The Force of Her Focus – UPDATED

Marks ’10/Kris Snibble (Photosource)

Readers may remember a post from the spring, featuring Mary Anne Marks, Harvard ’10, and her salutatory address, given in Latin, with not a notecard in sight.

In this interview with Kathryn Jean Lopez, you can feel the force of her focus; she is like a laser.

The cry that the Church is a “dying, loser organization of sinners” echoes down the centuries; it rang out in Christ’s day, it rang out in Luther’s day, and it rings out in ours. The second part always has and always will be too true. Kyrie eleison. The erroneousness of first part is suggested by the Church’s record of accomplishments and its longevity to this point, and by the new growth that people of my generation rejoice to see.

Currently, Marks is focused beginning her postulancy–along with 22 other young women– with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist; her vocation has clearly been in her sights for a long time:

In eighth grade, after I had committed myself entirely to God during a trip to Lourdes the previous summer. Until then, I had lived a double life, drawn on the one hand to immerse myself in the beauty of my faith, on the other to imitate the less than edifying dress, speech, and behavior of my classmates. Kneeling before the tabernacle in the lower church at Lourdes, I was filled with an understanding of God as Love and a yearning to love Him at all times in everything I did, no matter what anyone else thought. Freed from the need to conform to others’ standards and willing to make Love the ruling principle of my life, I could speak unashamedly and sincerely of my desire to become a sister.

You’ll want to read the whole interview, and check out videotaped interview at Deacon Greg’s

Meanwhile, let us remember another enormously focused woman of the church:

Mother Teresa struggled intensely with her spiritual life. And this makes what she accomplished even more extraordinary and her example more meaningful to me. It also vaults her, in my opionion, into the company of the very greatest saints in the church. For many of the saints have done what she accomplished—founded religious orders, helped the poor, led a life of heroic virtue. Few, perhaps none, have done so in the face of complete spiritual darkness. Her ministry, based as it was on a singularly intimate encounter with Jesus that would gradually fade into silence, whether lengthy or lifelong, is a remarkable testimony of fidelity of the greatest kind.

Nothing so binds me to Mother Teresa as this facet of her life, and I have found, when telling this story to others, whether in articles, in homilies or on retreats, nothing so deepens their appreciation of her holiness.

But I knew none of this when, as a Jesuit novice in 1988, I was working with the Missionaries of Charity in Kingston, Jamaica. All I knew was that Mother Teresa’s sisters worked hard, were cheerful with everyone in the hospice, and asked the Jesuit novices only to follow their example.

Danielle Bean: Is Mother Teresa Embarrassed?

Nun Sense, Women in the Catholic Church
The Myth of Held-Back Catholic Women
Miserable Nuns
August Vocation Round-Up
More Miserable Nuns

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Jeanne

    She’s my new hero, this gal! I wonder if Harvard’s alumni newsletter will report on her career as they do other alumns in banking, law, medicine, etc?

  • Lori

    Terrific interview! The kids who will be her students someday are so lucky. I’m still smiling.

  • Manny

    What a remarkable young lady! God bless and best to her on her journey.

  • MaxedOutMama

    Regarding Mother Teresa, I believe that one of the reasons she spent so long in “spiritual darkness” was that she was doing what she was supposed to do with full commitment. Mystical experiences are commonly correctives for the deeply damaged. In some cases they may also occur because an individual needs that experience on an ongoing basis to comply with God’s call to that particular individual. But Mother Teresa wasn’t a damaged spirit and knew what she was supposed to do.

    And I do think that saints are called to set examples for each time to correct the prevalent human errors of that time. Our time stresses the ephemeral, subjective (a nice way of stating that we are narcissists) and utilitarianism in social aid.

    Mother Teresa was called to to dedicate herself to the objective in every way and her entire ministry was a contradiction of utilitarianism. For her, religion and truth were not about religion as a drug or a mental experience, but faith leading to a call from God, answered faithfully. And that call, as God’s calls always end up to be, was a call to recognize that human life is precious from beginning to end and that our duty to serve it did not rest on the potential of the human being served, but only on the fact that there is a human being with a pressing need.

    You only have to read one or two of the various fashionable current books about religion and faith as a neurological and highly addicting phenomenon (thus helpfully disposing of God while explaining why God just refuses to be killed) to understand why God would call a saint of this time to demonstrate the fallacy that faith and religious practice is based on one’s personal needs.

    [I think you're right. I also think, as I wrote here that our human capacity to love can only take us so far, and when we have reached the point where our love for God exceeds our ability to actually feel and comprehend and identify “love” – that’s when these saints see desperate days. My guess is they have simply transcended where human love can take them, but haven’t the tools to fully know “divine” love, and so they’re trapped in something unidentifiable and unknown – a place where they simply have to go on faith...because there is nothing else. -admin]

  • Fran Rossi Szpylczyn

    I love what you said in response to the comment above, regarding how far love can take us and the unidentified and unknown places.

    Mary Anne Marks is remarkable… what a story. Watching the interview is a must; really good.

    And today and every day I remember to ask Mother Teresa to pray for us all.

    [I think you're right about Marks; she has a particular gift for expressing complex (and complete) paragraphs of thought, on the spot. To me (a blatherer from birth) that seems just extraordinary and grace-filled. Clarity is from grace, I think -admin]

  • Jeff

    Her IQ seems off the charts.

  • Ron

    Did I read her correctly that her Catholic high school actually worked against her vocation? What a horrible thing for that school to have in print. But there it is.

  • Klaire

    Glad to see the “Is Mother Teresa embarassed article. I’m not per se an “anti Bill Donoghue”, (think he does do some good at times), but I was also embarassed for HIM on this one.

    One request to the ESB, perhaps. The last person in the world who would have felt like she needed “The ESB light up for her birthday” was Mother T. I am totally shocked that he carried on the way he did about this.

    As for Mary Ann Marks, looks like a great saint in the making. I too agree with the above who commented as to how lucky those students will be! Mary Ann Marks is our current day hope, and witness. It’s the few like Mary Ann who bring me back in my doubts. Ahh, the power of grace!

    Safe travels Anchoress. I will keep you in my prayers!

    [I feel as you do about Donoghue. This episode left me wondering if he needn't take a sabbatical, or something. -admin]