Saints in 16 Book Club: Chapters 1 and 2

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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.

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Chapter one commences with a fantastic, riveting introduction to Sr. Blandina Segale – whose name alone entices one to read onward. Reading on one quickly learns that Sr. Blandina had chutzpah! Basically this ordinary nun assigned to Trinidad, Colorado in the early 1900s brought together a dying man and the man accused of putting him on that death bed to reconcile. This single (not so simple) act of peacemaking squelched an angry mob from enacting its own vengeance and allowed the courts to bring justice instead. Not impressed yet – how about learning that she faced Billy the Kid, not once, not even twice BUT three times in her life!

While her life certainly had moments of heroic spark, the majority of her time was spent in the hardship of, and Johnson suggests perhaps even the tedium of, the everyday toil of settling the American West. Sr. Blandina is being considered for sainthood not just for her isolated acts of heroic virtue but also for her desire to live those virtues in her daily life. Sr. Blandina “must have faced down such unseen familiar perils as hopelessness, insecurity and fear …” These did not create a roadblock for her, which I find so inspiring. This begs the question in my own heart: how do I manage these mental bullies that threaten my audacious living for Christ? Although I would like to say I kick their bottoms every time they creep into my thoughts — that is far from the truth.

The juggling of my various roles — wife, mother, radio show host, my family’s personal shopper and accountant — can easily become crosses when my husband has to work overtime, one (or more ) of my children is sick, or our finances are in a mess (again). The external circumstances while trying enough quickly lead to internal struggles that may linger even after the overtime, illness or unbalanced checkbook have been resolved. How often do I allow the ordinary circumstances of my life to be blessings and grace opportunities? To live this conviction of devotion to heroic virtue not only in the big life moments but more importantly in the ordinary ones requires a good amount of faithfulness and courage.

Chapter two of My Badass Book of Saints introduces further this idea of faithfulness and courage in serving God either at home or about, with two warriors for God – Nancy Wake and St. Joan of Arc. St. Joan is probably not a new name for you, but I am guessing that, as it was for me, Nancy Wake is. Of all saints or ‘should be’ saints, Maria Johnson introduces in her wonderful new book, this French Resistance leader known as “the white mouse” intrigued me the most. Wake was “an Australian socialite, who married a French businessman at the onset of World War II,” who along with her husband became a spy. She, like Sr. Blandina, also had chutzpah – she was “a force to be reckoned with,” however Johnson recounts how this fidelity to serve also came with great sacrifice and suffering. Though she, like Joan of Arc, did not count the cost to answer the call, and it is this set determination that so inspired me.

In 2009, I sat in my new Spiritual Director’s office, naive and ready to take on the world as a Catholic lay minister. My idea was to create retreats, write a thing or two, and speak at conferences. The idea was sparked honestly by attending several years of a well-attended women’s conference and seeing the ‘rock star’ treatment the women featured on the tour received. Deacon Jerry looked me straight in the eye and called me out by asking, “do you want to pursue this to serve God or for fun and profit?” One God might perhaps bless; the other, he wisely cautioned, He would most certainly not. The ministry that would bring God the most glory would clearly bring me the least. Little did I know when plotting this path so many years ago just how difficult and wrought with trials and tribulations it would be! While my battlefield is not so literal, it is no less treacherous and real. For every person choosing to pick up her cross daily and follow Christ, regardless of how you find yourself doing so, will need a good measure of audacity, courage, and faithfulness.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. What obstacles can you identify in your life that keep you from boldly following Christ?
  2. Where in the Catholic tradition can we find resources to help us grow in courage and fidelity?

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 3 and 4. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Saints in 16 Book Club page.

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Copyright 2016 Allison Gingras

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About Author

Allison Gingras, founder www.ReconciledToYou.com (RTY); and host of A Seeking Heart on Breadbox Media weekdays 10 am ET. Allison created the "Words with" daily devotional App Series: Words with Jesus and Words with Mary. Allison offers retreats and talks on: Forgiveness; Works of Mercy; Trust and JOY!

18 Comments

  1. I loved the story of Sr Blandina. It inspires me to do more research into our ‘wild west’ nuns. Can’t wait to read more!

  2. I enjoyed and was inspired by the four women discussed in the first two chapters. As for Nancy Wake I can’t believe there’s never been a movie made about her!

    As for my obstacles…I would say week, let’s be honest , it’s laziness. I always have the best intentions but somehow things don’t happen…I get caught up in Words with Friends or Facebook or laundry…ick.

    The great thing about being Catholic is pretty much every aspect of our tradition supports courage and fidelity. The more you attend mass, say the rosary, study the Bible and Catechism or participate in the myriad volunteer opportunities you are strengthening yourself. That’s the beauty of our Church…there is something for everyone.

  3. Re: question 1
    I use to believe that being a caregiver to my Grandmother was an obstacle to serving God (as a Sister). I was constantly told that I was giving up too much in the process. It took me a long time to realize I’m still serving out that calling, just different from how I imagined.

    • It takes some courage and commitment to give oneself over to God’s plan. I struggled with it most of my life, even thinking I knew better about what I need to do. Prayer and discernment are certainly indispensable in this situation, but we also have to be unafraid to pray what I think is the hardest prayer of all: thy will be done. It’s always interesting for me to realize that when I do that, I have both peace, and a feeling of fulfillment that my gifts are in fact being used to glorify Him. I’m still working on this being my first choice, instead of stumbling along :). Thanks for your insight into the matter for yourself!

      • Margaret Brown on

        It’s so interesting that you say that, Maria. For some reason, this year I’ve felt moved, almost “told” to change my prayer. I’ve always thought I knew what God wanted me to do and asked for the strength to do that thing. This year, I finally gave in to the notion that I probably don’t know what God’s will is, and I should simply pray that I have the vision and trust to be the person He is creating me to be. I wish I had that “Ah ha” moment before I became a Grandmother, but I suppose it’s better late than never. I’m working on my obstacles to fully living His will, which are a desire to be in control, and fear of letting go. These women certainly inspire me!

      • Sometimes my challenge is to allow myself to accept God’s plan, and not interpret his plan to bend and fit what makes sense to me. If that makes any sense. I tend to think I’ m on the right ‘path’, only to realize I’ve slipped into the ‘most comfortable ‘ path.

  4. I would say that for the longest time, my biggest obstacle of following Christ was the lack of time to spend with Him. I taught elementary school for four years and we welcomed our first child about 17 months ago. Little did I know, my world would be rocked to the point that I dreaded going to work because all I wanted to do was be at home with my little one. To put it in perspective for you, that was almost a deal breaker for my husband and I when we were dating–he brought it up and I couldn’t think of anything more far from “my plan” than being a SAHM! God had VERY different plans. I would say that last year as I was working, a new mom, and trying to maintain being a loving wife, time with God and developing my faith really was a struggle. However, I know that God was working because I now have time to spend with Him, but in different ways. Don’t get me wrong-I am busy from the time my little one wakes up until he goes to sleep at night. However, I have become very inspired by some women that are moms of young ones and grown ones who talked about how they incorporated prayer and time with the Lord into their daily lives even while spending each day with little ones. Right now, I try to pray a rosary in the morning at some point and a Chaplet of Divine Mercy in the afternoon. It gives me something to look forward to and often times a chance to snuggle with my little guy while I pray aloud. I also read aloud any faith books I am reading or passages from the Bible. We are about to welcome our second child (I am 37 weeks pregnant) and I have to admit that I am a little bit nervous for this transition. I finally feel that I am in a good rhythm of prayer and reading. I know that God carried me through once before and He will do it again! Sometimes it is hard to see that from the outside looking in–you just have to live through it and trust that He will carry you, just like the women in the first two chapters.

    As a mom, I feel like one of the biggest resources that I have found to grow in courage and fidelity with our Catholic faith has been through my connections with other Catholic moms and families. I cannot stress how important that has been for me. I not only can speak about the struggles of motherhood, but I have truly found inspiration in many of the women that I have come to know and how they are living their faith through their work as a mom. We can talk about anything dealing with our faith and often times, it leads to me wanting to seek out my own faith even more. I believe that surrounding myself with other people–men or women–of my faith has been the greatest resource to point me to toward the Catholic traditions and all they have to offer.

    • Keep praying a little bit here and there. This is a very busy season in your life — Jesus knows this, and so does our momma Mary. What a blessing you have in your connection to other women and families! God bless you!

    • Community — so incredibly important to maintaining a healthy spiritual life!! I AM so glad to see you speak to that Sarah!! Congrats btw on your new little one!! Such an exciting time of life!!

  5. I got to see photos and other memorabilia regarding Sr Blandina when I visited the museum at the national shrine honoring St Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, MD. There were in the same religious order. It was very inspirational and very real. Sometimes we hear saints stories and think, “I could never do that.” But the saints show us “HOW” to love and serve by their stories. I bet Billy the Kid needed a mother who looked into his eyes and saw his soul. I bet he needed a mother (a spiritual one in this case) he could respect and honor. We all do. That kind of love changes people little by little.

    • SO glad God choose Sr Blandina to be Billy’s spiritual mother and not me!!! Hee Hee!!

      Seriously though Pat, I always love your perspective on things! You never cease to provide me some spiritual tidbit to ponder that would have never come to mind – another reason community is such an incredible gift to growing closer to Christ.

  6. So much for my resolution to “read along” with this book club. I dove in to chapter 1 last week and didn’t stop until I hit chapter 7. But these saints impressed me because of their boldness. That’s a quality I do not possess. I like Pat’s comment about saints showing is HOW to love and serve. I don’t need to BE the twin of any of these saints. I just need to be inspired toward action and prayer in my own life, by their example.

  7. I’m late to the party! I read Chapter 1 last night, and can’t wait to delve into Chapter 2 today! I’ve never heard of Sr. Blandina, but I’m so very intrigued now! I want to know more about her, especially since my husband & I are planning a trip out west this summer. I’ve never thought about their being nuns in the wild west, so this first chapter was a real eye-opener!
    What courageous women. It makes me think that the petty things in my life that make me cower when it comes to my faith are just that: petty. I pray for the courage to emulate these amazing (badass) women in my everyday life!

    • Aaargh..I should have proofread my comment first! “I’ve never thought about THERE being nuns..”.(I hate it when people mix up those 2 words!)

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