Homily of His Eminence Cardinal Arcadio Larraona
at the Funeral of Prima Maestra Thecla Merlo
[…] None of you know or will ever be able to know how much [Prima Maestra] suffered, worked and prayed…. Today you find things done, but they did not get done on their own…. How much effort, how much work, how many inspirations, how many acts of correspondence, how many sacrifices, how much faith…. […]
God was thinking of you–each one of you–when he prepared that whole environment of perfection and apostolate that is your Congregation. Alongside Fr. Alberione, Prima Maestra Thecla played a principal role in all this work. In a certain sense, she was the mother of the whole Pauline Family, which developed slowly and went through crises, accompanied by worries, distress and tears…. I myself witnessed a number of them: I was always edified and followed with great solicitude what was happening. […]
I remember your Prima Maestra: I did not have many dealings with her on the personal level, so to speak, but I remember her because her life reflected what she was. Everything in her was clear and straightforward, without exaggerations. She lived the words of St. Paul: “Be known to everyone for your consideration of others” (Phil. 4:5). One sensed that she knew God, that she united contemplation and action in a marvelous way. [In her,] contemplation came alive. […]
Prima Maestra was a true contemplative! A contemplative in action because even action can be contemplative. Not two lives, just one, but simplified, synthesized; a life in which everything was focused on God, on serving him, on communicating him. This was the life of Prima Maestra: a very intense life made up of work, worries, intuitions, concern for many daughters and communities… […]
It is also the life of the Daughters of St. Paul–your life! A busy, preoccupied life wholly concentrated on books and newspapers. If one loses her peace, calm and contact with God, the light goes out. Instead, if one’s heart is in contact with God, he gives it light, warmth, strength. Make sure that your hearts are always in contact with God. If so, then all your activities will be sanctified. […]
The union of contemplation and action is truly marvelous. The union of industrious activity and fidelity to the interior life is truly marvelous. Your Mother’s fatiguing, continual labors flooded her soul with great serenity, light, peace and fortitude. But along with her peacefulness, gentleness and serenity, she was also strong! She possessed a gentle strength that did not impose itself on others. Without conscious volition, she guided others kindly but authoritatively–an authoritativeness that could not be resisted.
Prima Maestra is not only your Mother but also your Model. Every Daughter of St. Paul who wants to be worthy of this name should look at Prima Maestra as she would look into a mirror, because she was the perfect model of a Pauline, always and everywhere, in all things and at all cost.
Prima Maestra is your Model. Copy her. Do what she did. Now, from heaven, she joins St. Paul in saying to you: “Imitate me like I imitate Christ!” […]
It is consoling for you to think: “She truly loved me.” […] Each of you can truthfully say: “Prima Maestra truly loved me. She loved me even when she had to reprove me. Indeed she reproved me precisely because she loved me. Perhaps I didn’t understand it at the time, but that’s how it was.” Each of you felt embraced by her maternal solicitude, which enabled her to intuitively grasp things, foresee things, provide remedies and offer comfort.
She was a holy religious! A holy superior! A holy apostle of the press![…]
How wonderful your vocation is! Love it! Dedicate all that you are and all that you have to it. Remember that the ardor that was communicated to you was first kindled in those who now pass it on to you: torch to torch, light to light, ardent and enlightened life to ardent and enlightened life. The first disciple in this chain was Prima Maestra, to whom your thoughts now turn as you remember her, feeling that she is still alive. She was truly lovable, kind and maternal. Look to her as your perfect model. “I believe in eternal life.” We believe in eternal life and look to Prima Maestra, who is forever alive in God.
I offer you my condolences, but at the same time we should all rejoice profoundly. In a little while, we will sing, “May the angels carry you home to heaven.” When that is the situation, all we can do is offer congratulations. So: congratulations, Daughters of St. Paul! Your Mother and Model is in heaven and from there she says to you: “Do what I did and you will receive what I have received.”
Remember that she is your Mother and thus plays a decisive role in your life. Remember that she was an apostle and that she wants you to resemble her not only by means of a religious life l text-indent: 3em;ived in continual fidelity and depth, but also under the aspect of the apostolate.
We believe in the communion of the saints. We can truly say that we are not alone. […] Beautiful and consoling is the dogma of the communion of the saints, by means of which the Blessed are in constant contact with us and we are always united to them.
It is not only a pious thought but a consoling reality that Prima Maestra is alive and waiting for you. From heaven she continues to watch over you, guide you, help you and pass on to you all that she was and had.
Congratulations! I urge you to move ahead with trust. Be courageous and thank God. Onward! Live in an always more worthy way the great grace that is your religious vocation, your apostolic vocation, your vocation to the apostolate of social communications and the press!