Arts and Culture

A Modern Missionary

Before starting to write this column I looked at two books written by Sister Ave Clark, O.P.: “A Heart of Courage: The Ordinary and Extraordinary Becoming Holy” (Copyright, Sister Ave Clark, 2020) and “Breakfast with Jesus: A Holy Invitation with Many Graces” (Copyright Sister Ave Clark, 2021).

The second book, which is Sister’s sixth book, was co-authored with her brother Joseph M. Clark. I was delighted to see recently that the book was advertised in both The Tablet and the Jesuit magazine, America. I am hoping that during the Christmas season Sister’s books are given as Christmas gifts to people who are interested in reading as one way to grow in faith and hope. Sister’s faith and hope are very evident in her writing.

Sister Ave Clark, O.P., left, received the St. Catherine of Siena Award from her order, the Sisters of St. Dominic, Amityville. Presenting the award above is Sister Mary Pat Neylon, O.P., prioress of the Sisters of St. Dominic, Amityville. (Photo: Michael Rizzo)

I cannot recall where or when I first met Sister Ave. Over the last ten years or so I have become a regular companion and assistant in one of Sister’s many apostolates. We have been leading evenings of prayer at parishes in the diocese with some regularity, perhaps we do three or four of these evenings a year. Sister does all the “heavy lifting”. She arranges the evening after receiving an invitation from a pastor. She plans all the details of the evening service, chooses the readings, the hymns, and the theme of the evening. She picks me up, drives me to the parish church, and deposits me safely back home after the service. My role is usually to give two 15-minute talks. How many evenings have we given? My guess is over 25.

After one of my talks, Sister offers reflection. Always in her reflections is some experience of grace that she has recently had in her efforts to spread God’s Word. The experiences that Sister shares are phenomenal. If I did not know how honest and sincere Ave is, I would suspect that the experiences are fictional, made up with the best of intentions by this very dedicated Dominican sister. They seem too good to be true. But no. All of them recount experiences, real experiences from Sister’s life. Always when I am listening to Sister’s stories, I marvel at how God is operative in Sister’s life. She is a blessing in the lives of many, certainly a blessing in mine. She is a living illustration that grace is everywhere.

Recently, I read a list of the activities that come under Sister’s ministry which she calls “Heart to Heart Ministry”. They include spiritual direction sessions,”Sunshine Chats on Facebook”, Weekly Prayer Phone Line Bereavement Counselling, Autumn and Advent Retereats,”Sprecial Monthly and Zoom Mornings/Eveninfs Prayer Reflection”,Parish Retreats in Person, Zoom or Livestreamed. These are just some of Ave’s projects.

What makes Sister’s work amazing is the numerous trials that Ave has had to overcome in her life. Ave has been sexually assaulted, threatened daily by serious depression and actually hit by a locomotive train.! When I compare the small crosses I have had to bear in my own life with the crosses that Ave has borne for years, I am ashamed. The following is the statement on the cover of Ave’s new book:

“Imagine Jesus enjoying breakfast treats at your kitchen table. You are thrilled to have him as your guest. It is a wonderful time to ‘break bread’ together. You feel His love and deep caring. You trust Jesus and share with him the many concerns in your life.

Something touches your heart as you share Breakfast with Jesus. His gentle gaze calls you to emrace the challenges and opportunities of being his love here on earth in your life.

Bless us O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord.”

When Ave was planning to write this book she called me and asked me what I thought. I cannot remember what it was that was on my mind when Ave called or why I was less than enthusiastic about her project. When I was able to put my preoccupations aside and think seriously about Ave’s project, it seemed to me that she had a wonderful idea, I believe that readers who give serious thought to the many wonderful comments about having breakfast with the Lord may profit greatly.

I love the fact that many have contributed their thoughts about sitting down for a breakfast with Jesus. The faith and love of those who contributed to Ave’s book can leap off the page at us. I believe that Jesus is present to me and within me every morning as I have breakfast. Ave and her friends have helped me to realize the profound truth that no moment passes without God’s love being present in our lives!