Source: Diocese of Shrewsbury
The Right Reverend Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, delivered the following homily at a Mass celebrated for the Venerable Elizabeth Prout in the Church of St Anne and Blessed Dominic, Sutton, St Helens on Saturday 7th May.
Mass homily for Venerable Elizabeth Prout
On this Easter day we hear the words of Simon Peter “Lord to whom shall we go?” In the gentle company of three great figures of the Second Spring of the Catholic Church in our country – Blessed Dominic Barberi, Venerable Ignatius Spencer and our own Mother Mary Joseph, now Venerable Elizabeth Prout – we repeat Peter’s profession of faith in the Eucharist in the presence of the Lord Jesus: “We believe, we know that you are the Holy One of God”. These three witnesses – Dominic, Ignatius and Elizabeth – awaken in our hearts the fullness of the Church’s faith and the courage for a new evangelization. They all shared the passionist charisma, but each would be called to separate paths. Elizabeth Prout departed, as I did earlier today, from the banks of the River Severn at Shrewsbury, to the completion of her mission here in the North of England.
On the bicentenary of his birth in Shrewsbury, I reflected on his testimony to human dignity and the value of every human life in the growing towns and cities of industrial England. Yet today I want to reflect on how quite unexpectedly Elizabeth was led to fulfill this mission through education; and how her Sisters of the Cross and of the Passion have followed this same path all over the world. She will begin this educational mission in the worst of Manchester’s slums plagued by a cholera epidemic. Human conditions would never favor his mission, whether in overcrowded classrooms; mixed age groups; the lack of resources and the obstacles of the public authorities to the place of the Catholic Church in education. The extreme extreme of these conditions gives a glimpse of the supernatural finality of this tireless educational commitment. Mother Mary Joseph saw her mission in education as more than the transmission of information and human skills, but rather as a vital opportunity in times of social upheaval to transmit the faith and the precious heritage of Christian values. Her concern was specifically for young women destined to become, not just factory workers, but mothers of the next generation. She saw in them the Christian women capable of bringing that feminine dignity and genius, of which Saint John Paul II spoke eloquently, into a coarse and dislocated social life. It is significant that Elizabeth Prout’s first inspiration was to promote devotion to the Holy Family of Nazareth.
Today we see clear parallels in Western societies marked by an undifferentiated magnification of life, femininity, and dislocation in home and family life. The bitter legacy, not of industrial development, but of secularist ideologies. In her time, Mother Marie-Joseph recognized at the root of these illnesses an abject state of ignorance to which she courageously attached herself. An ignorance once again evident in the highly educated societies of the West, where opinion polls regularly reveal that many no longer even know the meaning of Easter or Christmas. We encounter the same religious illiteracy that Elizabeth Prout found in the dark slums of Angel Meadow. An ignorance that leaves a void and exposes new generations to destructive ideologies of all kinds.
Elizabeth herself was led by a sequence of events, on the peripheries of Victorian society, to bear witness to the continuing newness of the Christian message which, in the words of the new Directory for Catechesis, “God has revealed and revealed a new life – life without sin, life like his children, life in abundance, eternal life…”. “What news is more beautiful than this? Saint John Chrysostom asked many centuries earlier, “God on earth and humanity in heaven!” In the words of Pope Francis, Elizabeth recognized that the world receives this message of hope “not from downcast, discouraged, impatient or anxious evangelizers, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives shine with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ”. This had been his personal discovery in the Christocentric spirituality of Saint Paul of the Cross.
Today, we can recognize that this is the moment when Venerable Elizabeth Prout rises above the religious communities that have long maintained her charism and cherished her memory to continue her mission more broadly in a moment of family and society. crisis. As Mother Marie Joseph once worked in the Second Spring of the life of the Church, she will serve as a witness to the spring of the New Evangelization. Today we are gathered to pray that she may soon be recognized among the blessed of all times and places and become an inspiration in the vital task of transmitting the faith and the heritage of Christian values, in the midst unfavorable conditions that today affect the family and community. May our prayers hasten the day that will allow the mission of Mother Marie-Joseph to continue and grow on a larger scale. A mission which certainly did not cease when she was finally buried in Saint Helens on that distant day in January 1864. Returning to the Gospel text of that Easter day, we ask that in the midst of all the confusion of the crowds today, may it help many to discover faith in the same Eucharistic Jesus, so that they can say with Peter and the whole Church: “We believe, we know that you are the Holy One of God”.
Keywords: Bishop Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, Elizabeth Prout
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