Scientists say that diamonds need more than 350 tons of pressure per square inch and heat levels above 2200 degrees Fahrenheit to form within the earth. And since we know that God’s own inner order and life imprint themselves on all of creation, this simple scientific fact has something to teach us about spiritual reality.
The world’s natural processes have meaning embedded within them. And the lesson learned from diamonds is that the most precious spiritual things only emerge out of intense challenges and suffering. In the words of Leon Bloy, “There are places that do not exist in our hearts until they are born into existence through suffering.” Spiritual greatness emerges only through an experience of the Cross.
We see this clearly in the life of St. John Paul II. Amid the brutality of Nazi-occupied and then Communist-run Poland, God formed a spiritual diamond in the heart of the young priest, Karol Wotyla. He believed that the human person bears a unique dignity which flows from having been created in the image of God. This conviction, forged in suffering, would emerge on the world stage when Wotyla was elected to the papacy as John Paul II. It would become one of the most important truths that he preached and taught emphatically throughout his papal ministry.
Through the pontificate of John Paul II, God gave to the Church and the world an antidote to our modern ills. For, if we look closely enough, we can see that at the root of every disorder of our day lies a flawed conception of the human person. The Church can respond to these ills by echoing the truth about human dignity revealed to us by Jesus Christ.
This brings me to a very practical invitation. Our Archdiocesan Catholic Women’s Conference chose this year to devote itself to a particular quotation from John Paul II on precisely this topic. I offer it here:
“For God and before God, the human being is always unique and unrepeatable, somebody thought of and chosen from eternity, someone called and identified by his own name.”
– Urbi et Orbi, Christmas 1978
Through our annual conference, women of the Archdiocese are invited to an extraordinary experience of renewing their faith and rediscovering their personal dignity, especially the astonishing fact that each person is uniquely known, loved and called by God for a particular purpose. And this purpose is “unrepeatable,” which means that each and every individual woman, and she alone, is tasked with it, and that no one else will ever exist who can replicate her mission.
Our hearts were made for greatness, to perform a task that has more than just earthly meaning, but also eternal implications. We’ll never be satisfied until we discover the mission that belongs to us personally. So, women of the Archdiocese, it’s a pleasure and a blessing for me to invite you to take part in this year’s conference and reflect with your fellow sisters in Christ about God’s call to you, and how to more fully embrace the task that is yours. I’ll be there to celebrate the opening Mass, and I very much look forward to praying with you and sharing the spirit of the day.
The 2019 Catholic Women’s Conference, “Unique and Unrepeatable: Your Mission as a Catholic Woman,” took place on Saturday October 26, 2019, at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, PA
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput is the archbishop of Philadelphia.