Vignettes from Catholic Life, Reprinted from The Monitor
June 3, 1928, Official Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco, CA
By Fred W. Williams
Editors Note: This is one in a series of word pictures on religious life and places by one of the best known newspaper feature writers in the West.
A ray of sunshine, filtering though a crack in the curtain penetrates the cool shadows of the improvised chapel of the Carmelites at old St. Mary’s College in Oakland and forms a halo above the figure of the Christ on the Crucifix above the altar.
On its way to the Cross, it lingers caressingly on a solitary figure in the brown habit of Carmel that kneels many hours in prayer.
This is Maria Luisa, the Mother General of the exiled nuns of the Little Flower from Mexico.
The Sisters at the door to the chapel tell you the Mother General is not well, that she has not been well for a long time, ever since in fact, the Holy Mother Church went under the iron heel of bitter persecution in Mexico.
Letters reach her every day. They are in Spanish and they come from faithful in the homeland. They tell of many things that sadden her heart, of the murder and torture of friends, of the striking down of good priests, so many of them, of the robbing of the Church and the scattering of her flocks.
Downstairs a little group of nuns place flowers at the feet of a statue of St. John Baptiste de la Salle, he who founded the Christian Brothers in the seventeenth century, who carried the light of education into the cellars and tenements of the poor.
They are so grateful to the Christian Brothers, these good nuns, for the Christian Brothers have been so good to them. When all the world, it seemed, had turned against them, when they were upon the streets and without homes, the Christian Brothers did a splendid, gracious thing. They offered a haven from the conflict; they are building them a convent with a cloistered garden at Moraga, site of the new St. Mary’s.
And so each day they place fresh flowers at the feet of the statue of St. John Baptiste de la Salle, whose sons came to their aid in the answer to their prayers.
They pray for their Church now in Mexico, these little nuns, and for their Catholic countrymen and for their beloved Mother General, whose heart is so heavy and who, hour upon hour, like a statue carved in stone, kneels before the Blessed Sacrament.
Maria Luisa comes slowly down the stairs. She has finished with her prayers. Her nuns put forth willing hands to help her. Though not old, she has become feeble.
A gracious lady. A Spanish aristocrat. A woman who must have been a great beauty in her youth. Her eyes are big and brown and alight with strange fires. Now and then a troubled shadow quenches them. When she smiles, which is seldom, her whole face brightens and the vista of years are swept away.
Her eyes look on and past you. You sense she sees something you do not. Those eyes, so wondrous in their penetration, have looked upon tragedy and yet much happiness. Reverently you touch the hand she extends.
The Mother General does not speak English, but through a nun who acts as interpreter, she tells you something of her sorrows and of her unhappy land in which the Church lies so sorely wounded.
Her heart bleeds for the priests in Mexico, the priests who remained behind, who are cut down in their acts of mercy by the ruthless gunmen of “The Butcher”, and who die with prayers of forgiveness for their murderers.
A bell tinkles softly against the coming night and summons the exiles of the Little Flower to Benediction. They gather their habits closely about them and silently, by twos leave for the chapel.
Later in the evening, when all is silent about the deserted college building, golden voices rise from the Chapel singing the Laudate Dominum.