The trials of human love are also known by the holy.
Blessed María Guggiari Echeverría (1925-1959) was the oldest of seven children in Paraguay. As a teenager she made a personal vow of chastity. That vow was tested in her 20s when she met and fell in love with a medical student. María thought they might be called to a Josephite marriage, but ultimately he discerned that he was called to the priesthood. She supported him in his vocation, particularly by helping him to conceal it from his Muslim father. Not long after he left for seminary, she became a Carmelite nun, and died of hepatitis only four years later.
Blessed Concepción Cabrera de Armida (1862-1937) was a Mexican mystic, a married woman and mother of nine. Only 39 when her husband died, Conchita (as she was known) was devastated. She wrote, “This sword pierced my soul, without any assuaging, without any consolation. This very night, the Lord presented to me the chalice and made me drink of it drop by drop to the dregs…. Oh! If I had not been sustained by Him, then through my great weakness, I would have succumbed! What a model husband! What a model father! What an upright man! What finesse, what delicacy in his relations with me, so respectful in all his actions, so Christian in all his thoughts, so honest, so perfect in everything he did! My God!” After the death of her husband, Conchita continued to live the ordinary life of the mother of a large family without him, while internally experiencing the profound spiritual insights recorded in her many spiritual journals.
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901-1925) is famous for having been, by most measures, an ordinary young man. He climbed mountains and smoked a pipe and played practical jokes—and fell in love. When he was 22, Pier Giorgio became friends with a woman a few years older than he, Laura Hidalgo; never one to do things by half measures, when he fell in love, he fell hard. But Pier Giorgio never told Laura of his feelings. It seems he felt his parents wouldn’t approve of her; perhaps more importantly, his parents’ marriage was falling apart and he didn’t believe he could build a healthy marriage at that difficult time. After resolving to make this sacrifice, Pier Giorgio wrote to a friend, “I loved with a pure love and today in renouncing it I desire her happiness. I urge you to pray that God gives me the Christian strength to bear it serenely.” Pier Giorgio’s broken heart never healed. He lived only seven months after the above letter was written, and while he rejoiced in his God and in his life, his heart continued to ache for the woman he loved and could never possess.
Bl. John Joseph Lataste (1832-1869) felt called to the priesthood from a young age but fell in with rather a frivolous set in high school and stopped praying or seeking God’s will. For a time he wasn’t even sure if he could remain a Christian, though he ultimately overcame his doubts. Still, priesthood was no longer on the table, and the beautiful Cecile very much was. Lataste fell wildly in love and soon proposed, but his family’s opposition blocked the marriage. Distraught, Lataste asked the Blessed Mother to make God’s will clear to him. He waited in agony for two years—until the sudden death of his beloved. This was his answer, though not the gentle direction he had hoped for. Lataste mourned for two years, then entered the Dominicans, where he worked tirelessly in service to prisoners and ultimately founded a religious order for ex-cons: the Dominican Sisters of Bethany.
St. Elizabeth of Hungary (1207-1231) was deeply in love with her husband, an unusual occurrence for any woman of her time, much less a noblewoman. But her husband (sometimes called Louis the Saint) was one of the few men worthy of such a wife, and the two were very happy until Louis’s death at only 26. When Elizabeth (then only 20) was told, she cried out, “The world with all its joys is now dead to me!” For six months Elizabeth was inconsolable, but ultimately she was able to find healing and resume her works of charity in the few years left to her before her own death at 24.
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