Gospel Reflection by Father Doug Harris - 18th August, 2019

Gospel Reflection ....

In today’s Gospel Jesus says: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already.”

St John the Baptist said that Christ would baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire. The fire is the fire of His Divine Love.

This fire within Our Lord was so ablaze that He became an “Offering Incarnate,” a “Perfect Offering.” He gave Himself for His Father and for us. 

He gave all He could, if He could have given more, He would have but there was no more to give.

We cannot hope to imagine how much fire the Heart of Jesus has for us. 

There is a story of a young Monk in the desert. 

Eager to grow in perfection he approached a highly respected Spiritual Director and said: “Father I have been reciting the Psalms and doing long fasts. 

I have forgiven my neighbour and have kept guard over my thoughts, what more can I do to please God?”

The old man cried out: “Why not become fire?”

All the saints were ablaze with the fire of God’s love.  One saint on fire is Venerable Edel Quinn.

She was born in Kanturk, Co. Cork, on the 14th September, 1907.

When she was seventeen the family settled in Dublin. 

The phrase ‘always bubbling over with fun’ occurs like a refrain in the reminiscences of friends at home and abroad. 

(Long-legged and agile she could outrun, so it was said, any boy in the town.  She was always obedient.)

Many years after she had finished school, she told a priest that from the time she was a young girl she prayed every day for three special graces:

to love God with her whole heart, to make others love Him, and to die a martyr’s death. 

By the time she had completed her secondary education, at the age of seventeen, she had fully made up her mind to be a nun in an enclosed order.

The Eucharist became the very centre of her life. 

At Confirmation she had taken the name Eucharia Josephine. 

She rose very early each morning and attended as many Masses as possible. 

Sunday mornings were completely devoted to the Mass. 

She would attend two early Masses at Monkstown and after breakfast go to the Carmelite Church in Clarendon Street. 

There she would remain for hours, normally hearing four consecutive Masses. 

“I could assist at Mass all day long,” she used to say.

During a period spent in a non-Catholic hospital she was able to receive Communion only once a week. 

Afterwards she told a friend that the privation of daily Communion gave her an experience of what hell must be like. 

She had a devotion to the abiding Presence in the tabernacle. 

“What a desolation life would be without the Eucharist. 

We want to be united to Him. 

If we knew we could find Him anywhere on earth, we would do our utmost to go there.” 

Many have borne witness to the frequency and length of her visits to the Blessed Sacrament and to her profound reverence and recollection during them.

She joined the Legion of Mary as a teenager.

The Praesidium (Our Lady of Victories) met weekly in Ozanam House and its work included hospital visitation and home-to-home visitation. 

Edel threw herself whole-heartedly into the work and was soon devoting almost every evening to the Legion apostolate, far exceeding the prescribed minimum of two hours apostolic activity in the week. 

At one period she was a full member of two distinct Praesidia. 

Edel had a great devotion to Our Lady.

‘True Devotion’ by St Louis Marie de Montfort, she read and re-read this little book until its teaching became part of the very texture of her soul. 

“Let us renounce our own human views to take on Mary’s and so be led by her spirit in all things. 

Let us adopt her outlook, her thoughts in all things. 

Turn to her in all circumstances so that she may teach us to love Jesus.” 

She admitted that she never spoke without first turning to Our Lady and at the end of her life, asked by a priest if she had ever refused Mary anything, she answered at once:

“No, I could never refuse her anything whatsoever.” 

“Why can’t we trust Our Lady?” she would say with great simplicity and conviction when others were discouraged by difficulties.

One legionary describes the earliest impression Edel made on her:

“The first thing that struck me about her, as she sat near me at the meeting, was the constant moving of her lips in what was evidently ejaculatory prayer. 

I watched her closely and was struck by the extraordinary brightness of her face. 

A spiritual radiance shone from her eyes, almost as though streams of hidden light were emanating from some hidden source.”

After she had spent two years as an ordinary member of the Legion, Edel was appointed President of a Praesidium engaged in rescue work among street girls in Dublin. 

She was then twenty-two. 

She drastically reduced her hours of sleep. 

She was inclined to neglect her meals. 

Soon after her twenty-fourth birthday she decided that the time had come when she was free to follow what she believed to be her vocation. 

All arrangements were made for her entry into the Poor Clare Convent in Belfast when a hemorrhage from her lungs led to the discovery that she was in advanced stage of tuberculosis. 

This was in the beginning of 1932. 

She was taken to a Sanatorium in Co. Wicklow, but the doctors held out little hope for a cure. 

The Protestant matron spoke of her as the nicest girl who had ever come there. 

A fellow patient gives this account of her:

 “Her attitude was one of kindness and helpfulness to all.  Anyone in trouble in the Sanitorium would at once go to her consolation. 

Always in good humour, she made everyone around her happy. 

She would often laugh till the tears came. 

Her illness did not appear to weigh on her; she never spoke of it and never complained. 

A priest who knew her well wrote:

“She was a soul of astonishing simplicity. 

She had achieved a very great union with God and seemed entirely abandoned to His Will.”

In the spring of 1936 urgent appeals came from Legion organizers from South and East Africa.  

After much deliberation it was decided to offer Edel an envoyship to East Africa. 

She was thrilled at the offer and accepted it on the spot.

 On the 24th October 1936 she left Ireland with the commission to establish the Legion of Mary over an area of about three quarters of a million square miles. 

Some of those who saw her off had the fear that with her delicate health she might not even survive the journey out.

On the 23rd November she left at once by train for Nairobi, the capital, over three hundred miles away. 

She managed to get two branches of the Legion going within three weeks. 

Bit by bit she worked her way over the vast territories of Kenya, Uganda, Nyasaland and Tanganyika. 

Much of her journeying was done in lorries or trucks over rough roads and in the wet season were just rivers of mud and in the dry season were stifling heat. 

She went to places where no white woman had ever been seen. 

At that time Edel was stricken by malaria (she had been planning to visit the Island of Mauritius, following an urgent invitation from Archbishop Leen, C.S.Sp.  Because of her illness the visit did not take place until January 1940. 

By the time she left in September there were thirty flourishing Praesidia)

“She was always in good humour,” said Miss Harel, her accompanying friend, “even bubbling over with gaiety, in spite of being so tired and always so delicate.” 

The first president of the Legion, Roger Giraud, tells how one day he saw her being interrupted in her thanksgiving after Holy Communion by somebody who had to speak to her. 

“Her face was transfigured, it seemed to be lit up by a brightness from within. 

If I had been told that she was looking God in the face, I would not have been surprised. 

Her whole appearance was changed by supernatural brightness.”

“I am persuaded that Edel’s cause will one day be introduced. 

Her utter selflessness and entire abandonment to Providence were never at fault.”

By the spring of 1941 her weight was down to less than five and a half stone and she was in a constant fever. 

“We have only this short life in which to prove our love…let us try to give utterly, in every way, without counting the cost, to be spent for Christ.” 

She was forced to spend over eighteen months in various hospitals. 

“If I cannot work,” she said, “then I can suffer.” 

And again, “My greatest joy is to suffer for love of Our Lord.”

When she heard there were hopes of establishing the legion in China and Japan, she wrote that the news nearly made her jump out of bed and suggested that when her own work in Africa was complete, she might be sent to the Far East.

In January 1943 Edel reached Nairobi. 

She could no longer walk more than a few yards without becoming breathless and exhausted, yet she managed to get about and found new Praesidia as well as visit the old ones. 

Edel’s main concern now was the visitation of her early foundations. 

She had the great joy of finding the vast majority of them flourishing, with nearly all the original members still faithful. 

Her last visit was to Kisumu in Kenya, it meant a train journey of eighteen hours during which she had a heart attack. 

At last, after a month’s stay, she had to give up and once more faced the long journey to Nairobi. 

Then suddenly at about six o’clock in the evening of Friday May 12th she became convulsed with a violent heart pain. 

A priest who happened to be visiting the convent gave her Extreme Unction. 

Then after a few moments she died with the Holy Name on her lips.

On 15th December 1994 Pope John Paul II declared her ‘Venerable’. 

A vast number of people have reported favours, some very remarkable, which they attribute to her intercession.

by Fr Doug Harris 2019