I was given a beautiful gift today from a friend who is a monk. He has just returned from a pilgrimage to Rome and Italy and in his kindness he brought back a precious relic for me: a first class relic (ex ossibus) of Blessed Elisabetta Renzi, the foundress of the Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows (the Addolorata Sisters). What a wonderful gift: thank you Dom Benedict!
Blessed Elisabetta is one of our more recent Beati, raised to the altars by St John Paul II in 1989. Her life was truly extraordinary, one with many challenges for her, challenges that provided an opportunity for her to grow in holiness. You can find a brief biography here at her sisters's website, but take note of her attempts to enter religious life. Her first attempt was thwarted by the rise of secularism and the assault of Napoleon on the Church. Sent home she spent years living with the disappointment, driven by a deep desire to live the consecrated life but held back by the intrusion of temporal governments into the internal life of the Church. But God saw the suffering of his servant and he was preparing a great mission for her.
I know people struggling with a vocation, some are looking for somewhere to go, but do not know which direction to take. Others are terrified to take a step and so try to stave off the "remorseful day" by what seems to be an endless process of "discernment". Some are being prevented by parents or family members who do not want to lose a son or daughter to the Church. And then there are those with genuine vocations who are being rejected from seminaries, Orders and congregations because their theological outlook is not in keeping with prevailing fashions - they are not progressive enough. I think Blessed Elisabetta is for all of those struggling with a vocation. I think she says to those putting off the moment to just get up and go; and to those rejected by seminaries or orders to go elsewhere - there are plenty of other congregations and other dioceses more open to orthodox Catholics.
But Elisabetta has something else to say to us today, and this what resonated with me today as I was venerating her relic. She founded a congregation to minister to young women, in her own work she believed that if girls and women became good, holy women, then their families, inspired by the mother, would become good and holy families. Authentically holy parents have the best chance of producing holy children, well adjusted children, as we see in the example of Sts Louis and Zelie Martin. This is not an old hat idea, it is a teaching that is at the heart of the Second Vatican Council which saw the family as the "domestic church" where children are born and reared, formed in Christian and human virtues, and prepared, not only for good and successful lives in the world, but also for heaven.
Blessed Elisabetta, then, is one of the great Saints of the family, and I think in these times we could turn to her to help troubled families, and to guide the Church as she seeks to reach out to them. So perhaps you might all say a prayer to her after you read this: pray for our families, particularly those are are facing difficulties; for the Church; for the Pope, our Bishops and priests; for our laity working in the area of family support. The Sisters of her congregation are now looking for a miracle which will lead to her canonisation,so you might say a little prayer for that too.