Saints in 16 Book Club: Chapters 7 and 8

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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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The woman who is “beauty and perseverance” to me

In 2001, I learned to pray the rosary with a special intention in my heart: my future sister-in-law was losing a baby. She was told by her doctor that this baby, number four for her, had the same rare genetic disorder as her first baby did. Consequently, the doctor didn’t even hesitate: he (or she?) scheduled the abortion and probably sympathetically wished my sister-in-law the best.

To hear my brother-in-law tell the story, the day that they didn’t go to the abortion was one of the most freeing days in their marriage. I think he even used the phrase “a weight was lifted off of us” when he told me, quite a few years after the event, about it.

Over the years, I’ve returned to the experience of praying for that baby, a baby who was, in fact, held first by Mother Mary, and who must be entertaining angels and watching out for all of us.

God answered my prayer for a miracle. But I didn’t see it until many years later.

On January 3, 2010, on the Feast of the Epiphany, we received a call on the country road we take on the way home from Mass. Instead of heading home, we ended up at my mother-in-law’s house.

My brother-in-law had died, suddenly and unexpectedly.

Once again, the family I had watched come together for the death of a baby was uniting over a death. My sister-in-law was facing something so crushing, so horrible, so unrealistic…and I couldn’t understand (still don’t) how she didn’t break and crumble and quit.

Sitting on my mother-in-law’s porch after she and her daughters moved back to Ohio from New Orleans, she and I were talking.

“I think there’s a reason for all of this,” she said. “I can’t explain it, but I know you have a part in it.”

I can’t explain it either, but somehow, this sister-in-law, who has become one of my dearest friends, has shown me more about hope and faith than anyone else I know. She’s been eloquent without words and she’s persevered beyond anything I think I could bear.

Through everything I’ve seen (and much I haven’t), she has never wavered in her trust in God. Despite the fact that she was predeceased by two sons and a husband before she was 35, she never quit.

If anything, she told me, her experiences proved to her that she needed God.

Boy, do I need people like her in my life!

As I read through today’s chapters, I couldn’t get past the fact that Maria Johnson is another one of the people I need in my life. She’s the kind of person who isn’t afraid to call a pile of dog manure just what it is and who also isn’t afraid to heartily toast the success of a friend.

A closer look at perseverance and beauty

In fact, as I reread this week’s chapters and the people they highlighted—Flannery O’Connor, St. Margaret of Antioch, Audrey Hepburn, and St. Rose of Lima—I realized that these are people I need in my life too.

O’Connor was a writer, and though I’ve never been able to get into her fiction much, I admire her writing. As Maria wrote about O’Connor’s process, I realized that I, too, write to find out what I think. (I always thought this was because I’m an extrovert. Turns out, maybe it’s because I’m a writer!) O’Connor also suffered physically a great deal, and yet she persevered.

St. Margaret of Antioch gives us an example of perseverance in prayer, though her focus was thanksgiving more than anything else. I’ve heard my sister-in-law express thanksgiving for things that, honestly, I have a hard time seeing on the surface as blessings: her life situation reeks of “nightmare” to me. And yet, there’s a challenge here for me, an invitation to lean into God’s will and let it guide me to where God would have me go, to be the person God would have me be.

“The most beautiful pictures of Audrey Hepburn don’t show her in diamonds and Givenchy dresses,” writes Maria. “Instead, she is crowded by smiling children clamoring to be held by her or carried on her back, and she welcomes it.” Do I welcome the smiling children in my life? Even when they’re not smiling? Especially when it’s hard? Because it’s a gift from God?

Finally, St. Rose of Lima: obedient, dutiful, humble. She was pretty much everything I’m not. She wanted more suffering so she could grow closer to Jesus in his Passion: I’m always begging for less so that I can, well, be more comfortable. St. Rose cared for homeless children and the sick and elderly and then died at age 31.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. Which of this week’s saints speaks most to you? How might you turn to them in a special way this week?
  2. Do you have a special hero or person who has helped you grow in holiness? Pray a special prayer (perhaps a rosary!) for them this week.
  3. Who are the real women in your life who have beauty and perseverance? How do they live those traits?

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 9 and 10. 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 Sarah Reinhard

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6 Comments

  1. The women in both of this week’s chapters speak to me loudly. I have not been blessed with motherhood and at this time in my life, feel a bit left out of the ‘grandma’ experience that friends and coworkers are starting on, however, I have great admiration for women who can put all others needs before their own. I pray frequently for strength to offer my help/love/comfort to others when I would be more in my comfort zone keeping to my self.

    • That’s a beautiful way to live your spiritual motherhood, Teresa. Regardless of the seasons of our lives in which we find ourselves, and the circumstances that lead us there, we can always use use the love and support of our Sisters in Christ. I’m sure your generosity os felt in many ways.

  2. I am joining in this book club late. After reading the sample pages available on Ave Maria Press I knew I had to have this book. I too have spent time reflecting on the strong, beautiful women in my life and I thoroughly enjoy Maria’s spirit in delving into saintly role models alongside strong women of our modern world.

    Sarah’s reflection brings to mind a childhood family that endured such hardship I cannot fathom. The mother of this family persevered and carried on with an unshakable faith despite the overwhelming difficulties that seemed to be around every corner. It was only after her passing in her bedside journals that her suffering became known. A woman of great spiritual strength!

    • Welcome! I’m so glad you jumped right in to share one of your stories of strength 🙂

      Remarkable women/saints seem to surround us even if we’re unaware!

  3. I think I am drawn to people who possess the characteristics I most desire and feel the furthest from portraying. I am fairly sure that is a common thing. Ironically the 4 women who immediately come to my mind all have one thing in common — suffering. That RIGHT there is probably why I haven’t come close to attaining their admirably qualities yet. I run SCREAMING and as far away as I can from any sniff of suffering. Poise in pain, courage in face of trial, unshakable faith regardless of their circumstances. It is what I long for but not what I want !!

  4. I am not sure I can pick a favorite chapter in “My Badass Book of Saints,” but if I had to, I just might pick chapter 7. The virtue of perseverance is a difficult one, but one that I am learning (slowly). I need to read stories of perseverance to help me grow in this virtue. And Maria gives us the stories of Flannery O’Connor and St. Margaret of Antioch—as well as her own, personal story—as examples of this virtue. The visual of the dragon really spoke to me, too. We all have some type of dragon that we face, don’t we? And in this chapter we meet women who are fighting or who have already defeated their dragons! This gives us the courage to persevere in making sure we move past our dragons, and not let them devour us. Finally, to find the good, the beautiful and the blessed in the midst of trial is truly edifying and gives great hope.

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