BAY RIDGE — Pouring rain, dreary skies, and pandemic restrictions could not keep Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan from celebrating the canonization 100 years ago of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.
Cardinal Dolan on Friday, Oct. 16 said Mass before the sisters of the historic Visitation Monastery, founded in 1855, and one of the earliest fixtures in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn.
The cardinal told the sisters and about 25 attendees that he had been eager to celebrate St. Margaret Mary’s canonization, but also her revelation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To get there, he had to make his way from the Manhattan offices of the Archdiocese of New York, enduring slick roads inundated with steady downpours.
“It would be easy not to come,” Cardinal Dolan told The Tablet following the Mass. “But it was essential to come. I said ‘We can’t pass this up. We got to go.’ “
“The most important thing is that we rendered praise to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. And, we sure did that,” he added.
St. Margaret Mary lived in France, 1647-1690. She was a nun in the order of the Visitation of Holy Mary. Modern-day sisters in that order reside at the monastery in Bay Ridge — a community devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as revealed to St. Margaret Mary.
They also pursue gentleness and humility, as demonstrated by the Blessed Mother’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, when she said “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord” (Luke 1:39-46).
The monastery sponsors Visitation Academy, an elementary school for girls. It is administered by a lay faculty. Sisters sometimes teach religion, but also bless the students with love and support.
A retreat program at the monastery gives lay people and other religious women the opportunity to cloister for a few days for spiritual renewal. But the retreats have been on hold since the COVID-19 pandemic appeared in March.
The pandemic also deterred part of the jubilee celebration for St. Mary Margaret Alacoque.
Mother Susan Marie Kaspryek told The Tablet after the Mass that the monastery originally scheduled the celebration on May 13, the exact anniversary of the saint’s canonization in 1920.
The pandemic forced a delay until Oct. 16, which is the feast day of St. Mary Margaret Alacoque. Social distancing requirements allowed about 25 attendees, spread six feet apart with only two allowed to a pew.
Mother Susan Marie had hoped to fill the spaces with students from the academy and their teachers. The pandemic, however, prevented that.
“But the cardinal was still willing to come,” she said.
Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Chappetto, vicar general of the Diocese of Brooklyn, concelebrated the Mass.
During his homily, Cardinal Dolan said that many years before, when he was a young priest, he was once leading a burly, gruff truck driver in instruction because the man’s wife and children were Catholic. The fellow didn’t understand the incarnation of Christ.
“He found it difficult that God would take on flesh and be with us here,” the cardinal recalled. “But then, one day, he noticed a picture on the wall.”
Cardinal Dolan said the picture was an image of the Savior with a blazing heart.
“He said, ‘Who is that?’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s Jesus.’ And he said, ‘Jesus has a heart? Well, that must mean our God has a heart.’
“I said ‘Bingo!’ There’s a good Catholic word — bingo. But our God does have a heart and it is the most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“And it’s the Sacred Heart that drives home the mystery of the incarnation. Still, we’re slow to understand.
“The Church is the Bride of Christ, and a bride often says, ‘Why don’t you tell me you love me?’ But all we need do is gaze upon the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
“And we receive compassion, love, and mercy. So we need this celebration.”