Readings for Harriet Monsell (1811 – 25 March 1883)
“John answered, No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” (John 3:27)
In doing good, we can only receive, and therefore pass on, only that “what has been given from heaven,” according the Evangelist. This message of passing on the good is so fitting as we remember Harriet Monsell today.
Harriet Monsell (1811 – 25 March 1883) founded the Community of St John Baptist, an order of Augustinian nuns in the Church of England dedicated to social service, which by her death had expended to numerous houses, including in India and the Americas. (Harriet Monsell: A Memoir by The Rev. T.T. Carter)
Harriet O’Brien married giving her the name Monsell but her sick husband died. She then took vows for her own religious order, the Community of St John the Baptist. “During the new order’s first five years, it expanded from assisting about thirty marginalized women to dedicating a building to serve about eighty. As the Community of St John Baptist, guided by Mother Harriet’s energy, extensive correspondence and humor, the nuns extended their original mission to running about forty institutions, including mission houses in various parishes, as well as orphanages, schools and hospitals.” (Harriet Monsell: A Memoir by The Rev. T.T. Carter)
Monsell received from heaven the good gifts of energy, extensive correspondence and humor. She worked tirelessly to engage community with light hearted intellect and love. But she also had the gifts of listening, patience and compassion and used those godly gifts for the benefit of former prostitutes and single mothers. As the Evangelist says “no one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven.” Monsell’s gifts were so under the radar. She was not a great singer, or gifted athlete. She was blessed with the ability to listen, to be patient and to have compassion. We might be tempted to call theses “soft” gifts but they made a hard and positive difference in the lives of the women she, and her sisters in community, helped which includes the children of the mothers they helped.
What soft gifts might you have? Check yourself out. You might have the same gifts that Harriet had. She is gone from us now but God moves the gifts around, perhaps on you! The need is still here. People need to be listened to, they need patience as they undergo the process of improvement, and they very much need to be helped by people with compassion. What do you think, did God take some of the gifts given to Harriet Monsell, who used them faithfully, and place them on you? How will you respond?
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying through and to God’s people and “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” John Thomas Frazier Sr.