Women at Work for the World

Saintly Women of Modern Times

by Joan Carroll Cruz

OSV, 2004

263 pages, $14.95

To order: 800-348-2440

or osv.com

If you’re an average Catholic woman, you need an extraordinarily wise mentor — someone who can not only demonstrate ways to deal with the larger questions of life, but also light the way through the trials and tribulations of a typical modern day.

The good news is: As a Catholic, you have lots of holy role models to choose from.

But don’t take it from me. Take it from Joan Carroll Cruz, whose Saintly Women of Modern Times provides more than 50 stories of laywomen who lived in the century just past. Having struggled with many of the same things women face today, they lived lives that inspire in us the courage to go beyond mediocrity and strive for true virtue, no matter what vocation or station in life God has called us to.

Cruz mentions in the foreword that her sole purpose for compiling these saints’ lives was to offer examples of holy women “in every walk of life” who, relying on God, persevered in their struggles and achieved holiness.

How are their lives relevant to American women circa 2005? By the timelessness of the universal call to holiness, as explicated in the Vatican II document Lumen Gentium (Light of Nations). Every person must strive every day to grow in sanctity and love of God.

Consider the life of Servant of God Elisabetta Tasca Serena, one of Cruz’s leading ladies. On the day of her marriage, Elisabetta formulated this prayer: “Lord, in the marriage I will always do your holy will and I accept gladly the children that you will give me; give me at least the grace that some become priests and nuns. Lord, if you want also, take them all to your service.”

Elisabetta was to be the mother of 12 children; two of her sons became priests and two of her daughters became nuns. Later on in life she said, “Be always happy. If inside there is something that makes you suffer, don’t lose your courage and remember him. It will then pass after a prayer, and then sing! If you knew how many sorrows have passed me by with a song. And so it will be for you. And give to everyone one of your smiles.”

Elsewhere, Wiera (Ida) Francia, a teacher in Italy, is described as “someone who recognizes (her) own faults, limitations, and difficulties in doing God’s will, and strives to overcome nature and reach a deep spirituality, but who is having great difficulty in doing so.” Couldn’t almost everyone find something to relate to with this holy woman? Wiera wrote: “You’ve not prayed well if it makes no difference in the way you treat others, in the way you act out your Christian commitment. Authentic prayer necessarily makes a person abound in good works.”

The stories are short, some no more than a page. This could be seen as a strength or a weakness, depending on the reader’s preferences. In any case, the synopses certainly do provide a concise overview of each saintly woman’s life. And the brisk pace encouraged by the brevity serves to illustrate the wideness of God’s net: so many women, so few excuses.

May these stories motivate many modern women to become holy role models themselves. After all, new generations of “average Catholic women” are on the way — and they’re going to need wise mentors, too.

Robyn Lee is the Register’s

editorial assistant.