January 18, 2000
volume 11, no. 12
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Sister Raphael first joined her religious family in 1947 when she became a postulant with the Franciscan Nuns of Perpetual Adoration at the converted monastery Sancta Clara. Her spiritual directress was Mother Angelica and from that time on - fifty-three years, they were inseparable. From assembling fishing lures in the embryo stages of establishing a monastery in Alabama to overcoming the tremendous obstacles placed in their path to succeed as God wanted, Sister Mary Raphael was always there with strong physical, moral and spiritual support. Though Mother has long been the guiding light for all the sisters, it is no secret Mother leaned heavily on the wisdom of the frail Sister Raphael. It has to be a tremendous loss for Mother and we share her deep sorrow. Not at the death of Sister Raphael who is so happy today, but for the loss of a close one. It is quite an adjustment for Mother to make in light of their half century together and we extend our deepfelt sympathies to her and the entire EWTN family, especially the sisters who knew and loved Sister Raphael.
We had the opportunity to meet Sister Raphael in the mid-nineties. Mother was in the hospital at the time for observation and Sister was so gracious. We were so impressed with her embroidered artwork that has since become famous in EWTN circles. Those who receive the monthly newsletter are no doubt familiar also with her poetry that was so ethereal and so human at the same time. Sister was truly an angelic poet and artist. In perusing the EWTN site today we came across the beautiful etching she did of Jesus that conveys so much strength and love pouring from Our Savior. She didn't just copy it, she felt it and imparted that feeling to all through her work. This comes through in her poem "Going Home" in which she reminisces about the good ol' days as a child in Ohio and then she wonders aloud about what Heaven is like.
The answer is "Yes, Sister Raphael. Now you know." She went on,
In recent years Sister Raphael was indeed fragile as cancer caught up to this remarkable nun who imbued the essence of what a holy religious should be. There was always a sense of assuredness and calm when we would see Sister Raphael at the back of the chapel during Holy Mass on EWTN at the old Our Lady of the Angels chapel. Her penmanship reminded us of a time past as well, for the cursive smoothness with which she wrote echoed memories of our own teachers in grade school at Assumption parish in Richfield, Minnesota where this editor was weaned on the Faith by the good holy Sisters of Saint Joseph. They hammered in, patiently we might add, the importance of good hand-writing, working diligently on making sure we got the loop correct and stayed on an even line as we swirled our "R's and sailed our "S's" while having a ball with the freedom of the "G's." If only more doctors had that kind of training, maybe we could read prescriptions today more readily!
And though we can't read souls, we have a pretty good inclination that Sister Raphael has bypassed Purgatory and gone directly to Heaven. As many would attest, her trials on earth and fiat to God provided her a non-stop ticket to eternal bliss! Truly, when you read the lives of the saints, both Mother and Sister Raphael possess so many of the qualities and virtues of those who have been canonized...and they have devoted their lives to conveying these virtues to others. Mother continues this, Sister Raphael's mission is completed. Sister wrote a year ago,
That is her destiny, the destiny we all strive for in this life. Last summer, very weak but still so dedicated, Sister Raphael wrote a poem called "The Morning Star" in addressing the Blessed Virgin Mary in which she summed up Our Lady's role in words Mary imparts from her Divine Son,
Now Sister Raphael is safely in Christ's Arms, held there gently with Eternal Love that beckons all of us to follow.
They held Vespers and Rosary in the new Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament last Tuesday and this past Wednesday was the beautiful Funeral Mass for her on EWTN. Sadly, we couldn't watch it since we cannot get EWTN on any of the cable networks in San Diego, a travesty when you consider a quarter of the population is Catholic! Nevertheless, we remembered her at our Masses and ask her intercession for this ministry and all ministries and apostolates that are striving to do God's Holy Will and foster the teachings and truths of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.
We can only pray that all of our lives will be as blessed as Sister Raphael's was and that we can all one day experience the tremendous peace she must have felt in those final moments of her finite existence. It is something we all strive for in our lives as Roman Catholics and we can take the example of Sister Raphael as living proof that God does answer all prayers. Though we only met her once; though we didn't know her as well as many others; Sister Raphael is a true inspiration to us and all others whose life she touched through her simple, loving way, in person, through her art or her poetry. An apt legacy to leave to those still struggling on this fragile, finite earth. Sister wrote just this last fall, as if she knew her time was close,
Yes, Sister, that is a good question. Are we ready? We know you were and we call on your inspiration to keep us all going. Requiescat in Pace, dear Sister Mary Raphael. You have left the ranks of the Church Militant, promoted to the higher echelons of the Church Triumphant. It is truly a deserving promotion. For the rest of us, life will go on for as long as God wills. Now Sister Mary Raphael is gone, but not forgotten!
January 18, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 12
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