26 SEPTEMBER 2018 - HOMILY, S. RAMÓN, PERU
Father Luis Alfonso Tapia Ibáñez
When the diocesan process of Sr. Aguchita’s beatification was finished, we shared her current testimony at the closing Mass. This is what I want to share with you in a more ordered way: to see the parallels between what God is asking of us, as a Church, through the Holy Father and through the various synods that have been gathering over these years.
The Pope began by challenging us with the “Evangelii Gaudium” document: the Joy of the Gospel. We noted that the Pope invited us to evangelize, to go out to the peripheries. While we were listening to the stories of people who had met Sister Aguchita, we noted that it was exactly what she had been doing.
Those stories told us that she went alone to the “Parada”, that unsafe area, where not everybody enters, and she left full of food for the residents of her school. Those stories told us about her ability to talk with the people and how everybody loved her and looked for her. Those stories told us about that “brave” and loving woman, as we would say today, not only to ask, as we are always good at asking, but to get people closer to God. Those stories told us how in all the work she did (going to “La Parada” to purchase (food), taking care of girls and spending her time assisting in formation), she was able to look for people, the near and the distant, to get them closer to God. She had that ability to approach the poorest and most in need people. Aguchita already experienced the Pope’s famous quote at the Conclave: “I want a poor Church for the poor.”
Later the Pope gave us the gift of one year devoted to consecrated life. The first document he gave to religious women was titled: “Gaudete”! (Rejoice!). One of the most relevant characteristics of Aguchita is the simple joy that can be clearly seen in the photos and in everyone’s testimonies. It is not a forced or advertising smile, but a joy that comes from her heart. According to her various writings, it is a joy she had been working on and it is not just a spontaneous joy. In her notes related to her first retreats one may read that her aim was to be God’s joy and smile for people.
The same applies for the “Year of Mercy”. “Jesus is the face of God's mercy”: is the letter that the Pope gave us to summon the “Year of Mercy” and Aguchita was exactly that face of God’s mercy for people that she met in her life.
The Pope, although I skip to the end, referring to the last document, is telling us that each one of us is called to be a saint and to reflect an aspect of God in the moment that we are living. Precisely one of God’s aspects Aguchita was living at the time was mercy: mercy with those women that were struggling to earn their living at the “Parada”; those women and girls to whom she taught cooking, sewing and embroidering; and then, during the last moments of her life, in the mission.
Later, the Pope gave us “Laudato Sí”. We know that Aguchita was a nature lover. Seminarians called her “Sister Lettuce”, due to her photo with lettuce. How she enjoyed being in contact with nature in La Florida! And we know that she really was a recycler. Now children say “recycling” in the art course and they go to buy this and that…Where is recycling if everything is being bought? But yes, we were surprised listening to the stories by some women from Lima and others from La Florida that Sister actually taught them recycling; using cloths to make something; undoing a sweater in order to make a vest and many other things; cultivating this and cooking that. She taught them to take advantage starting from what God donated us through nature, because for this reason God gave it to us. She taught them to respect, not to defile things and to take care of them. Aguchita was a precursor also in this area.
The Pope gave us other synods concerning family. A consequence of both these two synods is the Exhortation: "The Joy of Love". We also know Aguchita’s concern, as a "friend and caregiver of families." All those people who gave testimony said the same thing: she was a friend of the family, was someone who entered the house with confidence, because she was a friend of the house – a friend and caregiver of families.
In the last document the Pope gave us: “Rejoice and Be Glad”, he is inviting everyone to holiness. We are not making Aguchita a saint; it is she who lived like that. Moreover, when the Pope talks about the saint next door, we say that Aguchita was one of those simple and joyful saints. When the Pope talks about the feminine face of holiness we repeat: "Aguchita was one of these, and was also a sower of holiness among women and girls in lost and hidden places, where they sometimes said: "God has forsaken us".
She was that face of mercy for all those women, all those children, all those young girls, some already mothers, others grandmothers and others already in heaven with her. Not only did she search for holiness but she also sowed simple and cheerful holiness, like her, in the little things of everyday life.
In this document, the Pope talks also about holiness of martyrs. It happened in her life what he said in the year 1960, if I remember correctly: "Martyrdom is not improvised." Thirty years later, it became a reality. She did not improvise her martyrdom: she knew where she was going and wanted to go there. She wanted to go to mission, to the peripheries. She was even willing to give up her life and as she was ready and ripe, God took her with him.
One of the things that touched me when we were in Lima, and it is a shame not having recorded it, is the moment following the opening of her grave. When all the older sisters passed, some of them are here, your faces! Some wet with tears. How much suffering you had to go through! Only God knows! That suffering in these almost 30 years has not been a futile suffering. Today the Gospel is fulfilled: the last word is Christ and the Risen Christ.
At that time, what was of intense and long sorrow, today it turns for us into an intense moment and a much more extended time of joy and happiness, because she is with the Lord; and she is for us an incentive and an example, a thrust in our life. The parrhesia (to speak the truth boldly or freely) that the Pope talks about, that ability not to crumple when one is faced with difficulties, but to go ahead, no matter what happens, whatever happens - because our trust is not put in ourselves. When we opened the tomb we said, "Look what happened!" Our trust is put in the Lord.
Aguchita was a great prayer. She spent many hours praying. The Pope in "Gaudete et Exsultate" invites us not only to ask God, who also likes being asked as a father, but to ask God for other people. It is a grace of Aguchita for which I thank God. How many times people ask priests: "Father pray for me, as you are closer to God", and how does that work? We say, "Don't worry, as I am going to pray for you." At the Mass I ask for all and that’s it. However, when various sisters were reporting what Aguchita told them: “No, sit here, let’s pray for this person, let’s pray for that person, let’s pray for that other person, let’s pray for this woman that is going through this….”She had that ability of concrete intercession, of saying: “I cannot change their lives, I cannot save them, but I can present them before the Lord in my prayer”. This is something everybody can do! The one who is healthy and the one who is ill; the one who has great qualities and the one who has few; the one who is young and wants to devour the world and the one who is old and everything is faltering and does not have strength.
I reiterate that Aguchita is a wake-up call in our life, shouting about the chance of being saints in the little things of daily life. We are called to be saints in the little things of everyday life. If someday they put us on a pedestal, God forbid, we do not know, but may we be like the saints next door, those saints of the little things of daily life - those saints who do not trust in their qualities but trust in God. For this reason, as she did, they seek God in prayer and find God in creation, in people and in God’s word, as their whole life is full of God. When we asked people, sometimes I put a little weed and asked if sister never became embittered, until once we found one who said “yes”. Later, when we read her writings we realized that this is not a mere coincidence. Sister was not good because she was good and was not joyful because she was born joyful. She had been working on herself with effort, perseverance, fatigue and sacrifice. Read the “white book” where she is referring to sacrifice, suffering and the cross: she is referring to what saints talk about; things that one reads and says: “This is something I leave for another day” or: “I would rather skip this page”. Neither Aguchita nor her martyrdom were a mere coincidence. External circumstances are not so relevant. She responded to God’s grace in the little things of daily life, and if she could with God’s grace, so we can too.
For this reason we thank you Aguchita and we ask you that from heaven you continue supporting us, the same way you have been doing while you were living in life, encouraging and making us feel happy, the same way you have been doing while you were living, smiling and welcoming everybody when you were living in this life.
Whenever God wants, we all will meet with you in heaven.