Whatever trial you're enduring, these wise "older sisters" understand and can be powerful helpers.
Life as a woman creates a few pressure points, that’s for sure. What woman hasn’t felt the weight of the world on her shoulders at one time or another? To cope with the daily pressures, try looking to the lives of some of the great saints for inspiration and help.
We spoke with women of all ages, from different walks of life, and they all have one thing in common: a particular saint to whom they turn for guidance and support.
Hoping for a child: St. Opportuna of Montreuil
After hoping for a child for several years, Caroline turned to St. Opportuna. A humble woman full of life, Saint Opportuna was a 13th-century abbess who is quite efficacious in helping women get pregnant. A number of couples desiring a child have seen their wishes granted through her powerful intercession.
Caroline explains, “We looked to her to accompany us during this long journey. Every evening during our prayers, we confided in St. Opportuna our desire to have a baby. We also prayed many novenas along with the sisters of the Abbey of Notre-Dame d’Argentan, where St. Opportuna was one of its first Abbesses. That gave us a lot of strength, and allowed us to stay united during the long months of waiting. After two and a half years, we finally had the pleasure of expecting our little bundle. St. Opportuna is still present in our prayers today.”
Invoking a saint allows you not only to be helped but also, as Caroline’s experience demonstrates, to feel supported in hope when all hope seems lost. The act of praying daily with her husband to St. Opportuna allowed the couple to hang on and stay open to welcoming God’s gift of a child.
Being a mom “at her best”: The Virgin Mary
Once a woman becomes a mother, the fears and the worries continue, often growing in depth. It’s no longer just one life that we must fulfill and lead to eternity, but two or three, or even more …
Maria, a mother of two who defines herself as “mother and wife at 300 percent,” is supported by the presence of the Virgin Mary in her daily life. “With my parents being Spanish, the Virgin is pretty much omnipresent in my culture. I was lucky enough to have a grandmother who showed great devotion to the Virgin and who told me to confide in her in any situation.” Hot-headed and impatient by nature, Maria has always admired the Holy Mother for “her exceptional sweetness” and realized since she herself became a mother “that Mary really got a full dose with her son!” She is therefore the perfect example — for Maria and for every mother in the world – who wants to be the very best for her children!
As Maria explains to us with a touch of amusement: “When I was young, I had a bracelet that said ‘What Would Jesus Do.’ Since becoming a mother, I dream of having a bracelet saying ‘What Would The Virgin Mary Do’!” This desire to do our best is good and healthy, but be careful not to be too demanding on yourself, as a priest reminded Maria during confession. “I told the priest that I still didn’t feel like I was a good mom to my children. I’ll always remember his response: ‘Do you really think that the Virgin Mary always felt she was on top of her game with her son Jesus?’” Peggy, 38 years old, is equally given a daily “boost” by the Blessed Virgin’s life: “At every low point, I’d say to myself that Mary, full of grace, did it!”
If the Virgin Mary is inspiring for so many women, perhaps it’s because she simply knew how to “say ‘yes’ to the Lord’s plan,” Peggy explains. “As mother to the Son of God, she accepted everything: escape, exile, probable rejection by others, fear for her son … She saw her son suffer for us and still she has remained present, always: before and after the resurrection as well as every day thereafter. For me, she is the example of love and grace.”
She is for us, women and also mothers, “the Mother of all mothers” whom we can ask to guide and illuminate our lives by her soft light. Peggy doesn’t hesitate in asking her daily, “to guide [her] prayer and [her] acts, to intercede for [her] when [she] is lacking love, patience…”
Dealing with adversity: St. Joan of Arc
At the tender age of 18, Marie-Alix, a student nurse, is still far from being preoccupied with thoughts of busy moms. However, she worries a lot about the future of our society and the 2,000 years of Catholicism that have been put to the test over the last few years in France. The young lady told us, “Every day at the end of my daily prayers, I say ‘St. Joan of Arc, pray for us and save France.’ I feel encouraged to fight for my country and not just stand idly by. St. Joan of Arc is important to me for making sure our religious values are respected.”
Why St. Joan of Arc? “Since I was a little girl I always felt close to her and she has been my guiding patron saint.” Just like Marie-Alix, there are many who say their devotion to a particular saint happened quite naturally, that it was almost obvious. There are times when one life touches another by the grace of God.
Developing faith and humility: St. Bernadette
Isabelle is 53 and a mother of 3 children. She is also an oblate in a religious community. As a young girl, encouraged by her grandmother, she chose to pray to St. Bernadette and St. Therese who “became my big sisters and still support me to this day.” She adds, “I love their childlike simplicity and their faith throughout their ordeals. I pray to them, who suffered so much, during difficult times — for example, during health scares. I also ask for their intercession to increase my faith and my humility in the service of my brothers and sisters.”
When she was little, Isabelle asked her parents why they had not called her Bernadette. Finding the question a little incongruous, her parents replied, “When you are grown up, you can change your first name if you want…”
And everybody forgot the incident. “Until the day when, thinking of having a religious vocation, I knocked on the door of a religious community. The patron saint of the novitiate was… St. Bernadette. Just a few months later I donned my habit and took the name of Sister Marie-Bernadette. A little nod to my ‘big sister.’”
Never giving up despite the difficulties: St. Rita
Enora is expecting her fourth baby after welcoming a handicapped child into the family. Despite some painful moments, she still draws her strength from St. Rita, from whom she always seems to find energy and comfort. “I really love St. Rita. In her own personal struggles, she never gave up on God and always confided in him. I love to think that my daily life is sometimes closer to hers than to other saints like St. Teresa whose lives seem more removed from my own. I pray the novena of St. Rita especially during tough times.”
Before becoming saints, these women of God were ordinary, just like us. They had their moments of hardship and joy, their emotions, and their daily lives. When a saint has led a life, or had an experience similar to our own, it can really draw us closer to them; they “speak to us,” as Enora explains. “St. Rita had lived my daily life as a wife with a husband who was not on the same spiritual journey. She inspires me because she experienced the same life as a mom with children who were not always easy and who gave her a lot of cause for worry. We have been through a lot with the double handicap of our son. Asking for her intercession has helped me a lot.”
The lives of saints are our lives … in strength, in beauty, in light. They reflect our lives in the light of Jesus Christ. We should never forget that we are all called to become saints. We should also remind ourselves that we all start off with the same unique foundation: the unconditional love of our Lord. The question is what shall we do with this love? How should we respond to such a challenge? Nothing is obvious. So when everything gets complicated, perhaps we should learn to humbly rely on the tenderness of these saints, who are close to us because they understand our joys and our sufferings.
Who is the favorite saint you turn to in times of hardship or happiness? Feel free to share with us in the comments below.