Victim Soul Chapter Two

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[Author’s Note: The majority of my research states that Satan started his attacks by giving Gemma violent headaches to keep her from praying.  Just like the scene where Gemma ponders what awaits her in Chapter One, how Satan gives Gemma a migraine is my interpretation of the research I collected.  The artistic liberty I have taken is that while Satan did say to her on occasion, “How stupid you are to think of praying to a criminal. Look at the harm He does you, keeping you nailed to the Cross with Himself. How can you care for one whom you do not even know-who makes all suffer who love Him,” when this was said has not been documented, so I inserted the quote here.  In addition, I portray him attempting to engage her in conversation before triggering her agonizing migraine]. 

Gemma closes her bedroom door.  Undoing her hair, she hurries to the crucifix.  As she begins to kneel, she pauses and looks around the room.  All is calm, the room quiet and still.  Squinting her eyes, she peers at the shadowy corners.  No creature jumps out to grab her, no dark forces surround her.  The only chill in the air comes from the open window. She walks across the room and closes the window.  Within her being, there is no sense of disturbance rattling her soul.  “Maybe it is not time for the devil to harass me yet,” she hopes. She inhales slowly, allowing herself to relax.
Gemma stands in front of the crucifix.  She takes a moment to gaze in awe of Jesus’ purposeful eyes, the crown of thorns on His tilted head.  She places her hand on His nailed feet, its coldness pricks at her fingertips.  Her hand moves and presses to her heart as she contemplates His love, wondrous, sacrificial, everlasting.  Peace and joy consume her at once, which results in a beaming smile across her face.  Making the sign of the cross, she kneels on the floor and closes her eyes, immersing herself in the presence of the Lord.
“I see that you have regained the color in your cheeks…”
Gemma freezes.  The room is suddenly ice-cold, permeated by a dark heaviness in the air.  As her heart races, she keeps her eyes closed and her body kneeled on the floor.
Satan’s footsteps slowly draw near.  His gravelly chuckle send shivers down her spine.“It seems like only yesterday, I was attending to a deathly pale little girl who could barely lift her head as she lie on this very bed.” The condescension in his voice stings her, but she does not move.  She hears him take a seat on her bed.  “Now here you are; a healthy young lady kneeling on a wooden floor, praying to a person you have never seen.” Only the sound of her pounding heartbeat fills the deafening silence between them.  “It is rude to ignore a guest, little one.”
Don’t look at him, don’t look at him, Do. Not. Look…” says her conscience in a panicked whisper.  She raises her head and opens her eyes, the crucifix looming large in her tunnel vision.
In a clear, candid voice, she states, “Jesus is my guest, not you.” She closes her eyes and keeps her head downcast, bracing herself for whatever was to come.
There is a deep growl, followed by silence.  She hears Satan approach her side. “How is your head feeling, Gemma?” he asks.
Gemma feels a quick tap between her eyes.
A searing pain spreads inside her head like a cancerous tumor.  She lets out a visceral cry as her body hits the floor.  She clutches onto her forehead, which burns with white-hot intensity.  In spite of her agony, she is determined to keep her eyes closed.  ‘I will not allow his image to enter my mind,’ she vows internally.
“Oh, dear, you look very uncomfortable.  Why don’t you lay down?  That might help your poor head.”
Gemma feels his talons press down on her head, which makes the splitting pain even more excruciating.  She slightly opens her watering eyes to look up at the crucifix.
Satan releases her head, but the torturous migraine continues.  Gemma raises her body the best she can.
“It is almost midnight, child.  There is no shame in climbing into bed, closing your eyes and resting the headache away,” he taunts.
Even in her torment, Gemma mentally conjures the image of Jesus in her mind’s eye.  She crawls closer to the crucifix and grips her hands in prayer.  She anticipates what must surely come next: Blood trickling down from her throbbing head.
Satan’s howling laughter rings in her ears, “How stupid you are to think of praying to a criminal. Look at the harm He does you, keeping you nailed to the Cross with Himself. How can you care for one whom you do not even know-who makes all suffer who love Him?
In that moment, Gemma feels His presence.   It is a soft warmth that envelopes her.  As the furious migraine ceases, an enraged scream shakes the room.  All at once, both the warmth and the dark presence of the devil disappear.
Slowly rising from the floor, Gemma faces the crucifix and, with a gracious smile, whispers a relieved, “Thank you, my Jesus.  Thank you.”

Victim Soul Chapter One


[Author’s Note: Some artistic liberties have been taken.  Gemma’s letter to Father Germano is verbatim, but because we do not know anything about the night before the devil began his Hellish campaign against her, the opening scene is my interpretation of how Gemma would come to terms with what awaits her.  The flashback to 1899 is also accurate with two exceptions.  Satan did offer to cure her, but what exactly was said was not documented.  Also, Gemma called out to then-Venerable Gabriel Possenti twice, but in the flashback, I shortened it for the sake of brevity].

“Jesus, make haste, give me the grace to be ever united with You, in such a way that I may never be separated from You.”
–Saint Gemma Galgani

Lucca, Italy – 1902

“Dear Father Germano…”

Her pen gripped in her trembling hand, Gemma Galgani begins her letter.

“During the last two days Jesus has been telling me after Holy Communion: ‘My daughter, the devil will soon wage a great war against you.’”

She pauses, lifting her eyes to the dancing firelight of her candle.  She rests her jaw in the palm of her hand, listening to her own increasing heartbeat.  After a moment, she resumes writing:

“These words I hear in my heart continuously.  Please pray for me….”

A sudden chill overcomes the room.  Gemma rises from the small table.  She wraps herself in her black mantellette robe.  The cold persists, but the fabric of the mantellette keeps in the warmth.  She sits herself down and presses on with her letter:

“Who will win this battle: the devil or my soul?  How sad this thing makes me!  Where will the war come from?  I am for ever thinking about it instead of praying Jesus to give me strength and help.  Now I have told you, and I leave this matter to you, that you may help me.

Your poor,


The pitch blackness of nightfall makes her window look like a square hole into an unknown abyss.  Gemma stands up and walks to the window, focusing her eyes on the scattered stars.  She leans forward and rests her arms on the window frame.  Ashen clouds curtain the full moon, engulfing the stars.
Her head lowers, “Jesus, am I truly ready for this coming trial?” She places her hand on her forehead as anxiety races through her mind.  “What if–” she hunches forward, crossing her arms.  “What if the devil overcomes me?” As her eyes swell with coming tears, she looks at her bed.  “To think that I almost gave in…” she closes her eyes as the memory of her weakest moment overwhelms her, a seemingly ancient time when illness had crippled her and made her susceptible to the darkest temptation.

“My, my, you poor thing…” a wicked voice echoed from the shadows of her room.
Gemma sat up, turning her head as her weary eyes scanned the room.  “Who…who is th-there?” Succumbing to the pain in her spine, she lay back down.
“Tsk tsk tsk, to say that you are not looking well would be an understatement, now wouldn’t it?” The dark figure took form.  Gemma forced her eyes open and stared at the being, a muscular angel with folded wings and small horns.  His skin and talons the color of shadows, his fiery eyes bore into hers.
Gemma couldn’t stop her body from shaking.  “You–you’re…Lucifer.”  Her blood froze at the sound of his laughter.  “Ah, I haven’t heard that name in a long time,”  Satan reached out his hand to touch her forehead.  Gemma turned her head away.  Were it not for her afflicted spine, she would have turned her back to him.
“I mean you no harm, dear child.  Quite the contrary,” Satan wandered around her room.  Relaxing her body, Gemma watched him cringe at the crucifix on her wall.  She looked away when he faced her.
“Ignoring me is not going to make me disappear, little one,” Satan narrowed his eyebrows, staring her down the way a lion faces its weakened prey.  He paced back and forth, “As a fallen angel, I may not be on good terms with your friend,” he pointed at the crucifix, “…but I still have all kinds of powers.  If you were to give me a chance, I could cure you.”
Beads of sweat drenched her forehead and ran down her deathly pale face.  Clutching onto the sheets, Gemma grinded her teeth as she endured the terrible pain.  Her eyes watered as her vision blurred from the pounding migraine.
Satan’s mouth lifted into a sinister grin, “I can take away your suffering, Gemma.  Whatever you desire, I will grant you.  If you submit to me, obey me, do as I say, I will see to it that your body never betrays you again.”  He opened his palm and reached out to her.  “Just take my hand and I will free you from your misery.”
Gemma kept her eyes on the ceiling.  Desperation began to drown her.  As if her body was moving without her consent, her hand lifted.  She pulled back, clenching her fist.  She relaxed her hand, leaving it mid-air.
At that moment, a face appeared before her mind’s eye. 

Venerable Gabriel Possenti…the holy boy she had read about.  His figure covered in light, his soft brown eyes gazed into hers.  For a moment, she forgot that the prince of darkness was standing at the foot of her bed.
Gemma inhaled through her nostrils.  With a cold-stone expression on her face, she realized that she was at a crossroads and only one path could be chosen.
A guttural cry escaped from her, “Venerable Gabriel, save my soul first and then my body!”  With that hand that almost ended up in Satan’s grasp, she made the sign of the cross as fast as she could.
There was a flash of light, followed by a furious scream.  When the light disappeared, so had the enemy.

Gemma raises her eyebrow.  “Hmm, how odd, I don’t remember blowing out the candle…” she looks curiously at the extinguished candle.  The frail line of smoke disappears into the air as it floats from the charred wick.
She gasps as she looks around the darkened room.  She takes a deep breath to calm her nerves.  “All right, if this is what You want, Jesus…” she pauses, staring straight into the shadow that has engulfed her door.  “…then I want it, too.  So long as You give me the strength to stand my ground against him.”
Gemma curls up on her bed.  Weariness presses down on her, pushing her into a deep slumber.  The last thing she sees is a shadowy figure standing by the window.

Strong, Brave Bear: Saint Bernadette Soubirous

Given that I love all things Saints, I collect various items such as Saints cards and statues.  The item that started my Saint collecting hobby was my statue of Saint Bernadette.

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I have had this statue since I was a baby.  I became anemic shortly after I was born, so along with being given iron drops, my feisty and faith-filled Grandma Joanie handed my mother the Saint Bernadette statue and said, “Put this above her crib and ask Bernadette to pray for her.”  My mother did just that and asked Saint Bernadette, who suffered from poor health her whole life, to pray for my health as a baby.
As I was preparing to write this bio on Bernadette, a blood vessel broke in my left eye, so like my mother and grandmother had, I asked Saint Bernadette to pray for the healing of my eye.
The red spot in my eye disappeared by the time I started writing this piece.
I like to think that this post is my way of repaying the holy girl who has prayed for me in the past and in the present.
This is the story of Saint Bernadette Soubirous!

On January 7th, 1844, a baby girl was born to a miller named François Soubirous and his wife Louise.  Gazing into the eyes of their first child, they gave her the name Marie-Bernarde.  She was known by her nickname “Bernadette,” which means “strong, brave bear.”  The troubled early years that awaited her would require her to be strong and brave.
After enjoying years of comfort and prosperity, a series of misfortunes had befallen the Soubirous family.  Francois and Louise had eight more children after Bernadette; four of whom died shortly after entering the world.  Enduring the pain of losing brothers and sisters was just one of many crosses the young girl had to bear.  Then, like Jean Valjean, Francois Soubirous was arrested on suspicion of stealing a single wood plank.  He was later released without being charged, but his initial arrest was a huge blow to the Soubirous family’s social reputation and their bank account.  By 1858, the financial situation of the Soubirous family was so desperate that they had to live in an old jail called le cachot, or “the dungeon.”
To call Bernadette sickly would be an understatement.   As a toddler, she was hit with cholera and barely survived.  Due to the dampness of le cachot, she suffered from asthma her entire life.  To add insult to injury, at the age of 14, she was studying basic catechism in a room full of seven-year olds.

February 11th, 1858 started off like any other day.  Bernadette, her sister Marie and a friend of theirs were collecting firewood.  I think I’ll let Bernadette tell us what she saw:

I came back towards the grotto and started taking off my stockings. I had hardly taken off the first stocking when I heard a sound like a gust of wind. Then I turned my head towards the meadow. I saw the trees quite still: I went on taking off my stockings. I heard the same sound again. As I raised my head to look at the grotto, I saw a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress, a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain of her rosary; the beads of the rosary were white.”

Like any teenager would, Bernadette went home and told her friends, who in turn talked to her parents about what she had said.  Francois and Louise were understandingly disturbed and forbade Bernadette from going back to the grotto.  Bernadette respected their wishes and stayed away from the grotto.  However, she felt compelled to return to the place where she had seen what she called “Aquero,” which means “that” in Occitan, the language of her region.
After Sunday Mass on February 14th, Bernadette, Marie and a few other girls headed back to the grotto, where Bernadette saw Aquero again.  She knelt to the ground immediately and fell into a trance.  Clutching a bottle of holy water in her hands, she thrust holy water in Aquero’s direction.  ‘If it’s a demon, it’ll flee,’ she thought.
Aquero simply smiled.
Bernadette returned home with her sister with the resolve to visit the grotto once more.
On February 18th, seven days later, Bernadette ventured to the grotto.  She had to know.  She had to see for herself whether this mysterious figure was true or nothing more than a figment of her imagination.   Standing in front of the grotto, her focused eyes waited for the Lady.   Within minutes, Aquero was there.  The peasant girl stared in awe of the shimmering woman.  It was then that the Lady spoke.  She requested that Bernadette return to the grotto every day for a fortnight.

“She could not promise to make me happy in this world, only in the next.”

From there, rumors of Bernadette’s vision made way through the small town.  It started when her sister spread word to her friends, who then passed it on to their parents; think of it as the 18th century version of the telephone game.  Before she knew it, Bernadette had become a controversial figure in Lourdes.  In one corner, she had her supporters who swore, “This child is a visionary!  A prophet!”  In another corner were her detractors who declared, “She is mentally ill!  She must be sent away!”  That an impoverished girl who couldn’t even spell her own name had been visited by a messenger from God was an outrageous notion.   To put this into perspective, imagine if Bernadette was a teenage girl living today in our social media age.  You know that little corner of your newsfeed where it says “TRENDING“?  If the Lourdes apparitions were happening now, you would see “Bernadette Soubirous” right underneath “TRENDING” every single day.
Before she knew it, her name and story had made it to the ears of county government officials…

February 21st, 1858
“Come in, Ms. Soubirous,”
Bernadette’s trembling hand twisted the knob.  Pushing open the door, she saw Commissioner Dominique Jacomet.  Tall and well-dressed, the professional man of the law stared down at the simple girl, who stood cloaked in an array of patched fabric.  Shaken but resolute, Bernadette sat across from Jacomet, ready for the questions that were sure to come her way.
JACOMET: (Prepares notes) “Did you see something Ugly?”
BERNADETTE: (Shakes head) “Oh, no! I saw a beautiful young girl with a rosary on her arm.”
JACOMET: (Raises eyebrow) “Well, now, Bernadette, you saw the Blessed Virgin?”
BERNADETTE: (Looks with confusion) “I never said I saw the Blessed Virgin.”
JACOMET: (Smiles) (Points at BERNADETTE) “Ah, well!  You say nothing!”
BERNADETTE(Knuckles tighten) (Gives insistent nod) “Yes, I saw something.”
JACOMET: “Well, what did you see?”
BERNADETTE: “Something white.”
JACOMET: “Was it some thing, or some one?”
BERNADETTE: “Aquero has the form of a young girl.”
JACOMET: “And Aquero did not say “I am the Blessed Virgin”?”
BERNADETTE: “Aquero did not say that to me.”
JACOMET: “All right then, this this girl, she wears clothes?”
BERNADETTE: “A white dress, with a blue sash, a white veil on her head and a yellow rose on each foot… and rosary beads in her hands.”
JACOMET: “Is she Beautiful?”
BERNADETTE: “Oh, yes sir, very beautiful.”
JACOMET: “As beautiful as who? Madame Pailhasson?”
BERNADETTE: (Chuckles sweetly) “They don’t even come close.”
JACOMET: “How old is she?”
BERNADETTE: “Young.” (Pauses) “But sir, I saw Aquero a number of times. I can’t still be mistaken.  I can’t explain it, but I’m sure I saw something.”
JACOMET: (Rises from his chair) “Listen, Bernadette, everybody’s laughing at you. Everyone says you are mistaken, that you’re crazy.  For your own good, you must not go back to that grotto!”
BERNADETTE: (Locks eyes with JACOMET)“I promised to go for fifteen days.”

It had been during the third apparition when Aquero said in Bernadette’s native Occitan, “Boulet aoue ra gracia de bié aci penden quinze dias?”  In English, this translates to, “Would you have the goodness to come here for fifteen days?” Even when confronted by Jacomet, Bernadette stood by her promise.
The apparitions that started on February 11th continued until July 16th in 1858.  Bernadette never missed a day.  With each day, the grotto became the place to be.  People gathered to watch Bernadette’s interactions with the mystery Lady.  During one of her encounters, Bernadette was asked by Aquero to go drink at the fountain and wash herself.  There was just one problem: There was no fountain, only a Gave (a hollow corner).  Bernadette began to dig, muddying her hands until she finally came across water.  A few days later, the spring began to flow from the Gave.
Aquero’s next task for Bernadette was to go to the priests and tell them to go in procession to the grotto and build a chapel there.
Bernadette turned to Father Dominique Peyramale, who dismissed her and ordered her to not return to the grotto.  She remained persistent and began pestering other priests about Aquero’s request.  With a grudging respect for the girl’s determination, Father Peyramale spoke with her again.  “No chapel is being built until we know the woman’s name,” he explained sharply.
Any time Bernadette would ask Aquero for her name, the Lady would respond with a smile.  It wasn’t until March 25th when Bernadette pressed Aquero with a little more force for her name.
Aquero stopped smiling.  Lowering her arms, her radiant eyes raised to Heaven.  She folded her arms over her breasts and spoke.
Bernadette’s eyes widened.  A gasp escaped her lips.  Within her racing heart, she felt the light of clarity.  Rising to her feet, she stood struck by the realization that she was a part of something greater, a grand plan that surpassed her finite understanding.
Holding her rosary close to her heart, Bernadette turned to the crowd, “I am the Immaculate Conception.”  That is what Aquero, the Blessed Virgin Mary, had said to her.
Shaken by this revelation, Father Peyramale, now a believer in Bernadette’s experience, made a trip to visit the bishop, who forbade him from going to the grotto.

The final apparition occurred on July 16th.  The Virgin Mary greeted Bernadette with a motherly gaze.

“All I saw was Our Lady.  She was more beautiful than ever.”

Bernadette disliked all the attention she had garnered, so she attended a hospice school run by the Sisters of Charity of Nevers.  It was here that she finally learned how to write and read (even how to spell her own name!)  Discovering that her true vocation was the religious life, Bernadette set her sights on the Carmelites, but her poor health made her ineligible for stricter orders.  On July 29, 1866, Bernadette was one of 42 women to take the religious habit of postulant and join the Sisters of Charity.  The Mother Superior bestowed upon her the name, “Sister Marie-Bernarde.”
Bernadette’s remaining years were spent as an infirmary assistant, then later a sacristan.  Sadly, she had to endure ridicule from other sisters who were skeptical about her apparitions.  She was given harsher discipline, for the Mother Superior wanted to prevent her from becoming prideful.  Having been obedient to the Virgin Mary, Bernadette held up her head and did exactly as she was told.
Bernadette’s health was struck by tuberculosis in the bone of her right knee.  She did as much work as she could until the tuberculosis made her unable to go on any longer.   On April 16, 1879, 35-year old Bernadette Soubirous lay on her deathbed, suffering terribly from the pain.  With her last breath, Bernadette prayed aloud her final words:

“Blessed Mary, Mother of God, pray for me!  A poor sinner, a poor sinner!”

Have you been researching someone’s life and the more you learn, the more you come to love them?  As Saint Lucy and Saint Agnes are my sisters, so too is Bernadette.  I am in awe of her humility and bravery to stand alone in her convictions, which is a rarity in modern society.  She never caved to the pressure to change her story or stay away from the grotto.   It is no coincidence, it was part of God’s plan, that her name means “strong, brave bear.”

Saint Bernadette Soubirous, pray for us.

From Your Valentine: Saint Valentine

So I happen to be a single woman, and as you can imagine, Valentine’s Day can feel like a lonely day, especially because it’s a holiday that is marketed towards people who are in romantic relationships.  It may seem that I have no business talking about the patron saint of this holiday.  However, what if I told you that the founder of Valentine’s Day was a single man, who was a priest and later a saint named Valentine?


Saint Valentine lived during the reign of Emperor Claudius. In third century AD, Emperor Claudius imposed an edict, or a law, that banned marriage.  This law was particularly targeting military-aged men. In Claudius’ mind, he felt that unmarried soldiers would fight better and with reckless abandon because they wouldn’t worried about their wives and children at home.
When you get married, you make a vow that your life belongs to your spouse, and vice versa.  You live for your spouse and you would willingly die for your spouse. Claudius feared the notion that a man would lay down his life for his wife before he would for his country.

Now this edict was before Constantine, so the Christian Church was gaining popularity, but still underground.  This no-marriage edict threw the Church in for a loop, and since marriage was a public affair, many priests feared to go against the edict and call attention to themselves. It was still the days where being a Christian meant you could quite literally lose your head.

Valentine believed in preserving and carrying out the sacred institution of marriage and honestly, fear means nothing when you believe in something strong enough. Against all odds, Valentine basically decided to disregard the edict and perform marriages in secret. He celebrated the sacrament of holy matrimony in the catacombs, where only he and God could see the hidden couples engaging their vows.
It is unknown how long Valentine was officiating these underground marriages, but I’m just going to say that after a long period of time, someone betrayed Valentine and reported what he was doing to Emperor Claudius.

Valentine was arrested and brought before a panel of judges, one of whom was a man named Asterius. Asterius decided to put Valentine to the test; he ordered him to pray over his sick daughter.  If God was real, then surely Valentine’s prayers would cure the child.  We can safely assume that Asterius doubted Valentine’s prayers would do anything.
Well, Valentine went to Asterius’ home and prayed over the sickly girl.  By the grace of God, she was healed by the prayers of the kind priest.
Asterius realized that this man was the real deal and he became a Christian on the spot.  It has been said that to prove his newfound faith, Asterius destroyed all the Pagan idols in his home and fasted for three days.  After he was baptized, he freed all of the Christian inmates.

Asterius’ conversion did not bode well with Emperor Claudius. Under his command, Valentine was sentenced to a three-part execution: He was beaten, stoned and then beheaded.
Before his execution, Valentine had written a letter to Asterius’ daughter, which he gave to Asterius himself.  We do not know the contents of the letter, but we do know what Valentine’s signature was.  It read, “From your Valentine…”

I find it to be interesting that Valentine’s Day, a day where romantic couples express their love for all to see, exists because of one man’s daring mission to help those who wanted to commit their lives to each other get married in secret.  What is even more striking is how this man had no lover of his own.  Valentine’s heart belonged to someone greater, a higher power that compelled him to go against an anti-marriage edict to protect a sacrament that is once again under attack in our modern world.  He belonged to God alone.
Valentine understood the true meaning of love: To care for others more than you care about yourself, to give your life to a greater cause.   Love calls us to change the world.

Saint Valentine, pray for us.

A Lamb Among Lions: Saint Agnes of Rome

Saint Agnes holds a special place in my heart.  She was the first Saint I ever learned about.
As a little girl, I remember being inspired by her strength and faith in Jesus.  Whenever a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would reply, “I want to be like Saint Agnes.” As you can imagine, the response was usually a polite smile from the teacher and snickering from my classmates.
As a teenager, when it came time for me to pick a Confirmation Saint, Agnes was my very first choice.  Granted, the winner was Saint Monica, but I still consider Agnes to be my spiritual sister.  Honestly, if it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have a devotion to the Saints in the first place.
Without further ado, I’d like to introduce you to my spiritual sister, Agnes of Rome.


In 291 AD, a Christian family of Roman nobility was blessed with a beautiful baby girl.  The child was named Agnes, which comes from the Latin agnus, meaning “lamb.”
Little is known about Agnes’ childhood, but what we do know is that she was very beautiful.  It has been said that she was graced with a cascade of silky hair that draped over her shoulders like a shawl and a tender smile.  By the time she was twelve, she already had a good amount of high-ranking men competing for her hand in marriage.
However, when she was approached by a potential suitor, her answer was always, “Jesus Christ is my only Spouse.”

As a child raised in a devout household, Agnes had come to know Jesus as her Savior.  In an era where daughters were married off for advantage and power, Agnes made a countercultural choice: She claimed Christ as her spouse.  Her body, mind and soul belonged to the One who created her.
Her commitment to Jesus did not go over well with the men who wanted her.  For example, a man named Procop saw Agnes’ purity as a challenge for him to conquer.  He showered her with flowers, jewels and the finest clothes.  He filled her ears with promises of power, wealth and pleasure.
Agnes fought back with this defense, “I am already promised to the Lord of the Universe. He is more splendid than the sun and the stars, and He has said He will never leave me!” Her body belonged to no man; only God.

Another rejected suitor was the son of Prefect Sempronius.  The Prefect himself tried to persuade Agnes to accept his son’s hand in marriage.  As expected, Agnes kept her eyes on Heaven and turned away from the prospect of earthly matrimony.
It is unclear who ratted her out to the authorities.  Some have guessed it to have been Procop, others say that Prefect Sempronius himself was the catalyst of Agnes’ demise.  What we do know for sure is that Agnes was arrested for professing Christianity.

Agnes was ordered to pray to the Pagan gods in exchange for her freedom.  Filled with resolve, she stayed faithful to her Spouse and refused to worship any other god.  The brave twelve-year old was thrown into a brothel to be violated.  When the men attempted to have their way with her, Agnes’ hair grew to an exponential length and shielded her body.  Within minutes, their lustful eyes were struck blind.  Some accounts have claimed that among the would-be rapists was Prefect Sempronius’ son and that Agnes healed him with a prayer.
The next trial Agnes faced was being stripped naked and burned at the stake.  Just like in the brothel, Agnes’ Rapunzel-esque hair cloaked her body.  Then when the soldiers tried to ignite the flames, the wood surrounding her wouldn’t burn.  This miracle shocked the onlookers and the sympathy of the citizens turned to Agnes.
It was a sword to the throat that brought an end to Agnes’ life.

In our modern world, people use “choice” as a buzzword for expediency.  Agnes, whose expedient choice would have been to give in to societal expectation, chose the more difficult path, one that led to great suffering and to Eternal Life.  In many respects, Agnes was a woman ahead of her time.

Saint Agnes of Rome, pray for us.

I Am The Handmaid of the Lord: Blessed Virgin Mary

The CGB Saints posts are back!  The last Saints post I did was on Saint Rose of Lima and now that I’m off from school until February, why not kick off 2016 with the triumphant return of CGB Saints posts?!  🙂

I decided to reopen this segment with a Super Saiyan Saint, the Queen of Heaven and Earth herself…


Once upon a time, in the Galilean town of Nazareth, there was a girl named Mary.  She was the only child of Anne and Joachim.  We can assume that she lived the typical life of a Nazarene girl.  She said her prayers every night, carried water from the local well, tended to her father’s animals, helped her mother clean up after dinner, and so on.  When we meet Mary in the New Testament, she is betrothed to Joseph, the carpenter who everyone respected.  By all accounts, everything was going well in Mary’s life.  Her parents adored her, her fiancée was a hard-working gentleman, and she had a squeaky-clean reputation among her fellow Nazarenes as being Anne and Joachim’s sweet, polite daughter.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my twenty-four years of life, it’s that God likes to make a grand entrance on our lives when everything is a little too steady and certain.

Meet Gabriel the Archangel.  He is the messenger chosen by God to deliver a very important message to the Nazarene girl.  This is how I imagine that conversation went:
GOD: Everything is in motion, Gabriel.  Mary’s engaged to Joseph, she’s just the right age–she is ready.
GABRIEL: Okay, my Lord, do you believe she will accept?
GOD: (smiles) Go to Nazareth, Gabriel.  It is time.

Mary is home alone.  Anne and Joachim have gone into town to run some errands.  Luckily, Joseph is just down the road if Mary needs anything.
She wipes the last dirty dish with an old rag.  She looks up at the window, relishing the warmth of the sunlight as it pours onto the walls of her humble abode.  She turns around and freezes.
“Rejoice, O highly favored daughter!  The Lord is with you.  Blessed are you among women.” Gabriel announces.  A trembling Mary stares at the mighty angel.  An angel?  Here in Nazareth?  What does he trying to tell me? she wonders.
Sensing her troubled thoughts, Gabriel lowers himself just inches above the ground, “Do not fear, Mary.  You have found favor with God.  You shall conceive and bear a son and give him the name JESUS.  He will be called Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father.  He will rule over the house of Jacob forever and His reign will be without end.”
Mary shakes her head in disbelief, “How can this be since I do not know man?”
Gabriel smiles gently, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called Son of God.  Know that Elizabeth your kinswoman [cousin] has conceived a son in her old age; she who was thought to be sterile is now in her sixth month, for nothing is impossible with God.”
Mary is assumed to have been thirteen or fourteen when the Annunciation took place.   She was old enough to have an understanding of what was being asked of her, but was also still a young girl with her whole life ahead of her.  To have an angel basically tell her that God has chosen her to carry His child had the potential of derailing her life plans.  Would her parents believe her?  Would Joseph stand by her and take her as his wife?  How would the other Nazarenes react?
There were no crisis pregnancy centers in Mary’s day.  Outreach efforts to pregnant teenagers was nonexistent.  Everyone would assume that Mary had relations with another man and she could find herself in the town square, having stones hurled at her from angry townspeople.
Mary may be the mother of God, but she was still human.  It is possible that these consequences raised her levels of anxiety.
However, Mary also knew of God from her parents.  She had learned that God was wise and righteous.  Within her heart, Mary had the grace to realize that to find favor with God meant that whatever He wanted her to do, He would help her accomplish it.  She had a feeling that God did not want to destroy her, but to invite her to take part in something greater than herself.
This is the best explanation as to why Mary, a teenage girl, would so readily say to Gabriel, “I am the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done unto me according to Your word.” Gabriel left her, his task complete.

Shortly after accepting her mission, Mary took a trip to the town of Judah.  Mind you, there was no Uber ride service in her day.  Also, Elizabeth and Zechariah had no way of knowing that Mary was on her way.  To quote my mentor Fr. Dave, “She couldn’t send a text.  She couldn’t send an email or a message on Facebook.  She couldn’t call Elizabeth and say, ‘Oh, hey, cousin, I’ve heard that you’re pregnant.  I’m on my way!'”
It is not clear how long it took Mary to get from Nazareth to the city of Judah.   It has been approximated that the journey was about 130 km or 80 miles.
What matters is that she got there and so begins the Visitation, the event in which Mary meets with her cousin Elizabeth, who is six months pregnant with a son.  When Elizabeth saw Mary, she exclaimed, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.  And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”  In that moment, the child in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy.  The unborn child, who we know to be John the Baptist, knew that the Son of God was in their midst.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth until John was born.  By this time, Mary was three months along in her own pregnancy.  She returned home to her mother, her father, and Joseph.

Yes, Joseph did learn of Mary’s pregnancy.  While I do go into detail about this in my Saint Joseph post last year, I will briefly summarize Joseph’s turmoil.
As we can imagine, the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy were hard for even Joseph, a man of steadfast devotion, to believe.   He loved Mary and figured that the best way to protect her would be to divorce her quietly.
One night, as Joseph slept, an angel appeared to him in a dream.  This angel told the carpenter, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”  If there’s one thing Joseph knew for sure, it is that when an angel tells you something is true, then it’s best to take their word for it.
Joseph and Mary were wed soon after.  For all everyone knew, the child in her womb was his and all seemed well.
Roman Emperor Augustus issued a decree that forced Joseph to return to Bethlehem, his hometown, in order to register for a Roman census.  By this point, it has been five months since Mary visited Elizabeth and she is beginning to show.  Joseph and Mary set off for Bethlehem, with Joseph leading his family on foot while Mary sat on their donkey (which can’t be comfortable for a pregnant woman).   According to Fr. Oscar Lukefahr, author of “Christ’s Mother and Ours: a Catholic Guide to Mary” it was a three day journey, approximately 70-80 miles. 

Mary lifted her veil to her face, trying to keep the wind and rainwater from her eyes.  As they entered into Bethlehem, mild discomfort turned to pain.  The time for Mary’s child to be brought into the world was drawing near.
Joseph sprinted to every house, the mud sticking to his sandals.  “Help, help!  Please, we need shelter!” he pleaded to every person who opened their door.
No one would take them in.  All doors were closed to the Holy Family.
An inn keeper offered to let them stay in the manger where the animals resided.  As Mary’s contractions grew stronger, Joseph rushed his wife into the manger.
On that cold winter’s night, the Son of God was born.

While Mary’s story certainly doesn’t end here, the purpose of this piece was to humanize this woman who fearlessly accepted a great calling from God.  Mary was not afraid to be inconvenienced, to have her typical Nazarene life turned upside down.  She knew the risks that would come with her “Yes.”  She knew that her world would never be the same.
If she could do it all over again, Mary would say “Yes” in a heartbeat.

Saint Mary of Nazareth, pray for us.

A Mother’s Love: Saint Monica

I was sixteen-years old when I was going through the Confirmation program. When it came time for me to pick a saint, I was torn between all the single saintly ladies: Teresa of Avila and Catherine of Siena were my top picks, but so were Agnes of Rome, Maria Goretti, and Cecilia.  Joan of Arc is cool, but Lucy of Syracuse is like a sister to me.  Then there’s my parish patron Kateri Tekakwitha to consider, but then again, Faustina Kowalska is the patroness of the Divine Mercy!  AAAAHHHHH!!!!
As you can see, I was quite stressed.  So many awesome ladies to choose from and I only had so much time.  I remember flipping through my Saints book in a panic.  I ended up dropping it and watched it cracked open on the tile.  When I picked it up, I saw the page on Saint Monica.
I skimmed through her chapter, “She doesn’t seem very interesting.”  She wasn’t a soldier like Joan or a martyr like Lucy, Maria or Agnes.  I put Monica on the backburner for a while.
However, the longer I resisted, the more she crept up on me.  One night I went online and read up on Monica.  I scratched my head, “God, why should I pick her?  We have nothing in common.”
At first glance, Monica and I were incompatible as candidate and patron.
She was a married woman.  I am single.
She lived in Africa.  I am a born-and-raised California girl.
She was an obedient old woman.  I am a headstrong young woman.
In spite of all these differences between us, I couldn’t bring myself to click out of her info page just yet.  So I sighed and took a second look at her story.

Saint Monica portrayed by actress Monica Guerritore in Restless Heart.
Saint Monica portrayed by actress Monica Guerritore in Restless Heart.

Saint Monica was born in 331 AD in Tagaste, which is now known as Souk Ahras, Algeria.  Not much is known about Monica’s childhood, but we do know that she was born after Constantine legalized Christianity.
You may have noticed that in a lot of my Saints bios, many of these guys and gals were either in arranged marriages (ex. Cecilia) or were arranged to be married to somebody (ex. Lucy).  Monica is no exception.
She was twenty-two (a year younger than me) when she was betrothed to a Pagan man named Patricius.  By all accounts, Monica was a generous and obedient girl, so she was married off without hesitation.
To put it simply, Monica got a pretty raw deal because Patricius was the biggest jerk in Tagaste.  Violent, with an explosive temper, he verbally and physically abused Monica during his outbursts.  To add insult to injury, he was the kind of guy who would be a regular Ashley Madison customer if he lived in the year 2015.  Oh, and did I mention that his mother/Monica’s mother-in-law also worse than Nurse Ratchet from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?”  Needless to say, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.
Now, you’re probably thinking, “Ditch this guy, Monica,” but divorce court wasn’t a thing in AD Tagaste.  These were the days where a man could leave his wife if she wasn’t a virgin, but a woman was stuck with a hot-headed cheater.
Monica was a Christian and she was especially drawn to Christianity’s emphasis on kindness and humility.  She was also very smart, so she figured that if she couldn’t leave Patricius, she would kill him with kindness.  She knew she couldn’t fight back when he hit her because she would end up on the streets as a beggar woman, so she said her prayers aloud, ignoring him as he stormed off.   When he came home after visiting one of his “lady friends,” Patricius scratched his head when he saw a lavish meal prepared for him by the wife he was betraying.
Monica’s charitible approach won over Patricius’ respect and admiration, to where his punches became less frequent and he began walking out of the room instead of screaming at her.

Monica had three children with Patricius; Augustine, Navigius and Perpetua. There’s very little info on Navigius and Perpetua (I did find out that Navigius entered the monastery), but Augustine–oh, yes–there is a plethora of info on Augustine.  Why?  Because her Augustine just so happens to be THE great Saint Augustine of Hippo.  What a twist!
Monica did the best job she could at raising her children in the faith, but remember, Patricius was an aggressive Pagan and it was his way or the highway. Augustine was the oldest son and it’s not uncommon for the oldest son to gravitate towards his father.  This means that Augustine was very much his father’s son in his actions…and in his beliefs.
Monica knew that her son was a fast-learner, but her heart broke when she saw how disinterested he was in her Christian faith.  She was even more distressed when she realized that Paganism was more enticing to her impressionable son.

After years of being bound to his sinful ways, Patricius converted to Christianity on his deathbed.  However, Monica still had one more thing to do: Save her Pagan-party boy son!  (Plays Superman theme music)
When Augustine grew up, he traveled to Carthage.  In those days, saying “I’m going to Carthage” was like saying, “I’m going to Harvard.”  It was where all the great thinkers went to, well, think and trade abstract ideas.  It was also where many heresies and questionable theological theories sprang up and resided.  These ideas influenced Augustine and led him astray for oh-so-many years.  To his chagrin, Augustine wasn’t alone.  Right behind him on the boat to Carthage was his mother.

As she followed him on his travels, Monica witnessed Augustine’s sinful ways.  She watched him drink himself into a stupor on multiple occasions.  She watched him blaspheme against God and the Church.  She watched him impregnate a woman he wasn’t married to.  She watched him abandon the woman and their infant son.  Her heart broke with each sin.  Every day she offered up her son in prayer.  She asked God to forgive Augustine and to change his hardened heart.  Sometimes her prayers were calm and contemplative; other times they were shouted in desperation and anger. Every prayer came with tears for her wayward son.  Monica’s valiant praying caught the attention of Saint Ambrose, the bishop of Milan.  Monica went to him and poured out her story about the abuse she suffered and of her fear for Augustine’s immortal soul.  Ambrose was so moved by Monica’s courage and all that she had sacrificed that he assured her, “It is not possible that the child of so many tears should perish.”

Monica’s prayers finally paid off.  Augustine had a powerful “come-to-Jesus” experience that changed his life.  He abandoned his selfish ways and became a Christian.  Monica could live in peace at last.  She was called home to Heaven shortly after.

I Volunteer as Tribute: Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe

As a Catholic fan of the Hunger Games, I can’t help but wonder if author Suzanne Collins was inspired by Saint Maximilian Kolbe to have Katniss take her sister Prim’s place in the 74th Games.
Well, Suzanne Collins is Roman Catholic…
Anything is possible, I suppose.

This is the story of Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe!


There once was a boy named Raymund, who was born in Zduńska Wola, Poland with his father Julius, his mother Maria and four brothers.  Not long after he was born, Raymund and his family moved to another town called Pabianice.
Raymund was an aimless boy; he went to school, helped out around the house, walked around town, etc.  He didn’t seem to have any particular talents that would make him famous or important by the world’s standards.

Then in 1906, the Virgin Mary appeared to him in an apparition that would change the course of his life forever.

“That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr.  I said that I would accept them both.”

Raymund joined the Conventual Franciscan minor seminary with his older brother Francis one year later.
Then in 1910, Raymund Kolbe entered the novitiate with a new name: Maximilian.

Now Maximilian and the Virgin Mary were BFFs.  After all, she saved him from a dull life as a directionless country boy by revealing his purpose in life.   Naturally whenever someone impacts your life in a positive way, you feel a desire to repay them and show your gratitude.
In Maximilian’s case, he felt so much love and respect for the Blessed Mother that he not only added “Maria” to his full name (Maximilian Maria Kolbe), not only did he openly promote the veneration of Mary, but he even started the Militia Immaculata (MI) in her honor.  The purpose of MI is to evangelize to the world and convert hearts by relying on Mary’s intercession.  In fact, to become a member of MI, you have to make a personal act of consecration to Mama Mary.
Yep, that’s the sexist Catholic Church; we’re so misogynistic that we canonized a guy who was inspired by a woman to change his life and then started an organization where members consecrate themselves to that same woman.
Just let that sink in for a moment.

Maximilian’s missionary work took him all over the world; China, Japan, and eventually to India.  For reasons unknown, he couldn’t gather a following in China, but he did get a lot of work done in Japan.  He build a monastery on the outskirts of Nagasaki.
Interesting trivia: The atomic bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki obliterated everything in its path…except for the monastery that Maximilian had built.  In the midst of death and destruction, the monastery was still standing.
Even when tuberculosis forced him to end his travels and return to Poland, Maximilian remained active by starting a radio station in–(do not ask me how to pronounce this) Niepokalanow.
I’ll bet you Satan got ticked with Maximilian; “you have freaking tuberculosis; how are you still moving?  These Mary-loving types are always the hardest to axe off.”

Then everything changed when the Fire Nation–I mean–the Nazis attacked.  In addition to slaughtering innocent Jews, the Third Reich had a particular hatred of the Catholic Church and anyone associated with her (I say “her” because the Church is the bride of Christ).  Maximilian and four other priests were arrested on Feburary 17th, 1941.  When Maximilian was sent to Auschwitz, he was given another new name: Prisoner #16670.

One of the twisted policies of Auschwitz was that if a prisoner escaped, ten prisoners would pay with their lives.  So when three prisoners fled Auschwitz, ten men were randomly selected to spend their days in an underground bunker, where they would left to die from starvation and dehydration.
One of the chosen was Prisoner #26273, also known as Franciszek Gajowniczek.  In a panic, Franciszek cried out, “My wife!  My children!”  Haunted by the fear of leaving his wife to fend for herself with two fatherless child, he begged for mercy.  The Gestapo officers held their batons, ready to strike him to end his pleading.

A man with glasses and a long white beard stepped up and faced the Gestapo.
“I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.”
The switch was made and Franciszek was sent back in line to live another day.  Wiping off the sweat from his face, he turned to get a look at his rescuer, Father Maximilian Maria Kolbe.
During his final days, Maximilian kept his fellow prisoners in high spirits with prayer and fasting.  He evangelized to the men, giving them hope by telling them of Jesus and His mother Mary and praying with them.
Two weeks later, the guards entered the bunker to collect the bodies.  They froze when Maximilian Kolbe looked up at them, still alive.
A calm Maximilian lifted his left arm and received a deadly injection of carbolic acid.  His body was cremated on August 15th, the feast day of the Assumption of his beloved friend, Mary.

Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, pray for us.

How Do You Solve a Problem like Cecilia?: Saint Cecilia

This Saints post exists because I owe Saint Cecilia a favor.  First, here’s some backstory:
Last weekend, I was on a LifeTeen retreat (not as a teen, of course.  I’m a Core member).  On Friday my throat felt scratchy and by “lights out” time, my voice was heading down the drain.  All day Saturday, I had a raspy, chain-smoker voice and it hurt to talk.  As luck would have it, I had to give a teaching on authentic prayer.  Normally Saint Blaise is an obvious person to go to for throat trouble because that’s his patronage, but then Saint Cecilia, patroness of music, came to mind.  I said, “Okay, Cecilia, if you can help me deliver my talk in the exact way that I had practiced it, I will bump you up in my posting schedule and you will be the next CGB Saints post.”

I delivered my talk without forgetting a single word.  Remember when I said that it hurt to talk?  As I gave my teaching, my throat felt just fine.

The hills are alive with the sound of Cecilia!
The hills are alive with the sound of Cecilia!

Saint Cecilia has the typical 2nd century A.D. Roman girl backstory; she was born into a wealthy family.  They were all Christians, but she had been betrothed to Valerian, a Pagan man who had a brother named Tibertius, who will be important later, so remember him.  Anyway, between this and my Saint Lucy post, you have figured out by now that in those days, love was not a central ingredient to marriage.  It takes two prominent families to get their younglings to tango.

Of course, Cecilia had promised God that she would be His bride, consecrating her virginity to Him alone.  Instead of adorning herself in the fine dresses and jewels that her family could afford, a sackcloth was her clothing of choice.
Cecilia and Valerian were married and so began the wedding night.  I’m just gonna paraphrase how I think their conversation went:

CECILIA: Honey, I know I’m your wife now and I have to fulfill my duty to you, BUT…I consecrated my virginity to God and because of that, my guardian angel will be standing guard to protect my purity.
VALERIAN: Uh…all right, prove it.  I want to see the angel.
CECILIA: Tell you what; you go visit Pope Urban and get yourself baptized.  When you get back, you will see my angel.
VALERIAN: Well, it is fashionable to see the Holy Father and such a visit could benefit our families, so why not?

I came so close to referring “the angel of music” from Phantom of the Opera as I was typing this.

Valerian visited Pope Urban and was baptized.  When he returned, his jaw hit the floor.  A magnificent angel was standing alongside his new wife while she played the piano.
I’m just gonna go ahead and sing this: “Then I saw her face.  Now I’m a believer!  Without a trace or doubt in my mind…I’m a believer, I couldn’t leave her if I tried!”
The angel had two crowns, one for Cecilia and the other for Valerian.  The crowns were placed on the heads of husband and wife.

Earlier I told you to remember Valerian’s brother Tibertius.  That’s because Tibertius also became a believer once he saw the crowns on Cecilia and Valerian’s heads.  Two is plenty, but three’s a crowd.

Now in their day, Christians were being martyred left and right.  The prefect of their city had a serious case of bloodlust; not only were Christians were being killed off faster than a Game of Thrones character, but their bodies were left on the streets as a warning to Roman citizens.  Valerian and Tibertius were persuaded by Cecilia to bury the martyrs.  When onlookers would approach them, the brothers would direct them to Valerian’s home, where Cecilia would tell them about Jesus Christ.  A woman in love with Jesus, her eloquence and compassion for nonbelievers brought visitors to their knees as they converted to Christianity.

There is no exact timeline of when shiz went down, but we do know that the prefect of the city put a stop to Valerian and Tibertius’ martyr-burial operation.  The brothers were captured, brought before the prefect, and joined the dead.

Preparing her home to be a church, Cecilia turned around when she heard the door open, thinking it was her husband and brother-in-law.  Her smile left her face when Roman soldiers stood at her door.  She took a breath, entrusting her fate to God.

Standing before the prefect as Valerian and Tibertius had, Cecilia was ordered to be executed by suffocation in the bathhouse.  Thrown into the bathhouse, she was locked inside and the flames arose, whipping at her skin and hair.  The guards waited for the agonizing screams of the woman caged in the inferno.
They didn’t hear a peep from her.
Then the fires were cooled, the doors unlocked and reopened; Cecilia stood very much alive.

His mind blown from this incident, the prefect ordered her to be beheaded.  The executioner approached her, armed with a sword that promised to impale flesh and bone.
The first strike hit her neck, but was ineffective.
The second strike cut through skin and nothing else.
The third strike caught the jugular, but her vocal cords remained.
He ran away after the third blow.

Mortally wounded, Cecilia was left to die in a cell.  She was in dire pain, but continued to preach the Gospel as blood flowed down from her maimed neck, soaked up by the sponges and cloths of those who came to hear her speak.  She used her final breath to share the Good News.

Saint Cecilia, pray for us.

The Silent Carpenter: Saint Joseph (Father’s Day Special!)

If I ever get married and have a son, expect the name “Joseph” to be somewhere in his name (it’ll most likely be his middle name).  I really love the name Joseph, and I also love the most famous bearer of this name.  I’m talking about Saint Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary and Jesus’ foster father.

An epic picture of a sturdy carpenter and gentle father.

Doing research on Saint Joseph the Carpenter is really difficult because the information on him is minimal (there was no such thing as a “digital footprint” in his day).  We do know that he was a carpenter in Nazareth.  His reputation among the locals was that he was a just man.  Humble and mild-mannered, he did his woodwork to make ends meet, got along with everybody, and then went home at the end of the day.

His quiet life changed when he asked for the hand of Ann and Joachim’s daughter, Mary.  His reputation as a gentleman and hard worker sat well with Ann and Joachim.  As for Mary, she knew of Joseph and was drawn to his genuine nature. Like Prince Kit in Cinderella (2015), Joseph wanted to marry for love, not for riches or personal gain.  Hence they were betrothed.

Joseph’s simple life was shaken when his now-fiancee Mary told him that the Archangel Gabriel had visited her and told her she would bear the Son of God (do I even need to say who it is?)  Naturally Joseph was troubled and even upset.  Let’s be honest: Even the most religious person would have a hard time believing that a woman conceived a child without having sex.

Now in their time, to be pregnant and unmarried (being engaged didn’t help) was a death sentence.  The entire village could corner her and stone her, killing both her and the unborn baby.  Joseph knew this and sought to divorce her quietly.  That was, until an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him to take Mary as his wife.  Upon waking up, Joseph knew what he had been called to do.

To protect Mary, they married quickly so that everyone would assume the child was his.  They traveled to Bethlehem, where Mary gave birth to Jesus.  That same night, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, and [paraphrasing] said, “You need to get Mary and the baby out of here.”  Sure enough, King Herod had ordered that every male infant be slaughtered so that he would not be overthrown by “the New King.”  This is called the Slaughtering of the Innocents.  Without hesitation, Joseph woke Mary and got his family out of Bethelem to safer regions.

You may have noticed that Joseph has no lines in this play.  That’s because he doesn’t talk in the Bible.  His character is revealed through his actions; his choice to protect Mary from social persecution, his willingness to obey God’s command to leave Bethelem just hours after Mary gave birth, and his devotion to his wife and child.  Saint Joseph is the epitomy of the phrase, “actions speak louder than words.”

Saint Joseph, pray for us.