Holy Women to Remember, Part II
The Mystical, the Family-Oriented, and the Penitent
The Mystical: St. Gertrude and St. Frances of Rome
St. Gertrude the Great
Saint Gertrude became a Benedictine at a young age, receiving numerous visions and writing prolifically. One such vision occurred on the feast of St. John the Evangelist, the “beloved disciple.” As Gertrude laid her head near the wound in Christ’s side, listening to the beating of His heart, she asked the Evangelist why he had not spoken of our Lord’s heart. St. John replied that such a revelation was reserved for later ages, when the world turned cold and its love needed to be rekindled. The sister became one of the first devotees to the Sacred Heart and had great compassion upon the suffering souls in Purgatory.
St. Frances of Rome
When famine hit Rome, Frances gave away her husband’s family’s great stores of food and clothing. When her father-in-law prohibited it, she begged on the streets. Food miraculously appeared in the family's storerooms after that, entirely converting her father-in-law and casting her husband's last doubts away. After much more suffering and loss, the Lord promised that she would be guided visibly by her guardian angel for the rest of her life. She had revelations of Purgatory and hell, and foretold the end of the Western Schism (wherein there were three Pope claimants). Her miracles, visions, and sufferings were numerous; she at last received her vocation after her husband’s death.
The Family-Oriented: St. Scholastica and St. Darerca
This relatively unknown saint was a sister to the more famous St. Patrick. She was twice-married and had over a dozen sons, as well as two daughters. At least five (if not nine or more) of her children are called saints, including Saint Sechnall, Saint Auxilius, and Saint Diarmaid. Her life is found only in the Tripartite Life of Patrick.
This sixth century saint, twin to St. Benedict, founded a monastic community not far from her brother’s; five miles away, in fact. While this isn’t a long distance, St. Benedict’s rule for the monks required them to be back at their community before day’s end, so they did not have much time to see each other. Instead, they would visit once a year at a farmhouse halfway in between. One year, St. Benedict was preparing to leave when his sister, knowing she would soon die, requested that he stay. He refused. Thus she bowed her head in prayer. A storm broke upon the house, so violent that her brother could not leave. The favor that her brother would not grant was granted by God. Three days after her brother’s departure, he saw her soul ascending to heaven and went to bury her.
The (Very) Penitent: Saints Mary of Egypt and Margaret of Cortona
Saint Mary of Egypt
Mary became a prostitute at a young age, and spent her youth luring holy men away from pilgrimages into sin, often refusing payment, so driven was she by her passions. At the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, she could not enter, barred by an unseen force; finally struck with deep remorse, she saw an icon of the Blessed Virgin nearby and begged forgiveness. She then was able to enter the church, venerated the True Cross, and retired to the desert, where she lived a life of extreme asceticism until she died. The rest of her story is even more astounding, and she is one of many female desert saints who repented of this lifestyle. [Author’s edit: She is commemorated by name as the model for penitents on the Fifth Sunday of Lent in many of the Eastern Catholic Rites and Orthodox Church.]
St. Margaret of Cortona
Margaret left home at a young age to live with her lover, a young nobleman who refused to marry her and treated her poorly. After his death, she was not welcome in her former home, and took her son to a nearby Franciscan friary. After 23 years of strict penance, during which the devil attempted many times to lead her back into sin, she died. Her body is one of the Incorruptibles.
Have some favorite saints you think deserve to be better-known? Feel free to write us (or submit)!