12 August – Memorial for St. Jane Frances de Chantal
Jane married Baron de Chantal. She restored order in the household, which was on the brink of ruin, and brought back prosperity. During her husband’s absence at the court, or with the army, when reproached for her extremely sober manner of dressing, her reply was: “The eyes which I must please are a hundred miles from here.” She found more than once that God blessed with miracles the care she gave the suffering members of Christ. Baron de Chantal was accidentally killed by a harquebus while out shooting. Left a widow at 28, with four children, the broken-hearted baroness took a vow of chastity.
She founded the Congregation of the Visitation, whose aim was to receive, with a view to their spiritual advancement, young girls and even widows who had not the desire or strength to subject themselves to the austere ascetical practices in force in all the religious orders at that time. The remainder of the saint’s life was spent under the protection of the cloister in the practice of the most admirable virtues. It was firmness and great vigour which prevailed in St. Jane Frances; she did not like to see her daughters giving way to human weakness. Her trials were continuous and borne bravely, and yet she was exceedingly sensitive.
The word of the Lord was addressed to me as follows, ‘Son of man, confront Jerusalem with her filthy crimes. Say, “The Lord says this: By origin and birth you belong to the land of Canaan. Your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite. At birth, the very day you were born, there was no one to cut your navel-string, or wash you in cleansing water, or rub you with salt, or wrap you in napkins. No one leaned kindly over you to do anything like that for you. You were exposed in the open fields; you were as unloved as that on the day you were born.
‘“I saw you struggling in your blood as I was passing, and I said to you as you lay in your blood: Live, and grow like the grass of the fields. You developed, you grew, you reached marriageable age. Your breasts and your hair both grew, but you were quite naked. Then I saw you as I was passing. Your time had come, the time for love. I spread part of my cloak over you and covered your nakedness; I bound myself by oath, I made a covenant with you – it is the Lord who speaks – and you became mine. I bathed you in water, I washed the blood off you, I anointed you with oil. I gave you embroidered dresses, fine leather shoes, a linen headband and a cloak of silk. I loaded you with jewels, gave you bracelets for your wrists and a necklace for your throat. I gave you nose-ring and earrings; I put a beautiful diadem on your head. You were loaded with gold and silver, and dressed in fine linen and embroidered silks. Your food was the finest flour, honey and oil. You grew more and more beautiful; and you rose to be queen. The fame of your beauty spread through the nations, since it was perfect, because I had clothed you with my own splendour – it is the Lord who speaks.
‘“You have become infatuated with your own beauty; you have used your fame to make yourself a prostitute; you have offered your services to all comers. But I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl, and I will conclude a covenant with you that shall last for ever. And so remember and be covered with shame, and in your confusion be reduced to silence, when I have pardoned you for all that you have done – it is the Lord who speaks.”’
Some Pharisees approached Jesus, and to test him they said, ‘Is it against the Law for a man to divorce his wife on any pretext whatever?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the creator from the beginning made them male and female and that he said: This is why a man must leave father and mother, and cling to his wife, and the two become one body? They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’
They said to him, ‘Then why did Moses command that a writ of dismissal should be given in cases of divorce?’ ‘It was because you were so unteachable’ he said ‘that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning. Now I say this to you: the man who divorces his wife – I am not speaking of fornication – and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’
The disciples said to him, ‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is not advisable to marry.’ But he replied, ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born that way from their mother’s womb, there are eunuchs made so by men and there are eunuchs who have made themselves that way for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’
but I will remember the covenant that I made with you when you were a girl
God moulded the earth and all its beings in beauty, enthroned with a majestic manner, He would reserve for His own – birds, cattle and mainly girls and boys like you and me. We are indeed beautiful, the ones that detest us, the times we doubt, during our weakest moments, really all the time. Yet we are fond of the feelings of being less than worthy, and often think of others in the same light. In today’s reading in the book of Ezekiel, God reminds us of the splendour of His mercy and His love for us as a Father – making a new covenant with us, keeping the one He made and forgiving our sins.
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the sin of divorce — which is adultery — and the vocation of both marriage and singlehood. Is it better to be single, is it best to get married? Neither vocation is for everyone; just what we are capable of living with. Can I imagine myself being single forever? Yes and no. ‘Yes’, because if that is God’s plan for me, it is the best and I want nothing else. ‘No’, because I hear God reminding me of His covenant. Above and beyond all that, no status in our lives ever matters – not richness, poverty, weakness nor power. The Father, who loves you and me, sees us as beautiful, perfect and greatly adored. When we cannot see this, we need to look to Him in childlike faith. When we fail to see our sisters and brothers in that light, we turn our hearts to Him in total surrender.
During my recent trip to Europe for World Youth Day, I had a very minor skin condition, which was peeling because of the dry weather. I found myself walking into one of the most magnificent churches and masses and feeling less than beautiful. Right then and there, I reflected on all those who had troubled skin and offered my prayers and I felt a gentle coaxing of my Father, telling me that I am beautiful while I was at St. Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest. Right after my visit there, the friend who went with me to the church said the exact words – you are beautiful. When we are reminded of our beautiful heart, soul and being should we be surprised and caught off guard? Sometimes we all need reminders. Who can we remind today that they are beautiful? Can we smile at the elderly gentleman on the street, acknowledge the disabled person with love? What about those we know and find hard to see the beauty in them as the Lord does? Tell someone they are beautiful today by your words, your actions, your touch. Better yet make it a practise everyday.
(Today’s OXYGEN by Josephine Dionisappu)
Prayer: Father help us to see others through your merciful gaze.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Father for making all things beautiful, for helping us see what beauty truly is.