Tag Archives: women of Christianity




Mary Guo Li, a native of Hu-jia-che, China (Hebei Province), was a Catholic wife and grandmother, with numerous children and grandchildren, all of whom were raised in the Catholic faith.

In 1900 a Chinese quasi-religious faction known to history as the “Boxers” embarked upon a bloody persecution of Christians in China.

Mary instructed her children and grandchildren that under no circumstances were they to deny their faith, warning two of her sons, “Remember that if you apostatise, I shall no longer be your mother!”

On 29th June 1900, the Boxers raided the family’s home, murdered Mary’s husband Guo Zhinfang, and torched the house.

Sensing that she would soon share her husband’s fate, Mary spent the days that followed preparing herself with the recitation of the rosary, fasting, and spiritual reading.

On 7th July the sixty-five-year-old grandmother was put to death by the Boxers together with three of her daughters and four of her grandchildren. Before being executed, Mary offered a final word of encouragement to her family, telling them, “Don’t cry. We are going to heaven to enjoy eternal life.”

“They are happy whose life is blameless, who follow God’s law.” (Ps 118:1)


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“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job1:21b)

A courageous woman was surprised, with her eyes full of tears, by one of her nieces who had brought a joyous band of children to visit her in order to amuse them.

What is the matter, aunt?

Affectionately embracing her niece, she replied: The weight on my heart is the blow which killed my son on such a day as this.

Oh, aunt! is to-day, then, the anniversary of his death? If you had told us so, we should not have worried you with our gaiety.

God forbid that I should make you bear the burden which oppresses me! That would be unjust. Poor children; is it because I am sad that you must not amuse yourselves?

And can you spend a day like this engaged in your ordinary occupations?

But, my child, is not fulfilling the duties of my state the best means of submitting my will to God, and thus securing a little consolation?

Know, my child, that when God sends us a cross, He wishes that we should bear it without neglecting on its account any of our duties, no matter how trifling they may be.

To neglect our duty is to complain of God, or to murmur against his will.

– From: Golden Grains, Little Counsels for the Sanctification and Happiness of Every-Day Life, H. M. Gill and Son, Dublin, 1889

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Posted by on November 11, 2016 in Words of Wisdom


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St Frances of Rome, Widow; Memorial: March 9

Frances was a noble Roman matron who at eleven had resolved to enter a convent, but complied with her parents’ will that she marry the young and rich noble, Lorenzo Ponziani. In marriage, she always observed the austerities of the religious life as far as possible, and her patience in adversities was admirable. She founded in the city the house of Oblates of the Congregation of Monte Oliveto under the Benedictine rule, to recall the married women of Rome from worldly pleasures and dress.

Recalling the married women of Rome from worldly pleasures and dress

After her husband’s death she humbly begged admittance there and after receiving it gloried in calling herself everybody’s servant and the least of women even though, as the founder of the whole community she was the mother of them all. She invariably baffled the never-idle devil and won a great victory over him with her guardian angel’s help. She died at fifty-six, famous for good works and miracles. Pope Paul V added her to the list of the saints.

– From: An Approved Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964


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“[On 6th August…] the Church also celebrates the life of Blessed Francesca Rubatto. She was born in 1844 at Carmagnola, Turin, Italy. Blessed Francesca lost her father at the age of four and in her teens she received an offer of marriage from a wealthy man. However, Blessed Francesca turned the offer of marriage down and decided to make a vow of virginity instead. Her mother died when Blessed Francesca was 19 years old. Blessed Francesca decided to visit the various parishes in the city of Turin, teaching catechism to the children, visiting the sick in hospital and helped to care for the poor and neglected.

Caring for the poor and neglected

Blessed Francesca went to Loano, a seaside resort, to pray about what her next step in life should be. One morning, after Mass, she heard an injured labourer moaning and she discovered that a stone had fallen from a building that was being repaired and that it had hit him on the head. Blessed Francesca cleaned his head wound and gave him some money to live on so that he could take a few days off work to recover his health.

They took it as a sign from God

The building being repaired was to house a community of religious women and when they heard of this incident they took it as a sign from Gos that Blessed Francesca should join them and guide them in the spiritual life. This she did and enthusiastically she embraced their Franciscan life of poverty. After exhibiting great organisational skills Blessed Francesca was chosen to be the superior of the community and this led to the sisters expanding their good work to other cities in Italy, and then to Uruguay and Argentina.

The crown of martyrdom

In 1892 a request came to Blessed Francesca to start a mission in the Brazilian Rainforest. More experienced religious communities had turned this request down, but Blessed Francesca went to Brazil with some of her sisters and she lived in the Rainforest for six months. Once the mission was started Blessed Francesca travelled back to Italy. Sadly, in 1901 the news came to Blessed Francesca that the whole community in the Rainforest had been slaughtered, martyred for their Catholic Faith. Undiscouraged by this tragedy, the work of the sisters continued in South Argentina and Italy, with Blessed Francesca crossing the Atlantic Ocean seven times. Blessed Francesca died suddenly of cancer at Montevideo, Uruguay, on 6th August 1904 at the age of 59. Blessed Francesca was beatified in 1993 by Pope Saint John Paul II.

You are not capable of anything without God’s help

Blessed Francesca advised her sisters, ‘Serve the Lord joyfully, lovingly fulfil the duties entrusted to you, work tirelessly because you know how precious your work is in the sight of the Lord. And having worked hard for the glory of God whom you love so deeply, call yourself a useless servant of the Lord and be convinced of being one, because you know that you are not capable of anything without his divine help.’ This is good advised for us too; that we should serve the Lord joyfully and not to be proud and think we can do things on our own, but understand that we need to rely on God’s help.”

– From: Spiritual Thought from Fr Chris/2015


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“From discovering a community to taking the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience

Religious sisters are called by God to live a special life as brides of Christ in service to the Church. Because becoming a religious sister is a serious commitment, there are several stages in the process:

1. “Come and See”

A time of visiting various religious orders to learn about them, meet the sisters, and explore different charisms. At this time, a woman feels called to religious life, but doesn’t know which order to join.

2. Aspirancy/Pre-Candidacy

When a woman feels called to a particular religious order, she starts the application process. While in application, she is called an ‘aspirant’ because she aspires to join the order.

3. Postulancy/Candidacy

When a woman’s application has been accepted, she joins the day-to-day prayer and work of the order, albeit in an exploratory way. She learns more about the sisters, and begins formation, perhaps taking classes in theology and scripture. This is a time of further discernment. Length can vary depending on the person and the order.

4. Novitiate

At this stage a woman is called a ‘novice’ because she is new to the order. For a period of about two years, the novice lives the life of the order in nearly every way and continues formation. This period is analogous to being engaged; the dating is over and now she is moving toward making vows.

5. Vows

When a woman and the community feel sure about her call, she vows poverty, chastity, and obedience, which together are called the ‘evangelical counsels.’ In most orders (though not all), members profess perpetual vows after a period of three or more years after they first take vows. Note that while the process of formation is similar, each religious community has its own particular nuances. It’s best to ask the vocation director of a particular order about their process.”

– From the leaflet: “Archdiocese of Southwark, Vocations” – web address, further reading: (external link).


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Our Lady of Consolation

“Our Blessed Mother has been invoked under the beautiful title of Our Lady of Consolation since the fourth century – and probably for even longer than that. History records that St Eusebius of Vercelli, who was a heroic defender of the doctrine of Christ’s Divinity in an age when Arianism was gaining influential followers, brought back an icon of Our Lady of Consolation from Egypt in 363 when he was returning from exile.


This icon was presented to the city of Turin. Later St Maximus, Bishop of Turin 380 – 420, established a small Shrine to house the icon in a church dedicated to St Andrew. Here it became a popular centre of Marian devotion in the city. However, the following years brought a cycle of destruction, then restoration, followed by neglect, then revival.

During these troubled times a new shrine was built, only to be destroyed again during an invasion of the Barbarians. In 1104 the icon was found buried unharmed beneath some ruins and once again the faithful of Turin could honour Our Lady of Consolation in her shrine. Many miracles were attributed to her intercession and over the succeeding centuries the church in which the icon now is displayed has been reconstructed, embellished and added to, and has been elevated to the status of a minor basilica. The devotion to Our Lady of Consolation became widespread in Europe.

West Grinstead

The English Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, Sussex is officially affiliated to the Turin Shrine. Although the church itself was built comparatively recently, it stands in a rural area which is steeped in Church history.

After the Reformation, the local major landowners, the Caryll family, were secret Catholics and welcomed priests who came disguised, at the risk of their lives, to minister to them and to the faithful throughout England.

The Priest’s House, with hiding places to shelter the priest if any investigating authorities were in the area, was originally a tiny cottage. There was also a hidden chapel intended to provide temporary safety for worshippers.

Eventually the government policy towards Catholics changed and instead of the risk of the death penalty, financial sanctions were imposed. The Caryll family remained faithful to the Church and eventually followed the Stuart Royal family to France, where they had an honoured place at the Court in Exile.

Monsignor Denis

When the Caryll estate in Sussex was sold in 1754, the Priest’s House at West Grinstead was given to the Church to ensure that a Catholic presence would continue there. Strange to say, the historical situation was soon reversed, as French Catholic priests fled to England to escape the French Revolution, and some found refuge at West Grinstead.

It was difficult for French speaking priests to minister to a rural English congregation and sadly local fervour declined. Eventually, however, following the establishment of a Catholic Diocese of Southwark (which included Sussex) a priest from Brittany, Mgr Jean Marie Denis, was appointed to West Grinstead and, encouraged by the Bishop, worked hard to revitalise the parish.

A new place of pilgrimage

It was Mgr Denis’s inspiration to establish the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead in 1876. He chose this title because the Shrine at Turin was an ancient one and was blessed with special privileges and Indulgences. Through affiliation, the Shrine at West Grinstead shares those privileges.

The combination of history enshrined in the Priest’s House and devotion to Our Blessed Lady under the ancient title Our Lady of Consolation excited wide interest and pilgrims began to visit and pray there and they continue to do so today.

Developments in Turin

Whilst the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation, West Grinstead, in England was developing and attracting pilgrims, there had been developments at the Shrine in Turin. In 1880 a young priest, Father Giuseppe Allamano, was appointed Rector of the Shrine at the age of 29. Although his father had died when he was only three years old, his early years had been privileged with the example of at least two future saints: one being his uncle, later to become St John Cafasso, and the other being Don Bosco, later to become St John Bosco. The latter was his teacher and spiritual director.

Father Giuseppe had benefited from these early influences and, by the time he was installed as Rector of Our Lady of Consolation Shrine in Turin, he had a number of years’ experience of directing seminarians and newly ordained priests of the diocese. He was a dynamic Rector of the Shrine and enhanced its reputation and influence, but his achievements were not limited to that holy place.

Consolata Missionaries

Father Giuseppe was led by his intense devotion to Our Lady and his zeal for evangelisation to found the two religious missionary congregations that we know as the Consolata Fathers and Brothers (1901) and the Consolata Sisters (1910). They were soon active in Africa and now are spread across the world. Father Giuseppe, better known to us today as Blessed Joseph Allamano, died in 1926 and was beatified in 1990 by Pope St John Paul II. We may hope that he will soon be a canonised saint. The Consolata Missionaries eagerly await this and have dedicated the year 2014 to their founder. They are praying that the miracles required to support the Cause of his canonisation will soon be identified and they urge us all to ask his intercession.

The Consolata Icon

Blessed Joseph Allamano spent many hours in prayer at the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Turin. The holy icon was a source of inspiration for him, and his prayer led him beyond the ancient representation, to the reality of Our Lady’s loving concern for the needy, the sick, the forlorn, the lost… a loving concern as alive today as it has been through the ages.

It seems appropriate that the icon at Turin is not replicated at West Grinstead, which has its own distinct painting … Our Lady is not limited in time or space. Her title of ‘Consolata’ reassures us of her motherly love and her attentiveness to us whenever we call on her, wherever we may be.

Our Lady of Consolation, pray for us.

Blessed Joseph Allamano, pray for us. “

– This article was published in the “Little Way Association” magazine (hard copy) Issue no. 94. For subscriptions and donations, please visit the Little Way Association’s website (external link)


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Posted by on July 21, 2015 in Devotions


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“With two criminals also condemned to be crucified, Jesus was led out from Jerusalem to Golgotha, the ‘Place of the Skull.’ He was so weak that the soldiers forced a man named Simon of Cyrene to assist Him in carrying His Cross.

On the was some women of Jerusalem wept over His fate. Jesus said to them, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold days are coming in which men will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ For if in the case of green wood they do these things, what is to happen in the case of the dry?’ (Luke 23:28-31).


At Golgotha Jesus was nailed to His Cross and the two thieves were crucified, one on His right hand, and the other on His left. In this way there was fulfilled the prophecy of Isaias [Isaiah] which Jesus had applied to Himself: ‘For I say to you that this which is written must yet be fulfilled in me. ‘And He was reckoned among the wicked” (Luke 22:37, and Isaias 53:12).


Jesus was nailed to the Cross at noon. His first words after He had been raised on the Cross were, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). These words are a witness to the love of God for men, to the love Jesus’ human heart for men. They are also a witness to the foolishness and malice of men.

Jesus was shedding His Blood on the Cross for the salvation of mankind. His own race, His own people had brought this about. Misled by their leaders, they stood at the foot of the Cross of human redemption, mocking their Redeemer.


Pilate, in one last gesture of disdain for the passions of the Jewish leaders, had inscribed on the Cross, ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’ (John 19:19) [in Latin:’INRI’ – Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum]. The chief priests, refusing to have Jesus for their king, protested, but Pilate remained firm. He was not courageous enough to follow his own principles and save an innocent man. But he was brave enough to indulge in this one small vanity. He would flaunt his own power in the face of the priests and people. But Jesus, ever kind and merciful, prayed to His Father for all of them, the weak, the cowardly, the blind, the malicious.


While Jesus was thus praying for those who were mocking Him, regarding Him as a criminal, the soldiers, as was their custom at an execution, were dividing His garments among themselves. There were four soldiers, and they divided His garments four ways. But when they came to His tunic there was a difficulty. The tunic was seamless and could not be divided. They therefore cast lots to see who should win this prize. Both St John and St Matthew point out that in this way there was fulfilled in the life of Jesus what the Psalmist had said of himself (and, by anticipation, of Jesus): ‘They divide my garments among them; and for my vesture they cast lots’ (Psalm 21:19).


In the midst of this story of humiliation and suffering there was one note of gentleness and compassion. Some of the friends of Jesus were present at the foot of His Cross. His mother Mary was there, Mary of Cleophas, Mary of Magdala, and perhaps a cousin of Mary, the mother of James and Joseph. St John, the beloved disciple, was also there. Noticing them, Jesus addressed His mother and said, ‘Woman, behold thy son.’ Then addressing St John, He said, ‘Behold thy mother’ (John 19:26-27).

Thus Jesus, even in the hour of His agony, was mindful of His filial duty to provide for the care of His mother. And, as St John himself tells us, ‘from that hour the disciple took her into his home’ (John 19:27). Down through the centuries since then, Christians have also seen, and rightfully, in this incident a symbol of the fact that the followers of Jesus, like St John, are the spiritual children of Mary, the mother of the Redeemer.


Meanwhile, the soldiers and the crowd were mocking Jesus. Some who were passing by remembered His words about the destruction of the temple and shouted up to Him, ‘Aha, thou who destroyest the temple, and in three days buildest it up again; come down from the cross, and save thyself!’ (Mark 15:29-30).

The priests and Scribes (perhaps knowingly) applied to Him the words of the twenty-first Psalm, saying, ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save! If he is the King of Israel, let him come down now from the Cross, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he wants him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:42-43).


The two thieves who had been crucified, one on each side of Him, entered into the raillery against Him. Finally one of them said, ‘I thou art the Christ, save thyself and us!’ (Luke 23:39). At this moment the other thief (usually known as Dismas) changed his mind and his heart about Jesus. From an unbeliever he became a believer. He turned to the other thief and said, ‘Dost not even thou fear God, seeing that thou art under the same sentence?’ (Luke 23:40). He recalled the fact that they were all to die shortly and face the judgment of God.


His language implies that they also were being executed for rebellion against the Roman authorities. It is possible that they belonged to some group active in its opposition to Rome. This is confirmed by his next words, ‘And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what our deeds deserved, but this man has done nothing wrong’ (Luke 23:41).

Then, believing in Jesus, he turned to Him and said, ‘Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.’ Jesus rewarded his faith by saying to him, ‘Amen I say to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in paradise’ (Luke 23:42-43). Jesus meant that on that very day the good thief would be with Jesus in the ‘paradise’ where the souls of the just were awaiting release so that they might enter heaven, the Kingdom of God.


About the ninth hour, that is, about three o’clock in the afternoon, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani,’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46). The words are mysterious. Jesus is the very Son of God, one with God the Father, equally God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. How then could God forsake Him, abandon Him?


It is true that Jesus, as St Paul teaches, bore on His shoulders on the Cross the sins of all humanity (Galatians 3:13). At this moment then He could be regarded in God’s eyes as representative of all human evil. But God sees truly and He knows that Jesus, while bearing the sins of men, is in Himself the innocent, the unstained victim for the sins of men. Hence He could not have abandoned Jesus absolutely; it would have been to abandon Himself.

The mystery of these words vanished somewhat when we recall that Jesus is reciting the opening words of the twenty-first Psalm. Twice already this Psalm has entered the story of the Passion of Jesus. The soldiers cast lots for His garments as the Psalm had said. The rulers of the people had quoted it against Him. Now Jesus Himself recites the Psalm as a prayer.

He applies the Psalm to Himself in His own human nature. In the Psalm the author presents Himself as a man apparently abandoned by God. He is a ‘worm and no man: the reproach of men and the outcast of the people’ (Psalm 21:8). He has been laughed to scorn; His hope in the Lord has been mocked; He has been ‘dug’ in his hands and feet (Psalm 21:8-9, 17). Now all these things are true of Jesus on the Cross. But the speaker in the Psalm, the ‘poor man’ of the Psalm, hoped in the Lord and the Lord did not forsake him. He will declare the name of the Lord to his brethren. And because of this ‘the ends of the earth shall remember, and shall be converted to the Lord: and all the kindreds of the Gentiles shall adore in his sight… and to him my soul shall live: and my seed shall serve him. There shall be declared to the Lord a generation to come: and the heavens shall show forth his justice to a people that shall be born, which the Lord hath made’ (Psalm 21:23, 28-32).


The words of Jesus on the Cross are then chiefly words of hope and of prophecy. It is true that God, even that Jesus Himself as God, has abandoned the human nature of Jesus, His body and blood, even His soul, to the torment of the cross, to the mockery and hatred of His own people. The words of Jesus testify this fact. But this passion of Jesus will give birth to a new people who will worship truly the one true God, Who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


Some of the bystanders, not understanding correctly the words of Jesus, thought that He was calling on the prophet Elias. One of the soldiers, taking pity on Him, dipped a sponge in a mixture of water and vinegar, and tried to slake the thirst of Jesus, Who had just said, ‘I thirst’ (John 19:28). When the bystanders would have stopped the soldier, as if he were entering into their raillery, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elias is coming to take him down’ (Mark 15:36).

Jesus drank from the sponge. Then He said, ‘It is consummated’ (John 19:30). Then, in full control of Himself, He said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46). With this He bowed His head and died. Thus there was accomplished on a Cross at Calvary the great drama of human redemption. Jesus, the son of God, Who had become also the Son of Man, gave up His human life, bled to death in suffering and ignominy for the salvation of men.


In the beginning, in some mysterious trial whose nature and details are not known to us, Satan and the angels who followed him had rebelled against God. Thus sin entered God’s creation for the first time. Then, in the beginning of human history, Adam, through pride and weakness, fell victim to the seduction of Satan and mankind fell under the curse of sin.

But God, in His love for men, determined to save men. Here at Calvary God’s plan for human salvation is accomplished. Jesus, the Son of God, God Himself, gives up His human life as a sacrifice of expiation, a sacrifice of propitiation to God for sin. ‘To this end the Son of God appeared, that he might destroy the works of the devil’ (1 John 3:8). ‘In this has the love of God been shown in our case, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we may live through him. In this is the love, not that we have loved God, but that he has first loved us, and sent his Son a propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:9-10). ‘In this we have come to know his love, that he laid down his life for us’ (1 John 3:16).


Certainly, in the mind of Jesus, He was dying on the Cross for the salvation of mankind. He was offering His life for men. The miraculous works He had already accomplished, the spirituality of His teaching, these surely would recommend belief in His mission. But the conclusion of His story is still to come. The sequel to His passion and death are a divine sign of the validity of His mission to preach the Kingdom of God to men, of the efficacy of His suffering and death to save men.”
– Martin J. Healy S.T.D., 1959 (headings in capital letters added afterwards)


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