His very life as the Risen One. God has poured out His love in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (General audience, April 13, 2011).
Pastoral recommendation of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, brings us to Christ, who is the precious source of our life-giving energy for this millennium and the beacon which illuminates our path of life in the tangle of the various challenges and situations of our life.
How do we become holy? Pope Benedict XVI says, “the first and most necessary act is charity, by which we love God above all things and our neighbor through love of Him. But if charity, like a good seed, is to grow and bear fruit in the soul, each of the faithful must willingly hear the word of God and carry out His will with deeds, with the help of His grace. One must frequently receive the sacraments, mainly the Eucharist, and take part in the holy liturgy; he must constantly apply himself to prayer, self-denial, active brotherly service, and exercise all the virtues. This is because love, as the bond of perfection and fullness of the law governs, gives meaning to, and perfects all the means of sanctification” (General audience, April 13, 2011).
Mother Alphonse Marie Autobiography should contribute to widen our knowledge in what way the young Elizabeth Eppinger understood sanctity, what kind of means she used to become holy, and help us to enkindle our desire for holiness. Since the age of seven, holiness was the most important in her life. In her Autobiography she says: “I want to become a saint. How can I do it? I do not know what to do to become a saint. I do not want to receive what my parents give me (namely, little presents) I would rather become a saint.”
Her great desire for holiness made her use all means offered by Church, which are mentioned above.
Very early, Elizabeth understood that prayer could draw her closer to God. Therefore, she prayed and constantly turned to God and the Blessed Mother as a child. As much as she was attracted to prayer so much she also liked to listen to talks and readings about God and God’s Mother. Experiencing still greater joy in hearing from God and from the Mother of God, she often asked her parents or relatives, “to talk as long as they could about them” (Autobiography). Listening to the Life of Saints deepened her desire for holiness. She was deeply touched, especially, by talking of Jesus’ Passion thinking why Jesus suffered so terribly. Her pious and wise mother explained to her that sins are the cause of it, and also what sin is. Since then, Elizabeth did not only avoid sin but everything that could lead to sin because she did not want to offend her beloved God. She started each day with prayer, “O my Jesus, preserve me today from every sin.”
When she failed, she humbled herself and confessed her sins asking God and others for forgiveness. Hoping in God’s mercy, she even prayed for others to avoid sins, as the Apostle James asks us, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another”
Thus, Elizabeth’s pure soul could receive a long awaited Jesus in the Eucharist. She understood that the Eucharist is the source of grace. In the suffering of Christ, she found the meaning of the Eucharist which became the source of her life. Her desire to receive Jesus in the Eucharist was so great that she asked their parish priest to receive the Eucharist often because in that time was not customary to receive Eucharist more often than every 14 days. Her request was granted because she was looking only for God’s will. “In everything I did, I wanted to be pleased by God.”
Elizabeth completely devoted herself to the suffering of Christ and His presence in the Eucharist. She prayed, meditated on the sufferings of Jesus, and adored Jesus in the Eucharist which led her to serve actively to Christ in His brothers and sisters. From the love of God, she practiced self-denial and all the virtues. “I practiced especially interior prayer, in which I asked God to let me progress in virtue.”
God perfected His loved one by suffering and prepared her for great work, to found a new congregation. She left her followers heritage: “Those souls who desire perfection and sanctity should do the will of God in all things, and submit themselves to it without reserve.”
God finds His pleasing in the humble and faithful souls.
According to the example of our Foundress, during the 169 years since the Congregation was founded, the followers of Mother Alphonse Marie seek for holiness in everyday life. They confirm and express their identity by celebrating the Eucharist, living spirituality, spreading charism, and performing apostolate. All whom they meet in the streets, in schools, hospitals, or homes lead to deeper relationship with God, who is the source of holiness.
Let us ask Mother Alphonse Marie, Elizabeth Eppinger for the intercession. In your trials, remember her words: “Do not think that the saints always and immediately received the graces for which they prayed. Often, God tried them with apparent refusal through long years of petitioning. Yet they persevered in their prayers.”