This saintly nun died last month. The wisdom she left us is worth meditating on and memorizing.
I will never forget the first time I met Sr. Caritas. Her health had been on the decline and she had just moved to Boston to begin the final phase of her life. One day, I was walking down the hall and caught sight of an elderly sister who was about 50 feet away. As I walked toward her, she opened her arms wide as if to enfold me in her thin frame. I thought, “Surely, this sister is confusing me for someone else. I don’t know her.” But Sr. Caritas was not confused. She was filled with joy at the sight of a young sister. She hugged me, looked into my eyes, and began peppering me with questions. I will never forget her welcome. In fact, I can say with complete honesty that I have never been welcomed by a stranger with that much love ever before.
Sister Maria Caritas, FSP, died on February 1. She was not famous or well-known. She lived a hidden life, especially in these past several years in Boston. She had previously been stationed in Toronto and had close family in that area. It was very difficult for her when she was asked to move to Boston because of her health. But in the end, even though the move cost her, Sr. Caritas surrendered herself to the will of God.
Sr. Caritas was always a person of strong character. Sr. Anne Flanagan wrote of Sr. Caritas in a recent article: “She grew up in Sicily, with a character as strong and determined as her family name: Forte!”
Angelica Forte was born in Italy, the third child of loving parents who had been advised to abort her. Instead, her parents prayed novena after novena and she was born healthy. Her family called her their “miracle baby.”
As a young woman, Sr. Caritas had many suitors. In fact, when she decided to enter the convent, her mother brought her to a priest and asked him to convince her instead to marry a particularly suitable young man. The young Angelica, who had tried to explain to her mother that her heart already belonged to Jesus, finally stood up and put both hands on the priest’s desk. “Father!” she exclaimed, “Tell my mother that if she likes this young man so much she can have him!”
Sr. Caritas retained her beautiful, spunky spirit throughout her time in religious life. She was a missionary to Canada, learning not only French but also English. She faced many sufferings in her life, including a long debilitating illness at the end, but in each suffering she surrendered herself to God, trusting in his love.
She once wrote the secret of her religious life: “I do not do anything for myself, and therefore I see the positive in what needs to be done, and I don’t hold back at all.”
For this saint, sanctity was as simple as a smile and a day’s work
Sr. Caritas was an example to her sisters, especially in the way that she took her religious name Caritas, or charity, to heart. She tried, with God’s grace, to be caritas to those around her.
She would write little encouraging notes to herself in her journal: “Caritas, do not get tired; pray, pray, pray.” The determined way she tried to live up to her name was a beautiful homage to the God she loved so much who is Love itself.
After Sr. Caritas died, the sisters found this list in her journals. It captures the spirit of the simple, beautiful way she tried to embody caritas in her life and it provides a plan of life and love for us all.
10 Things I Will Never Regret Doing Before Death:
- Do good to everyone.
- Do not speak ill of anyone.
- Reflect before speaking.
- Do not speak when agitated.
- Help the less fortunate.
- Admit your errors.
- Be patient with everyone.
- Listen but not to gossip.
- Don’t believe displeasing things about others.
- Prepare for death. (This was underlined)
Who smiles like this near the moment of death?
Memento mori: I’m planning my funeral, what about you?