A Modern Desert Amma

Sister Martina D'Amour is a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. Their motherhouse is next door and they rent space to us in the building that used to be one of their high schools. Sister Martina lives there with other retired Sisters and, as often as she can, she comes to do volunteer work for us.

The "Desert Ammas" were the first religious women in the Church. Like the Desert Fathers or Abbas they went to the desert and dedicated themselves to a life of continual prayer and simple work that would not distract them from their prayer. I think of Sister Martina as a contemporary example of this.

She has entered the desert of an elderly person. She is no longer able to do the work to which she had so faithfully dedicated herself. Her health is not what it used to be and she has had to let go of some of her independence. This winter she had to prove that she could make the short walk over to our building and when it was icy she had to be accompanied by someone else.

Within this desert her love for God and her neighbor burns strong. The other day Sister Martina said that with every new enrollment envelope that she seals she says a prayer: "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph: save souls!" That short prayer, like the short "arrow prayers" of the early Desert Fathers and Mothers, surely accompanies every enrollment that leaves our office. It probably also spreads to the whole world as she asks the Holy Family to bring all people to know the love of God and be saved.

French was Sister's first language. Though I know just a few French words I know that Sister Martina's last name is a perfect description of her: L'Amour. Love. Filled with the love of God and a love for God, she wastes no opportunity to offer her prayers and simple tasks for others. She is a true Apostle of Prayer and we are blessed to have her helping us.