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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Eulogy for the Virgin Bride

By Susan Fox

Patricia DeSimone was a friend for over 30 years. This is her eulogy given May 1, 2012 at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Arlington, VA

Terry Burdett and I were in our 20s in 1980 when we joined the Legion of Mary at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, VA. Pat DeSimone was the president of the group. When I informed Terry in Twenty-Nine Palms, California, that Pat was dead on Easter Tuesday, Terry responded, “I remember how she helped knuckleheads like us find our place in the church.”

I conducted several interviews with friends and family of long-time Legion of Mary member Patricia Marguerite DeSimone, who died on April 10, 2012, at the age of 86. What amazed me about their stories of her is that during her whole life she acted as a mentor, a “big sister” if you will, for several generations of younger people.

Pat didn’t just fall into the role of mentoring young people. She had a little brother, James DeSimone, and he was born when Pat was 12 years old. He remembers when he was a teenager and she was in her 20s. She was his big sister and she was very inspiring because she taught him to drive, and “Boy could she ever drive!”

Fr. Daniel Spychala was in the Junior Legion of Mary 40 years ago, when he met Pat DeSimone as president of that group. But what impressed him about Pat was the fact that she stayed in touch with him after he left the Junior Legion. He told me, “She was there at my ordination and first Mass. She was a friend when I was in the seminary and a young priest.”

Thirty years ago, I was a Catholic, who didn’t sympathize with devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I joined the Legion of Mary because they did cool stuff. I told Pat how I felt. Pat was undismayed. She simply gave me a copy of “True Devotion to Mary” by St. Louis Marie de Montfort. It changed my life. I made my consecration to Jesus through Mary in 1980 with Pat DeSimone as my witness. It was the best thing anybody ever did for me. Three years later on my wedding day, I consecrated my marriage and all my future children to Jesus through Mary. That subsequently gave me immense consolation, for two of my three children died in miscarriage.

But many of you are younger and met Pat more recently. I am 59 years old. Jackie DeForge is only 37 years old and she met Pat in 2004 at first Friday devotions at St. Agnes and she remembers going out to IHOP with Pat at 2 a.m., “and it was like going on a retreat!” Jackie said, adding her favorite Pat saying was “Ask the Blessed Virgin and the Holy Spirit to enlighten you!”

That was Pat’s saying and that was Pat’s doing. I have letters from her where she says she is trying to discern God’s will. Pat wrote, “I think the Lord and Our Blessed Mother are sending me more people (to work with). I’m trying to determine if I’m right about them or is the devil trying to distract me?” Verbally, she told me many times, “The devil drives, God leads.”

Believe me, if Pat concluded that God wanted her to work with you, there was nothing you could do about it. That was David DePero’s experience. David met her at all night adoration. He was approaching 40; she was in her 80s. It was a very unlikely friendship on the face of it. He bumped into her at Whole Foods. She gave him a ride. He told me, “She kept trying to get in touch with me. She pursued, kept bugging me, it's like who is this lady?” Finally they started eating together at a local cafĂ©. “She had a way of releasing you from the bondage of yourself,” David concluded.

I’m tempted here to tell you that members of the Legion of Mary hand out the Miraculous Medal so often, they are called the “Miraculous Meddlers.” And Pat spent a large portion of her life in the Legion.

Eva Balino met Pat in 2003. They both did adoration at St. Agnes, and went out to eat afterwards. Eva related this story: “I was brokenhearted and praying there. She came up to me, and said, ‘The Blessed Virgin Mary told me you need a ride.’ I said, ‘Yes, I need a ride.’ That started our friendship.”

Trudy Harlow said the things she remembered about Pat were that she always tried to bring everyone she met to Christ, and she was irrepressible. She stayed up all night, read junk mail, she had the most amazing laugh, she loved to eat and drink and be Italian and she church-hopped. Trudy said, “I loved her for who she was, for the faith she taught me and the fact that she stayed proud of me. She was humble and outrageous all at once.” And about Trudy, Pat wrote to me in 1991,”Spending Thanksgiving with Trudy. I sponsored her into the Church in 1985. She’s been very active! I’m proud of her.”

Now I am going to tell you the secret of Pat’s fruitfulness in our lives. Pat DeSimone chose to give her life to Christ as an unmarried virgin. I can attest that she lived a life of great purity. The world today does not regard virginity very highly. Watch television, listen to politics, go to the movies and you’ll see virginity is simply something to be thrown away. Some might call Pat a spinster or label her “on the shelf” because she never married. Poor Pat, no children. But the world is wrong.

It’s a paradox, but Pat – the virgin married to the Virgin Christ – had so many children we’ll probably never know them all until we get to heaven. St. Ambrose talked about Pat’s life in 377 AD. He likened Pat’s life to that of Holy Mother Church, who is “ignorant of wedlock, a virgin, yet a mother of offspring. The Church bears her children not by a human father but by the Holy Spirit. She bears us not with pain, but with the rejoicings of the angels. The Church, a virgin, feeds us, not with the milk of her body, but with the milk of the Apostles.”

That’s the kind of milk Pat fed us, the milk of the apostles. “Holy Mother Church has not a husband, but she has a Bridegroom.” Whether she is the Church or a human soul choosing the life of virgin dedicated to God, St. Ambrose said, “Without any loss of modesty, she weds the Word of God as her eternal Spouse.”

Pat understood this. A year ago I was talking to her on the phone and I told her that St. Faustina had a vision of the place reserved for virgins in heaven. Pat -- with longing in her voice -- wanted to know all about it. Unfortunately, St. Faustina didn’t say much except that it was beautiful.

Pat experienced another side to the life of the virgin bride. Our Lord – all bloodied and marred with the marks of His most cruel Passion – appeared to St. Faustina, and said, “The Bride must resemble her Groom.” Pat received that aspect of her spiritual marriage with great enthusiasm. On Good Friday, Pat lay dying of cancer at the Joseph Richey Hospice in Baltimore. She was unresponsive at this point as she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything for five days. I called her up and had the nurse put the phone to her ear.

“Pat, “ I said, “It’s Good Friday, and you’re up on the cross with Jesus!” The nurse got really excited, took the phone back and said, “Miss DeSimone nodded her head! Oh my, the hearing is the last thing to go!”

And so Pat, nicknamed Pasquelina, which in its Latin roots means related to Easter, died two days after Easter. That place in heaven reserved for Virgins? She probably is checking it out right now.