Saint Katharine Drexel (photograph c. 1915)
We never know when we’ll be called.
That’s the message that rang true in my heart as I meditated on Pope Francis’ homily during his private Mass with bishops, clergy, and religious at the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
The Holy Father cited the example of St. Katherine Drexel’s calling by Pope Leo XIII. He related the story of Katherine approaching the elderly Pope and expressing her concern about the needs of the missions.
Pope Leo’s wise and thoughtful response to St. Katherine was, “And what about you? What are you going to do?”
Those words made Katherine realize that she was being called to do her part, changed her life and set her on the road to sanctity.
But, it’s not only the canonized saints who are called to do their part. It’s you and me as well.
“’What about you?’ It is significant that those words of the elderly Pope were also addressed to a lay woman,” Pope Francis said to those present at the Mass. “We know that the future of the Church in a rapidly changing society will call, and even now calls, for a much more active engagement on the part of the laity.
“The Church in the United States has always devoted immense effort to the work of catechesis and education. Our challenge today is to build on those solid foundations and to foster a sense of collaboration and shared responsibility in planning for the future of our parishes and institutions.
“This does not mean relinquishing the spiritual authority with which we have been entrusted; rather, it means discerning and employing wisely the manifold gifts which the Spirit pours out upon the Church. In a particular way, it means valuing the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities.”
Indeed, what about you? What about me?
Our family recently had the funeral of my husband’s sister. She was a mere 50 years old and in vibrant health.
Then one night, she simply passed away. The cause still has not been determined, even after an autopsy.
During the eulogy and homily, it was told how Therese had touched the lives of others – as a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, friend, catechist, lector, school teacher, avid lover of literature, and follower of Christ.
Therese lived only a short time, yet had, in many ways, answered the call, “What about you?”
Someone said of her death that it almost seemed as though God came, put his hand on her shoulder and escorted her home.
That’s a beautiful image and also a stark reminder that we may not have much time in which to follow Pope Francis’ advice and answer the call, “What about you?”
We just never know when God will call us home, and so we dare not put off serving him and his people in every possible way while we’re still here.
In this rapidly-changing society, the Church is calling for a renewed engagement on the part of the clergy and religious and a far more active engagement on the part of the laity. Pope Francis’ urgency is warranted, and there is no time to waste. The Church needs all of us to engage in her mission. Now. Today.
In a way, it’s a call within a call.
We must answer the call to action now because we have no idea when we’ll be answering the call to go home with the heavenly Father.
And what about you? What are you going to do? Saint Katharine Drexel (photograph c. 1915)