This post should have been written a long time ago, in the series I had begun of recognizing people who have had a big influence on my life. This is one of the biggest: Sr. Catherine de Ricci, O.P.
I was in Nashville on Monday for Sister's funeral Mass at St. Cecilia Motherhouse. The first time I ever visited the Motherhouse was to see Sr. Catherine de Ricci with my parents the summer they were investigating placing my sister and me in St. Pius X School where she was the principal. I was going into the third grade and my sister into the seventh. I still remember sitting in the dark, formal parlor as my parents discussed with Sr. Catherine de Ricci a decision that would prove to be pivotal for our lives. It was really the beginning of our move into the Catholic Church, even though that did not happen for any of us for many years.
Sister's role in our lives was not one of apologist but rather of witness, primarily of a witness to spiritual maternity. You see, she loved us. She ran a fantastic school, she was a great math teacher, and she loved. She had a strong, simple faith, and she took the long view. My mother, in particular, had the greatest admiration for Sr. Catherine de Ricci. She would have done anything Sister asked.
Certainly my sister's religious vocation, as well as my priestly vocation, were nurtured by the strong, faithful, and loving influence of Sr. Catherine de Ricci. It would be impossible to say too much of her influence on my whole family. She is the source of the "offer it up, honey" line used in so many of my homilies. What better way to convey the paschal mystery of redemptive suffering in a practical application than this simple admonition? It is among the greatest theological truths I have ever learned, and I learned it from her in the third grade.
Sister died 100 years a Christian and 80 years a Dominican. May she rest in peace!