26 February 2016

My Favorite Female Saints

I love that the Catholic Church gives us examples of lives well lived in the saints. Especially since I was a convert who did not know many Catholics, reading about saints made me feel that I wasn't truly alone. Others before me had made great changes, sought God above all else and exhibited heroic virtue. Over time, I have met some saints who have stood out to me, whether because I admire what sacrifices they made, found something of them in myself, or just been drawn to them. Here is my list of (a few of my) favorite female saints.

1. Blessed Virgin Mary

We all know the BVM, don't we? To be honest, I didn't really know her before I started investigating Catholicism. In my Protestant upbringing, Mary was only really mentioned at Christmas-time. As a Catholic, I began to learn more about her life: her parents' names (Anne and Joachim), her significance at the Wedding of Cana, and her sorrow at the Crucifixion. The apostle John took care of her after Christ's death, and she was assumed body and soul at the end of her life. It is difficult now to imagine not knowing her and following her life along her son's. The Rosary was a great help when I wanted to get to know Mary better. The prayers guide you through moments of Christ's life, plenty of which show Mary's role as well. What was once a flat image became three-dimensional and filled out. Mary is a good woman to follow the example of: humility, patience, perseverance, trust, sacrifice...they're all in her.

Patronage: EVERYTHING + EVERYWHERE. But also: bicyclists, nuns, sailors, travelers
Feast Day: MANY. A few: Mary, Mother of God (1 January), Annunciation (25 March), Assumption (15 August), Nativity of Mary (8 September), Immaculate Conception (8 December)
Quotation: "Be it done to me according to thy word." / "My spirit rejoices in God my savior."

2. St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Thérèse Martin was born in France on 2 January 1873, the ninth child to her parents Louis and Zelie (now also canonized). She was only four when her mother died, and her sisters joined the Carmelites one by one as she grew up. This left her feeling motherless and, after her sister Pauline left to the convent, Thérèse became ill. It was only after many months that Thérèse one day looked up at a statue of the Virgin Mary and saw her face radiating in love. Thérèse was cured and took Mary as her mother. She decided at a young age to join the Carmelites and even traveled to Rome in November 1887 to meet Pope Leo XIII to ask his permission to let her enter (she had been turned away on account of her age). She joined the convent at Lisieux on 9 April 1888 and took the habit 10 October 1889. The decreased health and eventual death of her father in 1894 brought her much sorrow. Afterwards, however, her last sister joined the convent. She had what appears to be a good life at Carmel: she painted, cleaned and wrote poems, eventually writing down her autobiography at the request of her sister Pauline. In 1896, she began battling tuberculosis and struggled with depressive and suicidal thoughts. However, she stayed focused on God and Heaven and doing good for others. She died on 30 September 1897 at the age of 24.

Of course, I should need to include my confirmation saint. When I first read the words of St. Thérèse's autobiography, or even small quotations posted elsewhere, I found something alike between us. Also called the Little Flower, her simple humility, embrace of suffering and compassion for others appealed to my own temperament (which still needs a good deal of work to become like hers). I thought, "Here is a girl who I can see in myself, the kind of person I want to be, a good older sister to guide me by example."

Thérèse seems to polarize people. Some think she is fantastic, as I do, while others think she is overrated. I would challenge the latter to reconsider this little soul. "Though she be but little, she is fierce." There is strength under the surface of Thérèse, like a delicate looking flower whose roots dig deep into the soil. She clings to God and there finds her strength. I feel I can face any trials because Thérèse, who appears as small as I sometimes feel, held her ground in God's love. If I don't feel strong, that is okay: I am weak. But He is strong.

Patronage: missionaries, florists, HIV/AIDS sufferers
Feast Day: 1 October

St. Therese . Notre Dame Cathedral . Paris, France

3. St. Elizabeth of Hungary

Elizabeth was born in 1207 and was the daughter of the King of Hungary, Alexander II. She was married to Louis of Thuringia at the age of 14 and with him had three children. She is often depicted in art carrying bread and roses, because she would often go out to feed the poor. On one occasion, she was stopped and when she opened her apron, the bread was replaced by roses. Her husband approved of her simple and charitable way of living, and they had a happy marriage. It was cut short at six years, however, when Louis was killed in the Crusades. Elizabeth left court and joined the Franciscans, continuing to work for the poorest and the sick at a hospital. She died in 1231 at the age of 24.

Elizabeth was one of the saints I looked into when considering a confirmation saint. She struck my as a strong, devout woman. I admired her tireless work and the way she carried out the corporal works of mercy. I also thought on her life and wondered if I could act with as much apparent trust in God. She suffered, but lived a life devoted to God in spite of that suffering. I should like to embrace suffering in that way.

Patronage: widows, young brides, death of children, bakers
Feast Day: 17 November
Quotation: "How could I bear a crown of gold when the Lord bears a crown of thorns?"

4. St. Agatha

Agatha was born in Sicily in 231 to a rich family but at a time of persecution. At a young age, she dedicated herself to God and did not want to marry. One man wanted her so much that he, as a judge, imprisoned her at a brothel and later a jail cell (where St. Peter appeared to her), as an attempt to make her succumb to his plans to marry her. When these methods did not break her, she was subjected to torture, at one point having her breasts cut off. She died in prison in 251 at the age of 20.

Saint Agatha was one of the very first saints I ever read about. I cannot remember the exact book now, but at some point I owned a book in which the author talked about her martyrdom. I cannot remember why he brought it up, for it was not a book about saints or about martyrs, but there she was. I now wish I could remember the book, but, since I can not, I can use my time to learn more about her and seek to imitate her steadfastness in the face of persecution. Agatha is a heroic woman and (fun fact) commemorated in the Mass, so I can grow close to her every week.

Patronage: martyrs, breast cancer patients, fire, rape victims
Feast Day: 5 February
Quotation: "Lord, my Creator, you have always protected me from the cradle; you have taken me from the love of the world and given me patience to suffer. Receive my soul."

5. St. Veronica

Veronica is actually named Bernice (surprise!). "Veronica" came from "vera icon," meaning true image, a nod to when she wiped Jesus' face with her veil and retrained the image of his face when He carried the cross. She is featured in the Stations of the Cross (sixth station).

I think often of Saint Veronica, especially when I go through the forth Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary: Christ's carrying of the cross. It seems like such a little thing to wipe someone's face (mothers perform this task multiple times a day), but it is the simplicity of the gesture which always makes me pause and think on what that moment must have been like. For only a moment, Jesus was comforted during His Passion, by a woman who seemingly had no connection with Him (some say she is the woman cured of a blood issue in Luke 8, which would make her story even more amazing). A small act done with compassion becomes great.

Patronage: photographers (naturally), laundry workers
Feast Day: 12 July
Quotation: (possibly, given above) "If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed."

I always enjoy learning about new (or old!) saints. Have a favorite? Tell me about them in the comments.

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