Faces of Prayer

by Doretta Cornell, RDC

 

“Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

She replied, “No one sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I

condemn you. Go (and) from now on, do not sin any more.”

JOHN 8:10-11

 

We were enabled to shield a penitent girl and spare her the degradation of declaring her shame in open court in order to be committed to an institution . . . it is not necessary nor desirable that the subject should be committed by a magistrate. She may ring the bell and enter. The peculiar circumstances of each history become known to but one person, and even to her, only in outline.

MOTHER MARY VERONICA,

Preface to the Annual Report to the Association for Befriending Children and Young Girls

 

All details concerning a person’s previous life are to beheld sacred.

MOTHER MARY VERONICA

 

We are consecrated to the poor and lost . . . To have a heart like our Lord’s Heart, to see the Divine Image shattered in the sinner and to rejoice that we can restore that Image, this is what we are called to do. This is our work.

CONSTITUTIONS OF THE SISTERS OF THE DIVINE COMPASSION

 

Jesus refuses to allow the law to label the woman brought to him by the religious leaders. Instead of a faceless “adulteress” face, as well as both her sin and her potential repentance, with the compassionate eyes of God. He understands that only this Divine Compassion will set her free to live a new life without sin.

                   

Mother Mary Veronica, like Jesus, refused to allow the young women in her care to be defined by the lives they had lived in poverty. As orphans or half-orphans, poor and uneducated, they had made their way as best they could on the streets to feed themselves, and frequently their younger brothers and sisters as well. Mother Veronica saw in each young woman “the Divine Image shattered,” as her namesake had seen the face of Jesus on the way to Calvary, and she welcomed each into the House of the Holy Family.

 

In various ways, Mother Veronica fostered each young woman’s sense of herself as an individual beloved by God. Only the Sister who admitted a young woman—originally, Mother Veronica herself—heard the brief account of each one’s previous life. Each was invited to “now begin a new life and let the past be past.” The Sisters committed themselves to gentleness and kindness in dealing with each young woman, however resistant to change she might appear at first. Even their dress fostered this; the young women wore, instead of uniforms, dresses that were “simple and inexpensive, with such variations as the taste of each may suggest.” Finally, their education was designed by Mother Veronica to offer each young woman not only a spiritual and moral background but practical skills “in some well-paid industry” so that she would have “a new start in life, well equipped to earn an honest living.”

 

Seeing the face of each young woman with the compassionate eyes of God, Mother Veronica and the Sisters helped their charges to see their own true faces and look on others also as children of the compassionate God.

 

We pray that we may see the true face of each person we meet,

and so learn to recognize in ourselves and others

the compassion of God.

 

Stained Glass Window in the Chapel of the Divine Compassion, White Plains, NY

Veronica's face is that of our Foundress, Mother Mary Veronica