It was by sheer accident that I came across information about the late Mother Irini of Egypt. From what I have been able to read so far, she was a wonderful woman. Just reading what information there is about her on the web made me "feel good". When I have such a sense of peace and joy, reading about someone who not only suffered much, but asked God for "the joy of illness", who fasted severely and prayed with such fervour, there must be something more than simple admiration going on. Here is more information about this extraordinary woman.
I have been thinking, on and off, about how important monasticism and the religious life in general are to the well-being of the Church. It seems to me that one of the most welcome signs of late in the Catholic Church is the return to traditional monastic life. Whilst I accept and value the active congregations and especially the religious sisters who are involved in pastoral work and the caring professions (and used to be more involved in teaching) it is the case that the religious communities that have begun to grow again - or the new ones that are emerging - have returned to a more obvious community life, with recognizable habits and a more joyful acceptance of austerity. This is not to say that the reforms of Vatican II were not necessary - just try speaking to a sister in her 70s or 80s if you doubt this - but that some things that were removed or changed should have been truly renewed without becoming something almost completely different. The apparent rush to escape from the real challenges of the founders or, indeed, the radical call of the Gospel (or is it re-interpretation of that call) led to the collapse of many religious communities. The Church needs them and we need to reflect on how valuable they are to all of us. Perhaps Mother Irini, and others like her, will remind us of this.
Egypt, they say, is "on the brink" and Christians are bearing much of the suffering. I first met some Coptic Christians about six years ago. They are wonderful people. May God protect them and bless the Holy Land of Egypt.