Also read: Pope Recalls 9/11
Why Sister Marie? Why Now?
~Personal Reflections on the life of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey,
And her mission in these times.
While recovering from the tragedy of September 11, 2001, and subsequently learning of the life and works of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey, I became convinced that Sister Marie is a woman for our time. I remain convinced.
My husband Anthony and I have lived all of our lives in the New York City area on Long Island where we met, married in 1981, and have raised six children. Anthony has commuted by train into New York City for twenty-five years to work in the financial district. Providentially, he terminated his employment at Cantor Fitzgerald Securities on the 105th floor of Tower I of the World Trade Center five months prior to September 11, 2001. He had moved to his new company and was employed in the building right next to 7 World Trade Center. On that dreadful day, when the age old hatred between God’s children of different faiths reared its ugly head, Anthony stood on the street outside 7 World Trade Center and then ran for cover pausing occasionally to view the unspeakable horror of two planes attacking our city; our nation. Tragically, in a matter of minutes, among the thousands who perished, many of his previous coworkers and friends were brutally taken from this world, leaving behind families and loved ones. In those moments our lives, and the lives of every person in this country, and indeed the whole world, was forever changed. Anthony returned to work a few months later to be haunted daily by the view from the window of his new office; a dark and desolate smoldering hole.
“Let me introduce you to…”
Just a few months after this, my long time friend Erin von Uffel made a visit home to Long Island from Europe. She, her husband, and their five sons were enjoying a two year work related transfer to London. During our visit she talked to me about a nun from the 1800’s who had captured her interest. While spending her years in London doing some traveling to the Holy Sites of Europe and the surrounding countries, she was truly taken by Mary’s House in Ephesus, Turkey. There she learned of Sister Marie, the hidden nun who is recognized by the Catholic Church as Foundress of Mary’s House. This little stone house is the once hidden holy place where Mary, Mother of Jesus, spent her final years on this earth; the House is located in the very same holy place of Mary’s Dormition and Assumption into Heaven. My friend briefly explained to me that Mary’s House at Ephesus is no longer hidden because of the zeal of Sister Marie. Erin has ever since been Sister Marie’s tireless champion sharing her zeal for this little nun with everyone who will listen.
Erin left to go back to London leaving me with the very long name of Sister Marie de Mandat-Grancey to try to remember, as well as learn to pronounce. Much of the information she shared with me that day I am ashamed to say I forgot. However, as we parted she pressed Sister Marie’s prayer card into my hand.
We kept in touch by phone while she finished her stay in London and upon her permanent return in 2004 we decided to have lunch one day to share our family news and updates of the past two years. At my request, she patiently and lovingly retold Sister Marie’s story. It was plain to see that her heart was obviously devoted to this nun of so long ago. Erin’s zeal for all things of faith had always been contagious. I was beginning to become interested too. Over the next year or so when I would find a bit of time, I would read about Sister Marie’s life myself and little by little I began to pray to her. That’s when God took over and my heart became involved.
“Why Now”…and a little epiphany
A year later, on January 19, 2005, Erin and I met for lunch to discuss Sister Marie again. It was at that lunch table in a restaurant in our hometown of Huntington that a connection was crystallized in my mind between the recent tragedy of September 11, 2001 in New York City and Sister Marie. The pieces of Sister Marie’s story that I had already learned and the role of Mary’s House as a gathering place for different faiths added up in my mind to a beautiful possibility. I recall saying to Erin at that lunch table, “This isn’t only about recognizing a woman’s holiness; this is about the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and world peace!”
It was later that evening while thinking about this meeting that it occurred to me that 1/19 (the day’s date) is the exact reverse number of 9/11, the day of tragedy. My soul was seized with the Holy Spirit and a small hope was enkindled in my heart that the hatred of 9/11 could also be reversed just like those numbers; undone by forgiveness and prayers for peace through the intercession of Sister Marie. I was beginning to understand the answer to the “Why Now?” question. The world was certainly ripe for healing now, in these times. It was clear that after 9/11 we were in dire need of unity and peace between Muslims and Judeo-Christian America. Sister Marie seemed to be the impetus for this endeavor, but to fully reveal the answer to the “Why Sister Marie?” question would require some more study, serious prayer, and devotion on my part. Who exactly was Sister Marie? Where did Sister Marie come from? Who was her family? What were the circumstances and events that shaped her life? Why is her life important today?
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