I have just finished reading Elizabeth Ficocelli’s story of the lives of Therese, Faustina and Bernadette; and I have to thank Elizabeth when I see her–for I am somehow changed for having had the opportunity to learn at the feet of these great women of God.
I had read two of their stories in my youth: Therese and Bernadette lived in the 19th century, and their stories had been written more than once; so they became favorite and familiar saints from my own childhood. Faustina, while not my contemporary, was a woman of the 20th century–so I was an adult before her story became an inspiration for Catholics around the world.
But whereas I had always read their stories separately and drawn my inspiration from them at different times, Elizabeth does something new: She unites their lives in ordinary ways that I hadn’t noticed, noting that
- each of these saints lived during a time of great strife and turbulence;
- each remained steadfast in faith, hope, and love;
- each had a passion for saving sinners and rescuing souls
- each feared losing God’s friendship
- each was dedicated to a Gospel-based path to holiness; and
- each abandoned herself totally to the will of God.
Combined, their stories reveal three humble women, striving toward holiness. “I can do that!” I found myself thinking often, as I read about Therese’s “little way”, Faustina’s suffering during her “dark night of the soul”, Bernadette’s stubborn faith in the face of opposition from local officials and even from her own family.
Yes, if these simple young women could stand for God in their difficult circumstances, so can each of us.
* * * * *
But there’s another thing which struck me: Ficocelli explains that while these three special saints embodied many virtues, each demonstrated one particular virtue which truly defines her character.
For Bernadette, this virtue is faith. Despite her illness and lifelong poverty, despite and ridicule, Bernadette maintained her strong faith–living Our Lady’s messages of prayer, penance and conversion as a powerful witness to the world.
Faustina is especially noteworthy for her hope. Elizabeth explains that Faustina accepted the assignment from Jesus to be his “secretary of mercy.” During wartime when there was growing despair in Europe, Faustina placed all her hope and trust in Jesus; and she invites us to do the same today.
Therese’s most notable virtue is love. Nurtured in love by her devoted parents, she learned to love passionately–to love her family, to love the world God had created, and to love God most of all. Her “little way” was the way of love, abandoning love of self in order to concentrate more fully on loving her neighbor. Throughout her life she inspired others to love God, and to love more generously.
The lives of these holy women remain an inspiration to young women today, guiding them toward greater virtue and deeper union with God. Therese, Faustina and Bernadette is a book you’ll want in your collection.