The Poor Clares: Souls should be adorned with virtue
Beauty appeals to the deepest part of man and exalts him to higher realms than those that are simply natural and tangible. Anyone who has seen an exquisite piece of artwork, gazed at a breathtaking sunset, or listened to a magnificent symphonic concert has experienced the enticement of beauty that draws one out of self towards the transcendent. Far more glorious and captivating, though, is the human soul in the state of grace and adorned with virtues. Such a soul captivates the heart of God, understands the redemptive value of suffering, lives in deep joyful confidence, and affects people and situations around him or her.
In the Book of Judith, we find the incredible story of a woman whose beauty and wisdom confounded her enemies and saved God's people from a deadly plight. An intriguing account of heroism, it narrates the defeat of the Assyrians through the valor and ingenuity of this woman. Delving deeper into the story's spiritual meaning, we find that the heroine Judith embodies the virtuous soul.
First of all, take note of the key disposition which Judith possessed: purity of intention. Uzziah, the religious leader, said to her, "From the beginning of your life all the people have recognized your understanding, for your heart's disposition is right" (8:29). Jesus taught, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God." Judith was capable of an acute sense of discernment because of purity of intention – that is, she sought the kingdom of God above all else.
Those who are pure of heart also have a keen awareness of God's hand in the midst of trials. Their spiritual vision pierces through the veil of pain and suffering to recognize Providence at work. They know that suffering produces endurance and endurance, character. Judith exhorted her people, "In spite of everything let us give thanks to the Lord our God, who is putting us to the test as He did with Abraham, and how He tested Isaac, and what happened to Jacob ... the Lord scourges those who draw near to Him, in order to admonish them" (8:25-27).
Such forbearance in suffering gradually chisels away at the heart's tough spots and makes it pliable. It is in the crucible of the Cross that one truly discovers who she is as a creature of God. She recognizes her finiteness just as Judith did, but such self-knowledge does not lead her into despair. Rather, she humbly, but confidently, finds her strength in God. Judith addressed her prayer, "For thy power depends not upon numbers, nor thy might upon men of strength; for thou art God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak, protector of the forlorn, savior of those without hope" (9:11).
Suffering apart from God brings hopelessness and misery, but humble submission to suffering in loving abandonment to God's plan transforms the soul and fills her with unspeakable joy. The closer a soul is to God, the more joyful and the more humble she will become. These gems of truth are also hidden within Judith, for on preparation for her mission, the virtuous woman packed a bottle of wine and a flask of oil, symbols of joy and humility.
Interestingly, Judith's virtues can be grouped into two types: those which she made the effort to embrace, and those which God bestowed upon her as a share of His own goodness. Notice how she anointed herself with ointment and dressed in her finest apparel. This points to the endeavors each person must make to acquire virtuous habits.
The Vulgate adds, "The Lord gave her more beauty: because all this dressing-up did not proceed from sensuality, but from virtue: and therefore the Lord increased her beauty, so that she appeared to all men's eyes incomparably lovely" (10:4). The mystical masters, like St. John of the Cross, teach that in the spiritual life, there will be activity on our part, as well as passive times. He described these passive states as those in which "God Himself is preparing and disposing the soul for divine union."
Finally, Judith's virtue affected the people and situations around her. Her enemies "marveled at her beauty" (10:23), and the Israelites rejoiced at the victory over the Assyrians. When we encounter holy and virtuous people, we desire to remain in their presence, and we often find that they have influence over those around them.
For those seeking to live deeply spiritual lives, may Judith be an inspiring example of purity of heart, trust in Divine Providence, forbearance in suffering, and joy and cooperation with grace.
Sister Mary Raphael of the Divine Physician is professed with the Poor Clare Nuns of Perpetual Adoration St. Joseph Monastery in Charlotte. This is part of a monthly commentary by the Poor Clares to focus on topics of faith and to address questions about religious life. Learn more about the community and subscribe to their newsletter by going online to www.stjosephmonastery.com.
Patron saints of familiesThere's a saint for everyone, and families are no different. Here are a few noteworthy examples for your family to learn more about. There is the familiar and beloved St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, and St. Francis of Assisi, who's on everyone's...
Reflections on St. PeterPeter the fishermanAfter Jesus, Peter is the figure best known and most frequently cited in the New Testament writings: he is mentioned 154 times with the nickname of Pétros, "rock," the Greek translation of the Aramaic name Jesus gave him directly;...
Pope Francis on the Year of FaithPope Francis spoke about the Year of Faith in his audience with representatives of the Churches and Ecclesial Communities, and other religions March 20: "I begin my apostolic ministry in this year that my venerated predecessor, Pope Benedict...
As pope, Benedict worked to promote understanding of Vatican IIVATICAN CITY — On Feb. 14, in one of the last public appearances of his pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI spoke to the clergy of Rome about his experiences at the Second Vatican Council, which he had attended as an expert consultant half a century...
People around world pledge to say rosary daily during Year of FaithEASTON, Mass. — The Family Rosary division of Holy Cross Family Ministries in Easton has gathered more than 80,000 pledges from people around the globe who said they would pray the rosary daily during the 2012-13 Year of Faith. The pledges,...
A culture of lifeIn 2013 our country observes a shameful anniversary: marking 40 years of a "culture of death" that began when the U.S. Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, struck down all state laws restricting abortion. Since the advent of "legalized" abortion,...
The Fathers of the Church
Lives of the Saints
St. Mark the Evangelist's feast day celebrated on April 25St. Mark is the patron of St. Mark Church in Huntersville, which was dedicated in 2009. (File, Catholic News Herald)St. Mark, the Evangelist, is the author of the second Gospel and the patron saint of notaries. He wrote the Gospel in Greek for the Gentile...
St. Damien of Molokai's life of sacrifice remembered May 10The Church will remember St. Damien of Molokai May 10. The Belgian priest sacrificed his life and health to become a spiritual father to the victims of leprosy quarantined on a Hawaiian island. Joseph de Veuser, who later took the name Damien in religious...
'Oracle of Palestine' St. Epiphanius of Salamis celebrated May 12On May 12 the Church honors St. Epiphanius of Salamis, an early monk, bishop and Church Father known for his extensive learning and defense of Catholic teachings in the fourth century. During a 2007 visit with the Orthodox Archbishop of Cyprus, Pope...
St. Katharine Drexel has local connectionOn March 3, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Katharine Drexel, a Philadelphia heiress who abandoned her family's fortune to found an order of sisters dedicated to serving the impoverished African American and Native American populations...
St. Bede known for scholarship and holiness, honored May 25The Church will celebrate the feast of St. Bede May 25. The English priest, monk and scholar is sometimes known as "the Venerable Bede" for his combination of personal holiness and intellectual brilliance. Bede was born during 673 near the...
FROM THE PASTORS
Read and listen to homilies posted regularly by pastors at parishes within the Diocese of Charlotte:
- Fr. Frank Cancro at Queen of the Apostles
- Fr. Patrick Earl at St. Peter in Charlotte
- Fr. John Eckert at St. John the Baptist in Tryon
- Fr. Timothy Reid at St. Ann in Charlotte
- Fr. Benjamin Roberts at Our Lady of Lourdes in Monroe
- Fr. Patrick Winslow at St. Thomas Aquinas in Charlotte
- Watch full Masses live and on demand, listen to homilies and reflections from Sacred Heart Church in Salisbury
- Listen to homilies from St. William Catholic Church in Murphy