Saturday, June 3, 2017

Pauline at 200

Today we commemorate the 200th birthday of Blessed Pauline von Mallinckrodt, the Founder of the Sisters of Christian Charity, Daughters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception.  Born on June 3, 1817, Pauline was the first of four children of the vice-president of Minden, Detmar von Mallinckrodt, and his wife, Bernardine von Hartmann.  Historically, these were turbulent times in Germany.  The rulers who had lost their lands and power during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) were looking to regain both by whatever means possible, including seizing property of the Catholic Church and depriving Catholics in Germany of their rights.  In its attempt to legislate religion, in 1803 the government passed a law entitled, "Religious Worship and Education," which required that all children of high-ranking officials follow the religion of their father. In fact, it stated that failure to comply with this law would result in dismissal from office.   As the child of a Catholic mother and a Lutheran father who was a government official, Pauline should have been baptized Lutheran.  However, at four days old, when it became uncertain whether baby Pauline would live, a priest was summoned and she was baptized Catholic.  Thus, from the beginning, Pauline was involved in the struggles between church and state that were characteristic of Germany at that time and would continue to play a significant role throughout her life.

On August 21, 1849, Pauline and three other women became the first Sisters of Christian Charity, whose "primary solicitude and love was to be directed to the care and instruction of the blind."  From that time on the congregation grew and spread, expanding its sphere of activity to embrace men and women of every generation, every social level, every religion, rich or poor, infants or the aged.

Today, the Sisters of Christian Charity carry Pauline's vision throughout the world.  We are grateful to God for Blessed Pauline, for her family and for all those on whose shoulders we stand.

Father in heaven, lead us in the way of love as you led Blessed Pauline von Mallinckrodt.  Open our hearts to others, that loving them as your Son commanded, we may be one with them in your heavenly kingdom.  Amen.

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