Today, at the monastery of cloistered Dominican Nuns in Lufkin, Texas, our Sister Mary Catherine Laiche is being laid to rest in the little monastery cemetery. My health doesn’t allow me to go, but I can certainly be there in spirit and in my Mass and prayers.
I find myself wondering, as I reflect upon her long and fruitful life, upon the qualities of human virtue, personality, intelligence, and goodness that sets some people so beautifully apart from the ordinary folks we meet in our daily lives. When I say, “long and fruitful,” what does that mean? I suppose she was in her 70s, although the ages of contemplative nuns are not usually a topic of conversation. And fruitful? That is very hard to define, since in that kind of community, everyone has her duties to perform and usually performs them fairly well. We can’t all stand out like Mother Teresa and achieve greatness by heroic acts of charity, and yet most of us know instinctively when we are dealing with someone who is well above average in the science of the saints. I think of Sr. M. Catherine in this latter category. Everything she did, or at least that I observed during my five years as chaplain in that monastery, struck me as being exemplary and just what Our Lord would want in a contemplative nun. I know, of course, that some of the Sisters who lived with her would disagree with my assessment of her life, but that is to be expected. As Saint Therese of Lisieux was dying, one of the sisters in her monastery said to some of the others: “What are we going to say about her in our report of her life? She has never done anything worth mentioning.” That young nun who “had never done anything worth mentioning” is now a canonized saint and a Doctor of the Church! Often, our assessment of others tells much more about us than about them.
Because of her hidden vocation, most of you did not know Sr. M. Catherine, but I would I would ask you to pray for her today as her body is laid to its rest under the trees and among the other graves in that lovely, peaceful little plot of land. I think of her burial in terms of the gospel, where human burial is compared to the planting of a good seed, full of life, which will germinate and grow and produce a great deal of fruit. Only in heaven will we know how Our Lord saw—and sees—his children, and this or that one in particular. I am very grateful for having known Sr. M. Catherine, although I doubt that I spent more than thirty minutes in conversation with her during her and my whole life. The obviousness of real human quality doesn’t take long to impress. What would I say if I were to write a report of her life? All I could say is that to me, her genuineness was as obvious as her white Dominican habit even though I couldn’t give you concrete examples of it. I am very glad that she was a member of our Dominican family, and I will ask her prayers for me in the days ahead. What if her opinion of me was not very high? All the more reason to expect her to pray for me! Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.