Laurie J. Schmitt reviews For Their Sake I Consecrate Myself by Sister Bernadette of the Cross.
Sometimes we take a look around and think that today's corruption is something new to humanity. We lament like Cicero—the Roman statesman living before the time of Christ: “O tempora, O mores!” “Oh the times! Oh the customs!”— a cry of common sense, human compassion and right reason, and one that every faithful believer takes to prayer, for as long as sinful human nature has worked to spread its poison, the holy and wholesome have dedicated their lives to its undoing, all for God’s glory and the salvation of souls.
Benedictine monks of Silverstream Priory, County Meath, Ireland, are dedicated to the renewal of Christian culture. Around the clock, they offer prayers and praise in perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, begging especially “for the sanctification of priests and the spiritual renewal of the clergy in the whole Church.” Their Ora et Labora is balanced with necessary manual labor, including creative endeavors, such as candle and rosary making, woodworking, and manning the printery where holy cards, sacred prints, and Catholic books are made.
One of their books, For Their Sake I Consecrate Myself, highlights the life of Róża Maria Wolska, born in Poland, 1927. In her twenties, she discerned her vocation, becoming a Benedictine nun, Sister Bernadette of the Cross. Like the Silverstream monks, Sister Bernadette offered her prayers and sacrifices for the sake of priests.
It’s easy to look at someone’s life of years ago and think that the times they lived in were not as awful as our own, that theirs was not the pro-death culture of today which promotes abortion, divorce, and political and religious corruption, but Sister Bernardette’s life was a mingling of all of these. Her mother was advised to abort Roza in order to save her own health; her father abandoned the family during World War II; and Communism steadily marched, bringing social problems and economic hardship with each step. In addition, all of these trials of her day were enhanced by corrupt clergy. “Patriot Priests” were selling out to the Communist regime.
As a child, Roza was a spunky, saucy, rough and tumble tomboy. So how did this rambunctious little girl become a confident woman of God? For Their Sake I Consecrate Myself tells that as a child she read an illustrated book of the Gospels. In a letter to her mother she writes, “When I recall my own childhood, I am increasingly convinced that nothing helps our devotion more effectively and simply than the Lord Jesus in the Gospel.” In another letter to her mother, she shares, “I still remember the illustrated Gospel … (and) the memory of the Lord Jesus saved me from many misfortunes. And so it continues to this day that the Gospel facilitates contact with God, and prayer.”
For Their Sake I Consecrate Myself shows that Sister Bernadette’s rich interior life of prayer only intensified after her serious illness. She was diagnosed with a dire and painful disease that worsened after her failed surgery. She suffered terribly, remaining steadfast in her faith, allowing herself to become a sacrificial offering for the sake of priests who turned away from their holy vocation. Uniting her suffering with Christ on the cross, she pleaded, “Cut me in strips, but let them return to You and give You glory.”
The holy example of Sister Bernadette, as well as the Silverstream monks, gives us hope for our world today. For Their Sake I Consecrate Myself is a candid glimpse into the life of a modern-day saint and includes many photos, excerpts from her letters, and samples of her artwork. Although there's not a whole lot of comfort in knowing that today’s scandals are not new to human history, there is comfort in knowing that the remedy is and always will be found in Christ. Follow Sister Bernadette’s example by studying the Gospel, engaging in contemplative prayer, and in living a sacrificial life.
Copyright 2022 Laurie J. Schmitt
Images: (top) copyright 2022 Silverstream Priory; Canva
About the Author
Laurie J. Schmitt, a veteran homeschooling mother of nine, is the author of Catholic historical fiction books for children, including Lepanto’s Lady (Our Lady of Victory and the Battle of Lepanto), Champions of the Rosary (Our Lady of Good Help and the Peshtigo Fire) and Giorgio’s Miracle (Eucharistic Miracle of Turin). Picture books coming soon. Follow her at LaurieSchmitt.com and on Instagram @LaurieSchmittbooks.