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.
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:
- What obstacles can you identify in your life that keep you from boldly following Christ?
- 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.
Copyright 2016 Allison Gingras