11 August 2010

Timeless Solemnity

Tomorrow we will celebrate the Solemnity of St. Jane de Chantal. In years past we have recounted the amazing adventure of this (apparently) "movable feast." New readers might enjoy this short account from a couple of years ago.

As movable as this Solemnity is, one might stop to consider how timeless is the example of our Foundress. The readings proper to the feast bring us to the Gospel account where Jesus asks who his mother and brothers are. One cannot help but to associate that text with the often-recounted scene of St. Jane de Chantal stepping over the body of her (overly) dramatic son as she entered the religious life. This often-recounted pericope overshadows the relevance of St. Jane de Chantal's path to sanctity.

We've always tried to keep our blog posts to a friendly length that does not discourage reading and sharing, so this is a thumbnail sketch of what happened before and after she stepped over the threshold of her son to enter religious life: At age 28 she lost her husband to a "friendly fire" hunting accident and was left with four small children. Her father-in-law threatened to remove her children from the family inheritance if she did not come to live with him. There she raised her children alongside his own illegitimate children. She was treated poorly by his mistress but never once allowed that to affect the loving attention she paid to their children. She faced criticism for the foundation of our Order, was predeceased by her earliest companions in religious life, buried three of her own children as well as her beloved friend and spiritual guide, St. Francis de Sales and established 80 monasteries of the Visitation in France prior to her death.

St. Jane de Chantal is proof that holiness is not acquired because of the ideal circumstances in which we find ourselves practicing virtue effortlessly. It might be easy if everyone with whom we interacted was patient, thoughtful and kind; if we were never late because never got stuck in traffic; if the xerox machine never jammed up when we had an emergency; if no one in our house ever ate the last chocolate chip cookie; and if everyone refilled the ice-cube tray when it was *almost* empty. Most of us, however, don't live in such a paradise. Rather, one grows in holiness by the trusting acceptance of the circumstances he cannot change and the virtues demonstrated in the face of such challenging events.

St. Jane de Chantal is a timeless example for us of a woman who practiced virtue amid the joys and deep sorrows she experienced in her life.

"How good it is to see the servants of God . . . have no other tomorrow than that of His Providence!"
St. Jane de Chantal

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