I have a longstanding dispute with an agnostic friend. He raises the Inquisition, the Crusades and how cruel the Church was to the inoffensive Cathars; I then patiently explain the actual historical facts. Reading The Harbour Within by Sister Consilio makes me think I should simply point out the amazing works of Christian charity done by unknown Catholic saints throughout the centuries.
An Irish Sister of Mercy, Sister Consilio founded Cuan Mhuire (the Harbour of Mary) fifty years ago to help vagrants, or “road men.” Her idea was to provide a sanctuary of safety and love for people whose lives had been ruined by alcohol, drugs or gambling. From this inspired thought, over 75,000 people have been supported at one of five Cuan Mhuire centres now established in Ireland.
Sister Consilio credits Our Lady with the success of her apostolate; her book abounds with a litany of small miracles of supernatural aid. Prompted by my interest in miracles, she reminds me that Cuan Mhuire is “Our Lady’s work and a miracle in itself. When we have reached the end of our resources, we turn in hope to God and to His Mother, confident that our prayers will be heard.”
She relates once making a long journey to visit someone in distress: “We ran out of petrol, so said our Memorare and prepared for a long walk. Soon we came to a silent empty house. There was a can full of petrol on the wall outside the house, just enough to get us home. When we called by later to thank the owners and pay for the petrol, they knew nothing about it.” Sister comments, “Leaving a can of petrol outside in full view is the last think that sensible people in the country would do.”
Fired up by her memories of divine generosity, Sister adds that their Centre in Newry was once “seriously short of necessities. The Director and the residents got down on their knees and prayed. Shortly after, a local businessman called by, asked them what the matter was and told them he would give them whatever they needed.”
In her book Sister mentions being influenced by The Sacrament of the Present Moment by de Caussade. “We are called to imitate Our Lady’s obedience: to be attentive to God’s will for us in all the daily circumstances of our lives – and then to get up and get on with it.”
At the Centres, the Memorare is often recited and the Rosary every evening. Sister explains that Cuan Mhuire is “a way of life. It is focused on serving Christ in the person suffering from addiction and its effects. All faiths are welcome, and both men and women, especially those who feel marginalised and distressed.”
Sister’s book reflects her own loving family life as one of five children growing up on a farm, with parents who were “hardworking, good people, who set us a wonderful example of helping others.” She reflects that “in today’s modern, busy world we have lost some of our sense of community.”
Now aged 79, Sister still gives her time and energy to her Centres and to six Transition Houses. She would love to see centres for the friends of Cuan Mhuire “in every town in Ireland.”
Her own daily prayer reflects her faith and trust in God: “Jesus, I surrender myself to you. Take care of everything.”
All proceeds from the sale of her book go to her very worthwhile charity.