Three Extraordinary Women ~ True Womanhood


Do you not think you have influence. O Woman of Faith? Your very hidden life of courage and duty touches the lives of others and resounds throughout society, as has been the case all through history!

from True Womanhood – Rev. Bernard O’Reilly

When we remember who these early Christians were whose sweet and virginal piety was praised by St. Clement, we are filled with astonishment at the total and sudden transformation which the truth of the gospel, the knowledge and imitation of Christ and his Virgin Mother effected in the most ill-famed city of the pagan world and the most abandoned population known to history.

The very name of Corinth was odious to the ancient Romans of the true republican era, and when she (Corinth) fell beneath the Roman arms, she was utterly blotted out, lest the simplicity and austerity of the conquering race should become corrupt by contact with the voluptuous city.

Ancient_corinthA Roman colony was afterward planted there, and Corinth arose once more from her ruins on that enchanted shore, shorn indeed of her greatness and power, but scarcely less infamous than her former self.

It was like the alkali plains of our Western territories, where nothing seems able to grow but the sagebrush which saddens the eye. No sooner had St. Paul preached there, practicing all that he preached, than piety, purity, and modesty, all the gentle virtues of Mary’s home at Nazareth, spread with the faith from house to house in Corinth, till the infant church there resembled a society of angelic men and women.

In soil deemed hitherto incapable of producing a single fruit of heavenly modesty, the cross of Christ had been planted; the curse of centuries was removed, and the land began to be fair with flowers of supernatural promise.

What was the part of woman in this extraordinary renovation?

Three women are mentioned in the New Testament as having been associated with the apostles in the work of planting and fostering the Christian faith in the beautiful city and its dependencies…Prisca or Priscilla, Chloe, and Phebe, revered as saints from the apostolic times by the churches of the East and West alike.

It was in the house of Prisca that St. Paul took up his abode when he first arrived at Corinth. Her husband, Aquila, was, like Paul himself, a tent-maker; for it was the admirable custom, even of the highest and most wealthy Jewish families, to teach every one of their sons some trade or handicraft, which might place them above want, and thereby secure their independence, when persecution or adverse fortune deprived them of country and riches.

Aquila had been expelled from Rome by the Emperor Claudius just before Paul’s arrival on the Isthmus of Corinth, and was working at his craft of tent-maker, weaving for that purpose the hair of the Phrygian goat into a much esteemed and water-proof cloth.

Their common craft was a first bond of intimacy between the great apostle and this household; the Christian faith drew them still closer together. At any rate, though Priscilla and her husband opened their home and their hearts to the apostle and the divine message which he bore, we know from Paul himself that he would be beholden to no one for his support and that of his fellow-laborers in the gospel.

Still that laborious and well-ordered household became the cradle of Christianity in Western Greece, the first sanctuary in Corinth where the Divine Mysteries were celebrated, and the word of God explained to the highest and lowest among the proud, cultivated, and pleasure-loving population.

Not unlike Priscilla was Chloe, in all probability also a married woman, while Phebe, the female apostle of Cenchrese, the eastern suburb and seaport of Corinth, was unmarried, a deaconess, and the first fruits, on that long-polluted land, of the Virgin-Life destined to be so fruitful of holiness in Christian Europe.

Priscilla and her husband followed Paul to Ephesus in Asia, a city scarcely less ill-famed than Corinth, where the devoted and energetic wife shared the mortal dangers which beset the apostle, and instructed in the Christian faith the accomplished and eloquent Apollos, who was sent to Corinth to continue there the good work so gloriously begun.

When Paul was sent in chains to Rome, the noble woman and her worthy husband forsook every thing, risked even life itself to be near him, and to share his labors and perils.
Priscilla’ s house in Rome became a church, a center of Christian activity and charity, and Chloe and Phebe’ s names are associated with hers in the heartfelt commendations of the imprisoned apostle, and the undying gratitude and veneration of every succeeding age.

Most blessed, therefore, of God and man was the sweet and gentle piety as well as the unbounded hospitality of these early Christian homes.

When I suffer much, when things that are painful and disagreeable, befall me, instead of assuming an air of sadness, I respond by a smile. At first I was not always successful, but now it is a habit, which I am very happy to have acquired.

St. Francis de Sales gives us some words of warning on the company we keep: ‘Be very careful, therefore, dear reader, not to have any evil love, because you will in turn quickly become evil yourself.
Friendship is the most dangerous of all love. Why? Because other loves can exist without communication, exchange, closeness. But friendship is completely founded upon communication and exchange and cannot exist in practice without sharing in the qualities and defects of the friend loved.’

We should get used to extracting from ordinary day-to-day life whatever can increase our joy, rest, and legitimate satisfaction, and whatever can fill us with optimism. There is a thrill of joy and satisfaction in the thought that we are the objects of God’s love and can ourselves sincerely love Him…

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For adults….

The famous novelist Louis de Wohl presents a stimulating historical novel about the great St. Thomas Aquinas, set against the violent background of the Italy of the Crusades. He tells the intriguing story of St. Thomas who – by taking a vow of poverty and joining the Dominicans – defied his illustrious, prominent family’s ambition for him to have great power in the Church. The battles and Crusades of the 13th century and the ruthlessness of the excommunicated Emperor Frederick II play a big part in the story, but it is Thomas of Aquino who dominates this book. De Wohl succeeds notably in portraying the exceptional quality of this man, a fusion of mighty intellect and childlike simplicity. A pupil of St. Albert the Great, the humble Thomas – through an intense life of study, writing, prayer, preaching and contemplation – ironically rose to become the influential figure of his age, and he later was proclaimed by the Church as the Angelic Doctor.

Seriously wounded at the siege of Pamplona in 1521, Don Inigo de Loyola learned that to be a Knight of God was an infinitely greater honor (and infinitely more dangerous) than to be a Knight in the forces of the Emperor. Uli von der Flue, humorous, intelligent and courageous Swiss mercenary, was responsible for the canon shot which incapacitated the worldly and ambitious young nobleman, and Uli became deeply involved in Loyola’s life. With Juanita, disguised as the boy Juan, Uli followed Loyola on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to protect him, but it was the saint who protected Uli and Juan. Through Uli’s eyes we see the surge and violence of the turbulent period in Jerusalem, Spain and Rome.

Louis de Wohl has again created an exciting and spiritually inspiring novel for all readers of historical fiction.

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