Tribute to Sister Verity Anne by the Archbishop of Dublin
The funeral of Sr Verity Anne Clarendon CSJE took place in St John’s House this morning (Thursday March 23 2023). Sr Verity Anne was the last remaining Anglican nun of the Community of St John the Evangelist. Archbishop Michael gave the following short tribute.
Our society is one of hyperbole and of superlative, too much hype, too much effervescence, too much self. Always we need to be wary and watchful not to swallow the mythology about ourselves from whatever quarter it happens to come. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity … we often forget. The Season of Lent is a time for self–reflection and for self–realization. Both require a keen grasp of reality and of verity.
And so, I want to bring us on a short journey populated by nouns, not adjectives, basic, not overblown. And I am inspired to do this by the personality and the presence among us for well over one hundred years of life in Sister Verity Anne, now parted from us.
I start with her own monastic name: verity. It is a word and a name that, as we now say, takes no prisoners. Verity encourages us to react and to respond to the truthfulness, the integrity, the goodness of the person who carries this name as a chosen name. Verity touches the heart of a world moving too fast and moving too unknowingly even to itself.
Verity leads me into charity. And charity takes me back to the Collect of The Sunday before Lent. I will quote it in full:
O Lord, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth; Send thy Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee; Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake.
The dynamic of charity (that is, grace) is here seen and presented as the stitching together of peace and of all virtues and as the definition of a living life rather than as a dead life. This is a stark and yet a very contemporary contrast. Sister Verity Anne encapsulated and shared generously both verity and charity in all she was and in all she did. In living life for God and for neighbour she gave life to others.
But two further abstract nouns come to mind. They are humanity and divinity. In a very fulsome way, Sister Verity Anne held together, through prayer and through care, her own person and the person of God, living a life that was fully human and also fully divine in its inspiration and expression. This she did in quite an unselfconscious way and probably, had you spoken to her of this, she would have replied that she had no idea about whom or what you were talking. Both in St Mary’s and in St John’s, she knew everyone by name, their particularities and their idiosyncrasies, their qualities and their capacities. And she moved seamlessly from a life of responsibility to a life of receptivity. Of one thing she was always clear: residents were always the better for receiving blessing and the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the Body and Blood of Christ. To move with her from room to room in St Mary’s, bringing the sacrament to every resident, was in and of itself an inspiration and always a Godly walk. And she made the walk from St Mary’s to St John’s with others with true grace.
Today’s Gospel tells us that in The Father’s House there are many mansions, many places to stay, to abide – as Jesus Christ once came to abide in humanity by being born of a woman in Bethlehem. I have no doubt that Sister Verity Anne will delight to meet divinity in her humanity, to lay at the feet of the God she served all her many days both her verity and her charity, in that house of many mansions. The Epistle speaks of a new heaven and a new earth and a new Jerusalem coming to meet the faithful pilgrim. Revelation 21 resonates once again with the dwelling, the remaining, the abiding of God with his people. The future never frightened Sister Verity Anne. She was ready and waiting to meet The One who sat on the throne and said, I am making all things new! (Revelation 21.5)