Welcome to the Saints in 16 Book Club! We're reading My Badass Book of Saints: Courageous Women Who Showed Me How to Live, by Maria Morera Johnson.
Call me crazy, but I feel a connection to Maria Morena Johnson. How can that be, when I’ve never met her in person? Maybe that is an indication of a really good writer. Perhaps it is because she shares so genuinely in My Badass Book of Saints. It could also be all of her references to Miami, my place of birth and upbringing that will always hold a special place in my heart. Whatever the reason, the feeling is real, and I think it is also because Maria Johnson is just so-darn real … and so are the saints she selected to highlight in her book.
When I first received my assignment to reflect on chapters 5 and 6, I was a bit intimidated. These women seemed way out of my league. Phyllis Bowman and St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who lived and died to uphold human dignity? Irena Sendler and St. Christina the Astonishing, who did what needed to be done? How could I possibly relate to these heroic women?
But as I read their stories, explored the connections Maria makes with them, and even took to heart some of Pop’s words of wisdom, I began to calm down. Whether we are called to be public or private witnesses of our faith, we are all invited to rise to our occasion. We are all called to live lives of virtue, even if it’s just in our own corner of the world and in the privacy of our own circle of influence.
In chapter 5, we meet Phyllis Bowman, a pioneer in the prolife movement. She spent 25 years defending all stages of life before Parliament and in the public eye, after having her own change of heart on the life issue and a conversion of faith. We also meet St. Gianna Beretta Molla, who led a much quieter, more private life, but who now is a patroness for those called to uphold the dignity of life. In chapter 6, Maria introduces us to Irena Sendler, a brave rescuer of Jewish children in Poland during World War II, as well as St. Christina the Astonishing, who offered her entire life for the souls of Purgatory.
While each woman in these chapters is vastly different from each other, they all have in common this authentic care and concern for others. Their God-given gifts might be different, but their goal is the same.
While reading about them, I could only wonder, “How does God want me to use my gifts, my occasion in life, to authentically care for the beautiful dignity of life?” As a mother of six children, upholding the dignity of others has to start in my own home, with my own family.
When people ask me, “Have you always wanted a big family?”, I have to honestly answer, “No.” I never set out to have half-dozen children, but God did. And I am really grateful that I followed His plan instead of putting the fate of these children in mine. Was it easy having six children in eight years? Heck no. Was it worth it? Most definitely!
I didn’t become a mother of six overnight. God must have been working on me for a long time, for me to be open to these six little souls. Likewise, what we have to remember is that the women in these chapters—in the entire book—didn’t become heroines overnight either. They followed the daily promptings of God to gain strength, wisdom, virtue, and love. They had to learn how to make little decisions of faith, before they could ultimately abandon their entire lives in service to God’s will.
And it is the same for us. We might never be called to speak before Parliament or join a resistance movement, but we are all called to pray and to seek out opportunities to do what needs to be done right where we are planted. For me, it means reading one more story, giving one more hug, and rubbing Lavender on their necks before bedtime, especially when all I want to do is put my feet up and sip my tea. It means sending a note to a friend who is having a hard time. It means taking the time to prepare a home cooked meal rather than going through the drive-thru ... again. It means looking my children in the eyes when they are asking a question, rather than getting distracted by the email message on the computer screen.
At some point, we might be asked for more, and if we are faithful in small ways, we will be able to say “Yes” to God in big ways, too. And isn't it comforting to think that we are never alone? We have Phyllis, Gianna, Irena, and Christina praying and cheering for us from Heaven.
To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:
- How do you uphold the dignity of human life in your corner of the world?
- What is one thing you can do on a daily basis to grow in your faith and strengthen your resolve? Maybe it is adding a weekday Mass to your schedule or limiting your social media time.
- If you could invite one of these women over for tea, who would it be and why?
Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week's reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.
Next week, we'll cover Chapters 7 and 8. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Saints in 16 Book Club page.
Copyright 2016 Sarah Damm