In his beautiful Apostolic Exhortation ‘Gaudete et Exsultate’, Pope Francis spoke at some length about the call to holiness in today’s world. He reminded us that holiness exists not only in those whom the Church has beatified or canonised, but in those “saints next door”, who don’t appear in any book and whose names are known only to God. Such people are all around us, if only we would see them.
The Holy Father, in the same document, said that “holiness is the most attractive face of the Church”. This holiness is an invitation which God addresses to each and every one of us. The Second Vatican Council reminded us of this very clearly. And that is why we have saints – to show us that it is indeed possible for us, too, to become holy.
That word ‘becoming’ is really important because it is unlikely we would wake up one day and find we have become holy. It isn’t quite so simple, nor is it that easy.
Radio Maria Ireland is doing a series of interviews with Deacon Don – exploring the question ‘Can We Be Saints?’ In a recent interview Don was joined by Sr. Anne Lyons, PBVM for this series. In this interview they discuss the life of Venerable Nano Nagle.
[You can listen in full to this inspiring interview which is approx. 55 minutes long – HERE ]
Anne begins the interview sharing her early childhood experience of receiving a Presentation education in Thurles, and the sense that she was almost absorbing by osmosis the spirit of the Presentation Sisters from an early age. The simple expression and practice of religion in the home had created a living relationship with God whom she says could ask anything of her – but not to be a Sister! However, even if trying to over-ride the question, God remained persistent in the asking and Anne entered the Presentation Congregation in 1970. Fifty-three years later, and a range of missions and ministries around the globe, finds Anne now confirmed as Postulator for the Cause of Venerable Nano Nagle.
Anne speaks about being aware from an early age of the Presentation Charism for Education, and its practical expression through work with the poor and those at the margins of society. And how (even in the Pre-Vatican II landscape when the Congregation was still enclosed) she could see how, quietly and practically the sisters supported and cared for those children around her with particular needs. She speaks about the Presentation Charism as being ‘rooted in life’: Nano simply living out her baptismal ‘call’.
She asks: ‘Do we believe that we are called to be Saints?’ Reiterating the quotation from Pope Francis in Gaudate et Exsultate who ‘ ..likes to see holiness in the patient people of God’. Reminding us that it is the daily constancy, that the life of holiness is revealed.
Anne reminds us that Nano also did things quietly in a very particular historical context of Penal Ireland, she was a woman who dared to risk.
Holiness for All
To become holy is a response to divine grace – it is not our work– it is God who does so within us. For most of us, our holiness will be found in the constant repetition of the mundane activities of our everyday lives – an ‘everyday holiness’ which is lived out through numerous small acts. But all of those acts, done out of love, will move us just a little bit further on that path of sanctity because of the love with which they are done.
It is also worth remembering that Nano Nagle was a Sister for 9 years of her 57 years (1718-1775). For the rest she was a Christian, a lay woman who was courageous, radical and prophetic and who, in her passion for education and evangelisation, and her commitment to ensure that God’s enterprise would continue far beyond her person, left no stone unturned. She was a woman who listened with her heart. Her heart an expression of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“Perhaps the real question for us is – are we prepared to do what it takes to become holy?”
When our answer is ‘yes’, and we consistently live out our response day after day, utterly forgetful of self, then – and only then – might we begin to share that divine light which we reflect from Christ Himself. Only then, might we become the most attractive face of the Church, and truly begin to draw others to Christ.
The Cause of Venerable Nano Nagle
Deacon Don shared that in Radio Maria Ireland they pray every single day for the canonisation of Venerable Nano Nagle. The role of the Postulator is to promote in a lively way Nano’s life as a source of inspiration today, as a model of faith and holiness, by making Nano known and loved. What is needed now is a miracle of healing instigated by prayer to Nano Nagle. We need to pray for that miracle, solely through her intercession.
The remaining step before beatification is the approval of a miracle, evidence of the intercessory power of Venerable Nano. We await God’s will and desire to use her as His instrument of healing grace, to grant us the required miracle, to move forward her case for beatification and eventually canonisation.
Records will be vital in any future investigation. So that recording is an important aspect of this work. Please contact Anne Lyons, as the Postulator, with any stories, updates or favours received through Nano’s intercession. See Sr. Anne Lyons: Contact Email: email@example.com and/or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Nano Nagle
Nano Nagle was a pioneering woman, a pioneer for all the Religious Congregations that subsequently came in Ireland. She risked all, having experienced a total sea change in her life. In the shadow of the Penal Laws she came from privilege and riches, finishing her education with the Benedictines in Ypres, France in 1728. However, there were at least three critical moments that were instrumental in changing the entire path of her life, and which were responsible for her presence in the alley ways of Cork. As Anne described it – we can become the hands, eyes and feet of the Jesus of the Gospel, as Nano Nagle did. It is from a seemingly tiny mustard seed of faith that the global vision for Presentation Life exists today.
The continuing ‘call’ for us to move out of our safe places, moving the inspiration of Nano Nagle’s life from the museum to the street, from the historical to the actuality of life today.
For further information on Nano Nagle: