Just to let you know, I'll be speaking at Bishop Stang high school in Dartmouth, MA on April 9th at a conference sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. The theme is "A Light in the Darkness" and the link is here; more importantly, the event will support their radio station, Radio Cor Mariae (an EWTN affiliate). The conference fee includes lunch and an opportunity to meet many other Catholics in the area. Should be a great day -- join us!
From today's Office (from the life of Saint Frances of Rome by Mary Magdalene Anguillaria, superior of the Oblates of the Tower of Specchi
Cap 6-7: Acta Sanctorum Martii 2, 188-189):
The patience and charity of Saint Frances
God not only tested the patience of Frances with respect to her material wealth, but, as I have said before and will reiterate, he also tested her own body in a variety of ways, especially through long and serious illnesses which she had to undergo. And yet no one ever observed in her a tendency toward impatience. She never exhibited any displeasure when she complied with an order, no matter how foolish.
Through the premature deaths of her sons whom she loved dearly, Frances proved her constancy. With peace of soul she always reconciled herself to the will of God and gave him thanks for all that happened. With the same constancy she endured the slander of those who abused and reviled her and her way of life. She did not show the least hint of aversion toward them, even though she knew that they judged her rashly and spoke falsely of her way of life. Rather, returning good for evil, she habitually prayed to God for them.
God had not chosen her to be holy merely for her own advantage. Rather, the gifts he conferred upon her were to be for the spiritual and physical advantage of her neighbor. For this reason he made her so lovable that anyone with whom she spoke would immediately feel captivated by love for her and ready to help her in everything she wanted. Divine power was present and working in her words, so that in a few sentences she could bring consolation to the afflicted and the anxious, calm the restless, pacify the angry, reconcile enemies and extinguish long-standing hatreds and animosities. Again and again she would prevent a planned revenge from being carried out. She seemed able to subdue the passions of every type of person with a single word and lead them to do whatever she asked.
For this reason people flocked to Frances from all directions, as to a safe refuge. No one left her without being consoled, although she openly rebuked them for their sins and fearlessly reproved them for what was evil and displeasing to God.
Many different diseases were rampant in Rome. Fatal diseases and plagues were everywhere, but the saint ignored the risk of contagion and displayed the deepest kindness toward the poor and the needy. Here empathy would first bring them to atone for their sins. Then she would help them by her eager care, and urge them lovingly to accept their trials, however difficult, from the hand of God. She would encourage them to endure their sufferings for love of Christ, since he had previously endured so much for them.
Frances was not satisfied with caring for the sick she could bring into her home. She would seek them out in their cottages and in public hospitals, and would refresh their thirst, smooth their beds, and bind their sores. The more disgusting and sickening the stench, the greater was the love and care with which she treated them.
She used to go to the Campo Santo with food and rich delicacies to be distributed to the needy. On her return home she would bring pieces of worn-out clothes and unclean rags which she would wash lovingly and mend carefully, as if they were to be used for God himself. Then she would fold them carefully and perfume them.
For thirty years Frances continued this service to the sick and the stranger. While she was in her husband’s house, she made frequent visits to Saint Mary’s and Saint Cecilia’s hospitals in Trastevere, and to the hospital of the Holy Spirit in Sassia and to a fourth hospital in the Campo Santo. During epidemics like this it was not only difficult to find doctors to care for the body but even priests to provide remedies for the soul. She herself would seek them out and bring them to those who were disposed to receive the sacraments of penance and the Eucharist. In order to have a priest more readily available to assist her in her apostolate, she supported, at her own expense, a priest who would go to the hospitals and visit the sick whom she had designated.
This Saturday, 27 February, I'll be the guest of the Catholic Daughters of St. Matthew where I'll be offering a retreat for women from 10am to 3:30pm. There will be three talks, opportunity for Confession, lunch and Rosary, and we'll end with the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Join us if you're in the area -- more information here.
Hundreds of millions of girls worldwide undergo a mutilation of their genitals based on both religion and tradition. The religious component is related to somewhat obscure Muslim ahadith, which say:
Abu al- Malih ibn `Usama's father relates that the Prophet said: "Circumcision is a law for men and a preservation of honour for women" (Ahmad Ibn Hanbal 5:75; Abu Dawud, Adab 167);
Narrated Umm Atiyyah al-Ansariyyah: A woman used to perform circumcision in Medina. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said to her: Do not cut severely as that is better for a woman and more desirable for a husband (Abu Dawud 41:5251);
There is another hadith (which we'll leave aside because of the explicit content -- common to Islamic discussions of marital relations) and it is equally firm, and then there is the Reliance of the Traveller, on which Shari'a law is based:
e4.3 Circumcision is obligatory (for every male and female) by cutting off the piece of skin on the glans of the penis of the male, but circumcision of the female is by cutting out the clitoris (this is called Hufaad).
Whether parents can name the specific religious source or not, the tradition has taken hold, and now the affected populations are bringing the practice to the West through immigration. Doctors in Europe, Canada, and the United States have a choice: inviting the parents to bring the girls into a sterile environment to make a "ritual nick" in the appropriate place, or to reject the practice as unethical and unnecessary. In all honesty, the latter will merely lead the parents to take the girls to back-alley practitioners or to send them back to the country of origin for the procedure--again without benefit of hygienic safeguards. It's a horrific choice, and there are compelling arguments on both sides.
Interestingly, there are many who would reject the doctor's offer of a "nick," leaving no lasting effect, because the tradition has an important point: to reduce the libido of the girls by making sexual intimacy less desirable (either through the pain involved or by removing those components that are integral to sexual pleasure). Unfortunately, there is more than reducing the sexual drive: "It can cause urinary difficulties, cysts and infection, infertility and complications in childbirth."
For a first-hand account of the trauma and horror, here is a portion of supermodel Waris Dirie's testimony (found here):
In a nomadic culture like the one I was raised in, there is no place for an unmarried woman, so mothers feel it is their duty to ensure their daughters have the best possible opportunity to get a husband.
And since the prevailing wisdom in Somalia is that there are bad things between a girl's legs, a woman is considered dirty, oversexed and unmarriageable unless those parts--the clitoris, the labia minora, and most of the labia majora--are removed. Then the wound is stitched shut, leaving only a small opening and a scar where the genitals had been-a practice called infibulation.
Paying the gypsy woman for this circumcision is one of the greatest expenses a household will undergo, but is considered a good investment. Without it the daughters will not make it onto the marriage market.
The actual details of the ritual cutting are never explained to the girls--it's a mystery. You just know that something special is going to happen when your time comes. As a result, all young girls in Somalia anxiously await the ceremony that will mark their becoming a woman. Originally the process occurred when the girls reached puberty, but through time it has been performed on younger and younger girls.
One evening when I was about five, my mother said to me, "Your father ran into the gypsy woman. She should be here any day now" ...
I had a lovely discussion with Sue Brinkmann, the founder of Young Women of Grace, a tremendous program for Catholic girls ages 12 to 18 (and beyond, really!) I cannot recommend it highly enough -- it's beautiful, chock-full of very good information, profiles of young saints, catechesis, and inspiration. Listen to the interview to see how you can introduce the program in your area, or simply buy a copy for the young lady in your life!
Before Black History Month entirely escapes, I'd like to point you to a very well-done two-part presentation on Mary Seacole, a contemporary of Florence Nightengale who had the same interests and success:
I admire her resilience, her fortitude, and her unflagging spirit. We all face obstacles -- they simply reveal our character. This woman was amazing, and a role model for any young woman of any "colour."