I have a soft spot for saints who were teachers. And I have a quirky desire to dig up as many unknown saints as I can in my reading, so I’d like to introduce you to this incredible woman, Mother Mary Lange, who founded the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore, Maryland.
Mother Lange’s cause for canonization has been open since 1991, and perhaps moving closer to the day she will be canonized.
I wrote about her in my book, My Badass Book of Saints, because she has some unusual ties to the Caribbean, and I wanted to explore her further. She and I share a common circumstance in our immigration stories. Both of us are refugees; her family fled the dangers of the Haitian Revolution and my family fled the dangers of the Cuban Revolution.
Born Elizabeth Lange in 1790, some sources say she was born in Haiti or the Dominican Republic, and then emigrated to Santiago de Cuba, others say she was born in Cuba. She eventually emigrated to the United States and settled in Baltimore, Maryland.
She dedicated herself to educating the Black children in her community and fervently wanted to consecrate her life to the Lord. At that time, there were no orders of religious sisters taking women of African descent. The Emancipation Proclamation was decades away, and educating slaves was illegal. Elizabeth took it upon herself to privately fund her efforts to educate the children in her community. She did this with another like-minded young woman, and together they formed a small school out of her home, serving the needs of the Catholic African-American community in which she lived.
When the local bishop found out, he urged her to found an order for African-American women, and thus, she became the foundress of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first religious order for women of African descent. Her little school became the Baltimore Academy for Colored Girls and later changed it’s name to St. Frances Academy. Today, the school is co-educational and continues to serve a largely African-American student body.
I’ve never felt more convicted by St. Teresa of Avila’s words than now, when I’ve taken a long hiatus from writing, and find myself facing a deadline. “It is time to walk,” or as I first saw that statement in Spanish, “Ya es tiempo de caminar.”
In other words, get to it.
The context isn’t quite right — she was on her death bed and was talking to Jesus. I’m not on my death bed, though it is a small death to face the blank page if you’re a writer.
Anyway, today on the feast of St. Teresa I am reminded that I need to get moving — get the manuscript finished, but more than that, get myself together and live this pilgrim life.
I just got back from a month-long tour of Scotland. My husband and I took off to enjoy a slow journey around the country — a bucket list vacation where we took our time and saw the beautiful countryside. I expected lots of ruins and monuments, and got plenty of them. I crawled through the cavern to the Tomb of the Eagles and climbed the 246 steps of the Wallace Monument. What I didn’t expect was a pilgrimage featuring some of my favorite saints. I’ll write more about that in the coming days.
The last leg of our trip was in London. We spent a few days in the city, resting, before flying out of Heathrow. Although we had seen many majestic cathedrals, we attended Mass in modern churches since the cathedrals were now Church of Scotland. Finally in London, we looked online for a place to attend Mass on our last Sunday. Mr. Google kindly suggested the London Oratory, which was just minutes away from our hotel in South Kensington.
It was one of the most beautiful Masses I’ve attended in a long time. Maybe it was the beauty of the church, Immaculate Heart of Mary, or maybe it was finding myself in a holy place after chasing so many pagan ruins. I felt at home, surrounded by my favorite saints, Saints who have been in my life recently because of some writing projects. St. Philip Neri has been a long-time favorite, and the church, of course, is part of the St. Philip Oratory, which is sometimes called the Brompton Oratory although its proper name is the London Oratory. Take a tour here!
Though I’d spent a month in tourist mode taking hundreds of photos, I took only a few here. I was there for Mass, not sight-seeing, but I did take a couple of pictures. As soon as I walked in, my eyes were drawn to the altar on my right –I couldn’t help the smile that bubbled up, as I realized it’s the St. Mary Magdalene altar. I’m currently writing about Mary Magdalene, so I walked over for a brief prayer. There, the natural light illuminated a stature of St. Teresa, pen poised, book open.
Hi, old friend, I whispered.
Start walking, she responded.
Good ole St. Teresa. She doesn’t mince words with me. There’s no getting away from her eagle eye ever since I commended myself to her patronage. That’s a good thing, because I need a firm hand. I understood her — I need to get to work on the manuscript, but more than that, I need to get walking with the Lord. He has laid out a path for me, and I will follow it, joyfully!
We can only learn to know ourselves and do what we can – namely, surrender our will and fulfill God’s will in us.
Happy Feast of St. Teresa of Avila!Read More
Day 2 code: MERCY15
click on picture to go to website
Please note my tiny little book is nestled in there between some other awesome titles! At these prices, get them all!
I’ll update each day’s code here.Read More
Saint Cecilia’s story is about as badass as you get — her martyrdom was gruesome and cruel — as all of those stories go. Born into aristocracy in the 2nd century, Cecilia was forced into marriage even though she had devoted her life to God. Her husband was moved by her conviction — Cecilia sang the psalms at her wedding party, not wanting to participate in the revelry — and he respected her vow of virginity. In fact, because of her example he soon converted and was baptized, along with his brother.
When the men were discovered burying Christian martyrs, they, too, were executed. Cecilia secretly buried them, and she was eventually found out to be a Christian and ordered to be suffocated to death. The attempt failed, and another soldier was sent to behead her. Three blows to her head and neck left her near death, but she survived that assault for three days until she finally succumbed from the wounds.
In the early 1500s her tomb was opened to reveal her incorrupt body. I always think that is startling!
I had the pleasure of chatting with Jared Dees from Ave Maria Press today. I got to share a little bit about myself and my family, and talk about some of my favorite Saints and courageous women featured in My Badass Book of Saints.
It was great fun — especially getting to talk with Jared face-to-face. I’m having so much fun with this project — I just wanted to tell some stories. I did, but more than that, I’m getting to meet some wonderful people. I’m blessed!Read More