I must confess that for years, the Eucharistic Prayer is the part of the Mass where I’m most likely to zone out. I kneel with the rest of the congregation, but as the priest prays at the altar, my mind will drift to thoughts of books that I’m reading, what I’m making for dinner, or what is on my schedule for the week. My ears perk up at the sound of bells, and I’ll attentively pray during the Consecration before sinking back into whatever mundane thoughts are fighting to occupy my mind. This routine can happen to me no matter what Eucharistic Prayer the priest is using, but especially during Eucharistic Prayer I. Before and after the consecration, the priest lists over three dozen saints. I know these are important people — they’re saints, after all — but it is so easy to let my thoughts wander off as the names float by: Linus, Cletus, Clement …
One day, however, I realized something incredible: In this long Eucharistic Prayer, several women are mentioned. Stunned, my thoughts crowded together. This prayer has been around since the early days of the Church. For CENTURIES, in societies where women were looked down upon, Catholic priests have been mentioning specific women right after the Consecration!
As I think about these women of the early Church, I’m touched by what I can learn from them.
First off, there’s the Blessed Virgin Mary. Next, there’s Felicity and Perpetua. Then, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, and Cecilia. Finally, there’s Anastasia. All of these women gave their lives completely to God. Mary said “yes” to becoming the mother of our Savior, and she continued offering this “yes” all throughout her life. The other women followed Mary’s example in their own lives of service to others and dedication to God. For example, before she was tortured and killed, St. Anastasia would visit and feed imprisoned Christians. Perpetua, while being imprisoned, cared for her young baby, and Felicity gave birth just before she was killed. Lucy, Agnes, Agatha, and Cecilia were all very young when they were martyred.
All of these women were bold, courageous, and loving. Mothers and virgins, married and unmarried, they embodied sacrificial love in their lives. The eight women of the Roman Canon remind me that we all may have different lifestyles and vocations, but all of us are called to be holy in a radical way.
St. Perpetua wrote an account of her imprisonment in 203 A.D., and after recounting a vision she had, makes a declaration that throbs with hope:
And I awoke; and I understood that I should fight, not with beasts but against the devil; but I knew that mine was the victory. (The Passion of Saints Perpetua and Felicity)
Her words form a battle cry that we all can make each day in our lives. As we encounter different challenges and sufferings, let’s look at the lives and deaths of these incredible women. Let’s ask them to help us as we pursue God, and as we struggle to accept His will in an increasingly secular culture.
Mary, Mother of God, pray for us!
Sts. Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, and Anastasia, pray for us!
Copyright 2019 AnneMarie Miller