The quality of relationships

Another feature of Mother McAuley’s spirit . . . is the primacy of human relationships. If Mother McAuley’s life was a lonely conquest for truth in God, it was also a beautiful vision of life made agreeable by inter-relationships with people. She was not to have the heritage which most of us enjoy, of a long uninterrupted family relationship. Death robbed her very early of what might have been the wondrously supportive influence of her father, subjected her to the rather unstable and superficial influences of her mother, and threw her into dependence upon frequently changing relationships with the relatives and friends with whom she lived. The remarkable point in her life is that despite the varied conditions of poverty and wealth, small group life and large, Catholic in Catholic households, sole Catholic among Protestants, and of strict fidelity and the wavering of those around her, Catherine so reacted to fulfill the needs of each of those people in her life as to win from them respect and affection.

She was, before the invention of the term, an existentialist in the regard, which she had for the whole person. In her catechizing efforts and in the need she felt to conserve the virtue of young women, she could never divorce “the salvation of souls” from the salvation of people. These were not disembodied souls to be preached to and baptized; these were living, potentially capable people to be taught God and mutual love, certainly, but also to be taught how to earn a living and how to grace their lives and those of others with the culture of education. She relied upon people as well as upon Prayer, to reveal to her and to bring her close to God. Because she entered so intimately into people, she was often deeply hurt by misunderstandings and grieved by the many times death took from her those whom she loved and upon whom she depended for guidance and strength.