Unlike (soon-to-be Saint) Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who would spend her life picking up the poor from gutters, St. Euphrasia ‘picked up’ the sick and those who served God’s people through her prayer from behind the convent walls. Known for her humility and deep devotion to Jesus, she offered advice and love to those who came seeking guidance, but her ministry consisted mostly of intercessory prayer. Her impact was deep, even though she rarely, if ever, left the walls of the convent during her religious life. What we can learn from the Praying Mother, then, is that we do not have to do spectacular feats in order to grow in holiness, but rather we need to respond to the call which we have been given. Not all of us are called to spend endless hours in a chapel, and not all of us are called to go into the streets of the city helping the poor, but all of us do have a call to grow in holiness using whatever gifts we have received. St. Euphrasia teaches us that obedience to our call means simply being who we are and letting God work with what we offer Him in return. It is God who gifts us with growth in holiness; it is His work, not ours. But what we do is to cooperate with God, allowing Him to do His work in us (since He never forces anything on us) by desiring growth, making an offering of our lives as a return gift to Him in response to His love. We simply need to enter into the life we have been given with eyes and ears open to that which is before us. Our ministry lies in being responsive to grace and to the situations which present themselves daily.
St. Euphrasia teaches us to dedicate ourselves to prayer. It would be nice if we desired to spend hours before the Blessed Sacrament or in our rooms in prayer, but that is not always realistic to those who live active lives. However, we do need to spend some consistent time in prayer in order to cultivate the eyes and ears we need to become aware of our specific call. If we want to become sensitive to others, it is important to let Jesus teach us how to see the opportunities for service and care which are there. We can develop an attitude of prayer which becomes the atmosphere of our daily lives, so that when we are not actively praying, we might see every moment as either filled with beauty, pervaded by the presence of the magnificently creative God, or aware of the suffering Jesus who is with His people in need of care. What St. Euphrasia teaches us is that it is our attitude which makes all the difference. She had no intention of being well-known, but rather she simply responded in humility to the One she loved. It was her love for Jesus which inflamed her love for His people to such a great extent that since her death miracles have occurred through her intercession. She has not ceased in this love, but continues to be true to God’s call from her place in Heaven with her beloved Lord Jesus. Her tomb is a pilgrimage site in India, with many claiming to have had healing through the intercession of this humble sister, now a saint.
©Michele L. Catanese
(For Fr. Roy, SJ, a priest of both the Syro-Malabar Rite and the Latin Rite, and a good friend.)
NOTE: Next post will be Sept. 12
* Here are some links which are helpful in understanding the Church in India and the Syro-Malabar Rite. The rite refers to the ritual used for liturgy and includes some small differences in prayers and tradition, though basically within the Catholic Church it is the same Mass being said universally. The majority of Catholic Churches use the Latin (Roman) Rite, but there are other rites which are part of the one Catholic Church.
-About the Syro-Malabar Church: http://www.syromalabarchurch.in/syro-malabar-church.php
-About the Catholic Church in India, with a list of holy men and women: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_India
Here are some links to information I used in researching St. Euphrasia:
The first photo is of the Marth Mariam Syrian Catholic Church (Syro-Malabar Rite) in Kerala, India. It is found in the above Wikipedia link. I chose this because the church is located in the same area of Kerala, India, where St. Euphrasia lived as a sister.
The second image is a painting of the Praying Mother, St. Euphrasia Eluvathingal. I chose this image because it not only captured the likeness of St. Euphrasia, but in it she is holding a crucifix and her rosary, showing her to be a woman of prayer. I also liked the gentleness of her face and smile. It can be found at https://www.rejijoseph.com/product/st-euphrasia-008/
Third, is an icon called Jesus Christ Extreme Humility by Fr. William Hart McNichols. I chose this icon because it seemed to highlight the teaching of Jesus in the passage from Luke. Jesus taught about humility because He was humility incarnate. Only a magnanimous, merciful God of Love would choose to come humbly into the world and then leave it in the most humiliating of ways. Jesus lived what He taught as a perfect example for us of what it means to pour ourselves out for others. You can find this icon at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/jesus-christ-extreme-humility-036-william-hart-mcnichols.html
Next is a photo I recently took in Kenilworth Park in Washington, DC. I chose this because of the serenity and peace that the lily pond seemed to communicate. But if you look really closely, not all the lily pads are the same. It spoke to me symbolically of the saints who are not all the same. Some of the lilies even managed to put forth beautiful flowers, like a saint wrapped in the 'odor of sanctity.' Either way, they show us that although the lily pads seem nondescript, they are all capable of putting forth beautiful flowers, just as we can blossom into holiness if we cooperate with the invitation of grace.
Last is another of my photos, taken in a church in Turin, Italy. I chose this photo because the woman was a solitary pray-er; she was rapt in prayer before the altar with the icon of Mary above it, having sought a place where she could pray without distraction.