St. Joachima, Pray For Us!

St. Joachima de Vedruna lovingly and cheerfully performed her ‘duty of the moment,’ even unto her last breath.

Francesc Morell i Cornet (1845-1916), “Santa Joaquima de Vedruna,” 1903.
Francesc Morell i Cornet (1845-1916), “Santa Joaquima de Vedruna,” 1903. (photo: Public Domain)

In one of her many writings, Servant of God Catherine Doherty referred to the “duty of the moment,” which she defined as “what you should be doing at any given time, in whatever place God has put you.”

It’s a principle almost dazzling in its simplicity, yet it requires a constant outpouring of God’s grace to fulfill. How often do we fall prey to thinking of what great things we should be doing, or what mighty deeds we should be looking to achieve for God’s glory? Yet most frequently God is asking something small of us at each moment. We need to fold the laundry for the family he’s blessed us with, or to mow the lawn, stewarding the homes we inhabit.

Living in the century before Catherine Doherty’s birth, St. Joachima would no doubt have agreed profoundly with the latter’s notion of serving God by focusing on her “duty of the moment.”

St. Joachima was a young Spanish woman born to wealth and privilege in 1783. Desiring from an early age to enter the religious life, Joachima instead obediently followed her parents’ designs for her, and at the age of 16, she wed a young lawyer named Theodore de Mas, equally as devout and fervent in his faith as his bride.

Although neither had originally desired the marriage, both preferring the quiet rhythms of the convent and monastery, Joachima and her husband entered into their marriage with gracious acceptance of God’s will in their lives. They welcomed eight children before Theodore’s early death in 1816, at which time the 33-year-old Joachima found herself widowed with a bevy of children, the youngest of whom was only an infant. Once more, having faithfully lived out her marriage vows, her heart turned toward the convent. But of course, as a mother, her duty at that moment was to the children that God had given her. Squaring her shoulders and surrendering to the role in which God had placed her, Joachima set herself to the task at hand, raising her large family.

In 1823, with her older children grown and settled, and her youngest children living with their married sisters, Joachima once again brought her deep desire of religious life to God in prayer. As she had done throughout her life, her every wish was followed by her unspoken “they will be done.”

This time, however, God answered her prayer, though not entirely as she expected. Instead, he sent her a spiritual director who would instead suggest that Joachima found her own order. Recognizing yet again the will of God in this new task laid before her, she readily acquiesced.

Joachima founded the Carmelite Sisters of Charity, serving as Mother Superior of the Order until 1851. Frequent wars often disrupted the order’s work, and Joachima herself was imprisoned and even exiled to France for several years. Undeterred by these obstacles, Joachima continued to manage the order’s affairs from her prison and from abroad. Following her return in 1843, she and her sisters founded hospitals and convents throughout Catalonia.

By 1851, Joachima’s health forced her to resign as Mother Superior. Over the next few years, Joachima succumbed slowly to her final illness, which gradually paralyzed her. For those years, her duties as wife, mother, and Mother Superior had fallen by the wayside. Instead, God placed before her a different task. She had to submit to being wholly dependent on others. Month by month as she weakened and became more helpless, he asked her to accept this new cross with grace and joy. By 1854, paralysis had gripped her completely, and she died at the age of 71, having lovingly and cheerfully performed her “duty of the moment,” even unto her last breath.

St. Joachima, pray for us!