If you love scripture, chances are, in the mysterious ways in which the Spirit works, Sr. Macrina Scott, osf planted the seeds that found a welcome home in your heart.
She entered Religious Life as a cloistered Benedictine, where she studied the works of the great scholars writing at the time of the Council. She went to God on Holy Thursday an active Franciscan, who took to heart the Council’s call to make the Word of God alive and active in the hearts of the Catholic laity.
It doesn’t matter where you live. Her brilliant model, the Denver Catholic Biblical School, was adapted and re-worked to fit the needs of Catholics around the world. Magazines reflecting on the daily scriptures began to thrive, and flourish today with large subscriber numbers, in part because of the educated Catholic laity which she helped create.
From the start, publishers from around the country began begging her for more. I would have said, “I don’t have time.” She said, “I’ll write a book.”
She wrote three. Her beautiful, funny, insightful treatments of the Old Testament, and the Gospel of Luke/Acts of the Apostles, remain the gold standard for bible study groups. You can find them at Tau Publishing.
She went on to create a brilliant program―the Wisdom Center―that encouraged those in the second half of life to pay attention to the spiritual adventures of aging.
When she flew home to him whom her heart loved, the news spread the old fashioned way―through communities of people who were once strangers but, like those disciples to whom Jesus appeared on Easter night, were forever bonded together because, like Jesus, she opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
Below is my reflection on her life and death:
Oh Macrina, it’s been sixteen days now since you flew to Jesus on Holy Thursday, the Marriage Feast of the Bridegroom and his Bride. Oh, what a meeting that must have been. I love to think of you and Jesus “leaning in” together, talking it all over, remembering your early years of learning how to read and tell stories in that famous red chair of your childhood. And, of course, you talked about those years of scholarly and liturgical formation at Regina Laudis. I thank God that you spent those early years of religious life leaning in to the scriptures, and the great books about how to read them that were written in those years.
I’ll bet you and Jesus HOWLED at the remembrance of that first week when the DCR ran the story about a new Biblical School being offered. You were in Berkeley (for graduation, I think) while everybody who worked at the Chancery fielded the 600 calls from earnest Catholics who had waited all their lives—-and in the spirit of all who had waited for a couple thousand years before that—for some inspired educator to teach them how to read the scriptures.
I think of Jesus tenderly speaking to you about that awful surgery you had on your neck many years ago. That was a terrible experience for you, mostly because you were shocked that, in the midst of all that suffering, you couldn’t feel his nearness. You had felt his companionship in every other journey of your life, but when you most needed to sense his closeness, he was silent. I long to know what he said to you about that dark night. But I know this: you recovered in every way, and your intimacy with him picked up right where it left off. Once again, you were teaching us, this time about how a Christian suffers, and how a Christian remains faithful even when God is silent.
I love thinking about your reunion with your dear Sr. Antonia. I imagine the two of you embracing in the most joyful hug, and then Jesus holding you both close as you remembered together the terrors of the car accident, the painful days before Antonia flew to heaven, and the sacred and sad time that followed, when you had to go on without her.
Macrina, I had been meaning to ask you about the redness in your face, especially under your eyes and above your cheek bones, which started around the same time as your terrible fatigue, and then nausea, and then loss of appetite. I, of all people, should have thought to wonder about ovarian cancer, since I had those exact symptoms, in exactly the same order. I have never seen rosacea as a symptom, but I can see, as I look at the beautiful picture of you that is printed in the Wake and the Mass booklet, that you had it too, just as I did.
It grieves me that you tried and tried to get answers for all these spirit-sapping symptoms. You were ready to die—had been ready, really, since Antonia’s death—but I wonder if you might have wanted to stay with us much longer if your ovarian cancer had been diagnosed early, as mine was. No wonder you told so many people that you didn’t know what God wanted you to do in the next years of your life. You knew, in that secret and holy place where your body tells you the truth and waits for your conscious mind to know it, that dying was your next great adventure.
And then, of course, there was your dream. It appeared last fall. You dreamt that you were sitting, completely comfortably, in a crypt at the mortuary. Beside you was a companion. You both were in a kind of holding pattern, waiting for the journey you would take together. As you pondered this in your heart, you realized that your companion was Jesus.
You knew, of course. You tried to tell us all. You knew that you weren’t well. You knew that you were exhausted, and then nauseated, and then just sick. But on the day of your diagnosis, on March 24th, the Vigil of the Feast of the Annunciation―the exact day, eleven years earlier, of my own diagnosis, but with a much different prognosis―you were filled with joy. Finally, a confirmation of that which your soul knew. There was an actual, medical reason for your dis-ease. You were dying. You had, perhaps, six months. You were elated, and, as always, you found the perfect words to describe the indescribable. I have my ticket! You finally had the entrance pass to heaven.
And then Jesus, who had seemed so silent in that earlier surgery years ago, sang your name just like the Bridegroom in that Song of Songs verse that you loved so well: “Arise, my beloved, my dove, my beautiful one, and come!” There was no confusing his voice. You spent your lifetime listening to it, and teaching the world how to hear it too. You knew his voice, and he knew yours. And so you flew to him so that you could be with him for the Holy Thursday Marriage Feast.
Your Sisters are grieving. They look out the window and your tidy, cheerful little house is dark. You aren’t there, to greet them, to love them, to listen to them, to know them in that expert way that you know the people you love. It is still Holy Saturday for them. They are waiting, and watching for signs that the stone has been rolled away.
Oh, Macrina. How blest are those who knew you in this life, and will always hear that glorious laugh, and hear your HILARIOUS answers to our deepest questions. Go to Macrina for counsel, and then stand back. It is NEVER going to be what you expect. You’ll go home reeling. And then, in just a little time, the voice of Lady Wisdom starts to dig deep inside you, planting seeds that will bear fruit for the rest of your life. I will always get chills when I remember Angeline leading the assembly of those who love you in a refrain to Lady Wisdom at the Wake. We were singing to you.
And so, for some it is Easter. And for some, it is still Holy Saturday. We will all probably go back and forth between the two for many years. But whenever two or more are gathered to read scripture, there you will be in their midst, helping them find their story in the STORY.
That’s where we will find you. That’s how we will know that all is well with your soul.
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I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).