A guide to the woman we all want to become

Women — the muse of choice for poets, painters and songwriters — are beautiful. Not only do women inspire art; they are, themselves, works of art. To be a woman is an art form. Yet, we should not be content with simply being; we should always be becoming. We should always be becoming our most beautiful selves.

The question, of course, is how does one do this? To whom does one look? As Catholic women striving to become who the Lord created us to be, we must look past the gilded idols of society and to those who most excellently exhibited the virtues that purify, deepen and magnify our natural feminine allure. We look to the saints.

Without further ado, here is a (non-exhaustive) guide to the woman we all want to become, inspired by female saints:

The woman that we all want to become is compassionate like St. Veronica, stepping forth from the cowering crowds to tenderly wipe the bloody face of Jesus. Like Veronica, when we see suffering, we should give of ourselves rather than shrink into ourselves. We should offer our own garments and our own hearts to another and, in doing so, offer both to Christ.

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The woman that we all want to become guards her tongue, but speaks with authority like St. Mother Teresa, whose authority in speech was born of intimacy with the Lord and active love for others. Because she did the will of God day in and day out, people listened when she spoke. And the words that she spoke were few, yet brimming with truth and significance. In 1982, when she delivered the commencement address at Harvard, Mother Teresa unequivocally condemned abortion. She received a standing ovation. Her words had been validated by years of serving the poorest of the poor. As women, we often succumb to sins of the tongue. If we master this aspect of our humanity, though, we can move mountains.

The woman that we all want to become is resilient like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who overcame countless obstacles to lovingly raise her children in widowhood, established both a school and a religious community, and ultimately became America’s first native-born saint. Her strength and ability to continue through so many hardships came not from reliance upon herself, but from abandonment to the will of God and great devotion to the Eucharist, Scripture and Our Lady. We may often be tempted to pray that our life will be free from suffering, but we know that suffering is the path to sanctification. Instead of asking the Lord to remove crosses, we can ask him to give us fortitude and resilience so that we may carry them well, continuing to live lives of joyful service to others.

The woman that we all want to become remains joyful in all circumstances like St. Teresa of Ávila, whose well-known prayer states, “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. … God alone suffices.” The 16th-century Doctor of the Church was known for her cheerfulness and sense of humor. She once prayed, “From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, good Lord, deliver us!” Proverbs 31 tells us that the “woman of worth … laughs at the days to come.” Yes, a woman whose life is perfectly centered on Christ can look to the future with complete joy, untainted by even an ounce of anxiety. St. Teresa of Ávila certainly exemplified this childlike joy, for she trusted in a God that never changes. We, too, can go about our days with mirth and laughter if we view the world and all of its circumstances as what it truly is — a sojourn on the way to the eternal home.

The woman that we all want to become stands firm in her convictions like Sts. Felicity and Perpetua, who refused to renounce their Christian faith. Perpetua, noblewoman and mother, wrote about when her pagan father tried to turn her away from the Faith: “I said to him, ‘Do you see this vessel — water pot or whatever it may be? Can it be called by any other name than what it is?’ ‘No’ he replied. ‘So also I cannot call myself by any other name than what I am — a Christian.’” Perpetua was imprisoned with Felicity, a Christian slave woman who was 8 months pregnant. They were both killed by the sword after being brutally attacked by wild beasts in the arena of Emperor Severus. Their courageous fidelity to Truth can embolden us to proclaim our Christian faith in a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to the Gospel message.

The woman that we all want to become is selfless like St. Gianna Molla, who died so that her daughter could live. When, during her fourth pregnancy, doctors found a tumor in her uterus and told her that she would need a hysterectomy, she refused as the operation would have killed her child. Gianna died one week after giving birth to her daughter. A wife, mother and pediatrician, St. Gianna lived a rather ordinary life by the world’s standards. It was made extraordinary, though, by her love and service to others. May we follow her lead in denying ourselves for the sake of others.

The woman that we all want to become is creative like St. Zélie, who not only bore nine children but also worked as a talented lace maker. Like the aforementioned “woman of worth” from Proverbs, she provided income for her family by the skilled work of her hands. By nature, women are creative in that they form and foster life via biological or spiritual motherhood. We can also harness this creativity to make beautiful things that enable souls to be lifted to God. Furthermore, when we create, we ourselves become more like our heavenly Father. As Pope St. John Paul II wrote in his 1999 Letter to Artists, “the human craftsman mirrors the image of God as Creator.” As women, we can imitate the Father through the many works of our hands — even something as simple as baking a loaf of bread.

The woman that we all want to become is patient in adversity like St. Monica, who prayed for her son’s conversion without ceasing for many, many years. She also patiently suffered a difficult marriage to a pagan with a violent temper and tendency toward licentiousness. Rather than falling into despair, anger or self-pity, Monica put her hope in the Lord, who can turn even the most hardened heart toward him. Eventually, her husband converted to Christianity and her son became the great St. Augustine. Let us fashion ourselves after this long-suffering woman, remaining at peace while we await the fulfillment of his promises.

The woman that we all want to become is humble like St. Mary Magdalene, who remained at the foot of the cross even after most of the other apostles had fled. She, who had once been a great sinner, assisted Jesus and the Twelve out of her own means throughout his ministry. When the savior was condemned as a criminal, she did not retreat but rather stayed with him until his final breath. She knew that, without Christ, she would have no hope. With him, though, she could attain eternal happiness. She lived her life with this humble gratitude in her heart and, from this full heart, poured out upon Christ and others. We can ask St. Mary Magdalene to assist us in acknowledging our own weakness and need for the savior so that we, too, can live as if all depends upon his love — for, truly, it does.

The woman that we all want to become is pure like St. Lucy, who was tortured and killed because she would not allow herself to be defiled. Out of anger and spite, a pagan who Lucy refused to marry betrayed the young woman’s faith to the governor who was actively persecuting Christians. The governor attempted to cast Lucy into a brothel, but she would not be moved. The guards attempted to burn her to death, but she would not be burned. They finally ended her life with their swords. May we, like Lucy, regard ourselves as beautiful lights that the Father lovingly willed into existence. May we always remember that we are his and that our bodies and souls should reflect his love.

The woman that we all want to become is confident in who God made her to be like St. Thérèse of Lisieux. In her autobiography, she wrote that, alongside “great Saints,” he has also created “little ones, who must be content to be daisies or violets, nestling at His feet to delight His eyes when He should choose to look at them.” “The happier they are to be as He wills,” she continues, “the more perfect they are.” Instead of dwelling upon what we are not, we can thank God for what we are. He did not err when he fashioned us in our mothers’ wombs. St. Thérèse understood the genius of her Father and sought always to express gratitude to him by becoming the beautiful little saint he created her to be.

The woman that we all want to become is courageous like St. Joan of Arc, who, after receiving visions of Sts. Michael, Catherine and Margaret, led French troops against the English during the Hundred Years War. She admitted that she would have rather remained spinning wool at her mother’s side but that she had to go to battle, saying, “for my Lord wills that I do so.” After many victories, Joan was captured, tried for heresy and witchcraft, and burned at the stake. Whilst being consumed by flames, she asked that someone hold up a crucifix so she could gaze upon it. Would that we all answer the Lord’s call like St. Joan, who did not balk at the magnitude of his request, claiming that she was too young, too unqualified or too afraid. May we put our trust in him and boldly charge into the battles to which he calls us.

The woman that we all want to become suffers well like St. Bernadette, who endured considerable pain and sickness throughout her short life. Despite crippling physical ailments and the nearly unbearable scrutiny that came with being a visionary, Bernadette said that her business was “to be ill.” When faced with the question of why we must suffer, she stated: “Because here below pure Love cannot exist without suffering. O Jesus, Jesus, I no longer feel my cross when I think of yours.” She saw her pain as an opportunity to draw nearer to God, join in the sufferings of Christ and offer all for the sake of others. We, too, can participate in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross when we joyfully offer up our hardships and hurts.

The woman that we all want to become is wise like St. Catherine of Siena, whose counsel was sought by the pope and whose writings earned her the title of Doctor of the Church. Her wisdom, of course, came from her intimate relationship with the Lord. Catherine did not desire an earthly marriage and, instead, chose to live as a religious in the Third Order of St. Dominic. She lived many years of contemplation and asceticism and described a “mystical marriage to Christ.” Her over 400 letters, prayers and her “Dialogue” are products of divine intimacy. May we become wise like St. Catherine through a deeper prayer life and union with Christ.

The woman that we all want to become is receptive, docile and obedient to the will of God, like Our Mother, Mary, who is the epitome of woman. The New Eve was created, as Venerable Fulton Sheen wrote, as a new garden of flesh — “a Garden over whose portals the name of sin would never be written — a Garden in which there would grow no weeds of rebellion to choke the growth of the flowers of grace — a Garden from which there would flow four rivers of redemption to the four corners of the earth — a Garden so pure that the Heavenly Father would not blush at sending His Own Son into it.” Through her yes, her openness, her humility and obedience, Mary became the “Paradise of the Incarnation.” In the same way, when we give God our yes, we, too, can become a beautiful dwelling place for him.

And, finally, like Our Mother and all of these heavenly saints, the woman that we all want to become is radiant for she constantly looks to the Lord — the source of all of her hope and joy.

May we, by emulating these holy women, become the most authentic versions of ourselves — the women that the Lord had in mind when he formed each one of us before time began. May we find wholeness, freedom and joy in the ceaseless pursuit of virtue. May we be open to his abundant grace in the becoming, knowing that, though we will fall and fall and fall, he will raise us up again and again and again. May we be filled with gratitude for who we are — his beautiful daughters, fearfully and wonderfully made. May we become the women that he aches for us to become.

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