Anne Maillet Dowling
Anne Maillet Dowling
Ste. Anne. I can see her in my mind’s eye over there in the alto section of the Chancel Choir rolling her eyes and muttering under her breath, “Oh no, Bob, don’t.” Which is as it should be. People who truly qualify for canonization don’t think they do. They are like that Danish saint, Ansgar, who is reported to have shrugged when it was rumored he had performed miracles. Said Ansgar: “The greatest miracle will be if God makes me a good man.” Anne, your demurral is noted, but only to add more luster to the stars in your crown.
I am, of course, no authority on canonization; but, if I remember correctly from my reading, say as in Morris West’s novel, The Devil’s Advocate, a saint must be the source of a miracle or two. Anne qualifies. She gave life to the dead. I refer to the Brooklyn United Methodist Church Home, all but embalmed and put in the ground, when, through the good offices of Bob Richmond, her pastor at St. James, Lynbrook, and my friend, Austin Armitstead, then the President of the BUMCH Board, Anne was hired… to breathe new life and lots of love into a moribund institution. Which she did day in an out, before hours and after hours to residents and staff: provide her own seemingly endless supply of compassion and encouragement.
Ste. Anne, the agent of resurrection from the dead. Miracle one.
Miracle two is more personal. But, I think, in the scheme of God’s salvation, even more important for the world. Certainly, it was more time-consuming and resource-depleting. I mean the care, feeding, guiding, reprimanding, teaching, and… well… loving of five very frisky offspring, to whom she was for many years both mother and father. And they turned out so well! I can hardly imagine how she managed to feed her tribe, looking at the size of them and guessing what their appetites must have been when they were in their teenage years. They will tell you she could be one tough customer when needed; but always, always, there was a shoulder to lean on and an embrace to hold you. And she never stopped providing that toughness and that embrace, though sis and juniors went their different ways, to far corners of the world, marrying, having children, getting sick, growing older, making their mark.. Mom was never more than a phone call away; and JFK Airport was just a half hour’s ride, she’d be there before the day was out.
Ste. Anne, mom extraordinary, if not a supernatural gift, still one that infuses the world with supernatural grace. Miracle two. And I ask you, really, in the work of making this world a better place, getting on with the institution of the kingdom of love and light, which is more important, giving good and generous life to the next generation or walking on water?
But you should understand my bias. Saints, real saints, in my hagiography have to be human. With a keen sense of humor. Is there anyone here who knew Anne well who cannot summon up in your imagination in this moment her deep and hearty laugh when considering a mischievous prospect? As we did often when recapitulating a Home Board meeting just completed, where each of us demonstrated his pride and prejudice… and Anne seeing through it all. She may have tolerated fools, but she never failed to spot us for what we were. Still her heartiest laughs were reserved for her own missteps.
Ste. Anne would never voice it, but I shall… to God… a complaint as to why this good soul was given such a hard way to travel through her last year on earth. Yes, yes, I know the verse, that those whom God loves, God chastens. But pancreatic cancer? I search for redeeming considerations. That Vin, a true helpmate in life’s health, should have a chance to show his love and loyalty through sickness. That, Jeanne, a nurse like Mom was a nurse, might provide her skills and compassion for her own flesh and blood. That you, friends, might rally around her pain and anxiety, larding her pantry with food, filling her mantelpiece with get-well cards, cheering her spirit with reminders that she was being prayed for mightily. Or could it be that the God who never gives us more than we can handle knew that Anne could handle more than most of us?
I don’t know, and maybe it no longer matters, now that she rests in the bosom of Abraham, having left our arms for the everlasting arms of God. Heaven is richer and our world the poorer now that Anne, Ste. Anne, has made her transition. And she who was the soul of compassion among us now is held forever in the love of God.
God of our days, who does not promise us an easy journey, only a good and satisfying one if we go at our days with faith and courage, we thank you this morning for one soul who did just that, made the most of her time for you and us and the hurting world. We commend to your eternal care our beloved Anne, wife, mother, sister, friend, mentor, strong shoulder to lean on, and wise and generous heart on whom to lay our burdens. Some there are whose entering your more stately mansions leaves the rooms of our living with far less love and laughter: Anne is one such and we shall miss her sorely. But we are grateful, profoundly grateful, that we have had her with us for many seasons of our living and loving. We thank you, the one to whom she often fled in prayer, the one whose word she cherished, for her faithfulness to you and to us, for her courage for you and with us, for her compassion to us and just about anyone who had the good fortune to find their way to her in their need. On her behalf we thank you that as loving as she was, she was greatly loved and admired. On her behalf we thank you for surrounding her with family and friends, thinking especially of this past year and its terrible ordeal by pain. She would want us to thank you for gracing her life with a loving helpmate, her Vin, companion in life’s joys and its sorrows. She would want us to thank you for filling her arms and heart with children, to make her proud, to make her happy, to give her the privilege of seeing yet another generation (of grandchildren) flow forth from her life. And the friends, at work, at church, in the neighborhood or just gathered up along the way to eternity, how blessed she considered herself by them and to you for sending them her way. Hold her now in your everlasting arms. Grant her the peace too long denied her this past year. And let her, please, keep an eye on us as a guardian angel, for that would please her as much as it would please us, until we meet again in the house with many rooms; through him whom she loved and named her savior, the savior who would surely call her one of the blessed merciful, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen