Today, in our yearly calendar commemorating Holy Women, Holy Men we remember Emily Malbone Morgan. I confess that I did not know very much about this woman. Looking her up, I found her described as a “prophetic witness” and a “modern contemplative.” She was a founder of the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross in 1884. This lay order for Episcopal women was both fervent in prayer and very involved in issues of social justice reform at the turn of the twentieth century.
Emily was born into a life of privilege in Hartford, CT. Her family owned various summer houses, and Emily endeavored to turn these homes into retreat centers for women who worked in nearby mills. Visitors could bring their children and find hospitality, community, worship and rest. “My greatest desire,” she wrote, “has always been to make tired people rested and happy.”
Certainly, Emily Malbone Morgan was a product of wealth and of a different time—but the focus of her life and faith commitments speak to us across the years. One of the most consistent refrains I hear from people these days is that they are weary. That they are depleted and without reserves and are not sure how to regenerate their energies and enthusiasm. This feeling is shared in common across ages, employment, life circumstances. An exhausted reality may play out in specific ways with different people, but the reality of exhaustion is a uniting force among us.
Not everyone can take a vacation or a retreat. Not everyone can provide spaces for gathering and the resources for large-scale hospitality. But we can all seek experiences of renewal. We can all offer something to encourage those around us. What we allow for ourselves may or may not restore us completely. What we give to others may or may not be a grand gesture. Still, when offered in love and received with gratitude, the Spirit gets involved—ensuring any such gifts will not be offered in vain.
Gracious God, we thank you for the life and witness of Emily Malbone Morgan, who helped to establish the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross so that women who live in the world might devote themselves to intercessory prayer, social justice, Christian unity and simplicity of life. Help us to follow her example in prayer, simplicity, ecumenism and witness to your justice, for the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.