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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Servant of God, The Soldier's Wife

Dear Sister Mary Martha,

I appreciate your blog so very much! I love how you always seem to find just the right patron saint for any cause. And so I'm writing to you with my own question: who would you recommend as the patron saint for military spouses? With all the loneliness, the worrying, and the hardships that we are facing, we could use our own saint for intercessions. My friend Maia was thinking of St. Margaret of Scotland (her reasons are stated here, but can you think of a saint whose husband was NOT killed in battle and came home safe and sound instead?
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer this!

I have come up with a couple of saints, but I'm not sure you're going to like them.  You seem to want a happy ending saint and the truth is, not a lot of saints have a happy ending.  That's why they're saints.

The saint that sprang to mind for me was St. Elizabeth of Hungary.  Ever notice how many hospitals are named after her?  There's a reason for that.  She was the daughter of the King of Hungary and was married off to a prince at age 14.


She was deliriously happy with her prince, however and he with her.  They had three children and a great life, although no one else was happy with Elizabeth.  It seems she didn't care much for being well off and pampered.  She constantly gave away everything to the poor and tried to live a simple life.  It even got on her husband's nerves a bit.  The family was really irritated with her at all times.  She was so well known for her generosity, that poor people flocked to the gates of the palace.  The family was not amused.

And then, after only six years of bliss,  her husband went off to the Crusades and well....not a happy ending here.  He never came back.  Elizabeth spent the rest of her life grief stricken over his loss.  But she put all that sad energy to good use, giving away everything she had and taking care of the sick to the point where she had inadvertently opened a hospital.  She died at age 24. She is the patron saint of happy marriages.

But....you wanted a happy ending for the soldier's long suffering wife.  So let's go with a patron saint of hand wringing and fretting that pays off.  St. Monica.  Her husband and son gave her fits, but all her worry and prayer helped her son become one of the greatest saints to walk the earth.  They weren't soldiers, though.

How about St. Helena?  Her son Constantine was a great general, a constant soldier.  He turned the whole known world to Christianity.  St. Helena found the true relics of the cross and if you think she wasn't constantly worried about her son, take note that she took one of the nails that had bound Jesus to the Cross and sewed it into the bridle of Constantine's horse.

She doesn't seem like the best fit for you, though, because although she suffered on her own when she was younger (her husband dumped her for a younger model), she ended up being the Empress of the world and living in the lap of luxury and doing whatever she wanted to do.

So finally, in my search, I did a little reading about soldier's wives and how they cope, spiritually.  I found a group who meets on the army base.  They are women of all denominations and they have a Bible reading support group.  I always grit my teeth a little when a bunch of people get together for "Bible study" on their own, because that is just a recipe for potential disaster.  But here is the conclusion this group came to, an idea to which they cling: their soldier husbands do not belong to them.  They belong to God.

And as such, they cope by understanding their role as servants.  Their husbands are serving.  And the women are serving, too, just in a different way.

To that end, I recommend St. Zita, the ultimate servant.  That's all Zita ever was.  She wasn't the wife of a nobleman soldier or the mother of anyone, let alone a saint.  She was the maid.

She was such a pious good girl that for quite a while, no one liked her.  People are suspect of goodness, sadly. She was beaten and overworked and given every terrible job from the time she clocked in at age 12.  But nothing could shake her calm, nothing could destroy her deep sense of inner peace.  She loved everyone anyway.  Eventually, her relentless goodness won everyone over, as its relentlessness proved its sincerity. Zita was made the head of the whole household.

What was her secret?  She felt that her work  and her place in life was God's will and therefore she was doing what was assigned to her by God.  She did it masterfully,  always tending the needs of others, studying them to anticipate their needs.

And she had a very happy ending.  She died peacefully in her sleep in her old age in her attic room.  Her soul was seen flying out of the house accompanied by angels. Her incorrupt body is still with us. It's in a glass case that someone like her has to polish.


Ute said...

Thank you so much for your quick response! I do like all of your suggestions, and I'm sharing this post with all my fellow military spouses.
Also, I'm subscribing to your blog on Kindle. Amazon is charging $0.99 per month for that. Do you get any of that money? Because if not, I'd rather read your blog on the computer for free and give the money to you directly.

Sister Mary Martha said...

I do get a few cents from that. So glad you liked the answer. I found the Bible study soldier wives very inspirational and their point of view very unexpected.

Anonymous said...

Hello Sr..You have mentioned bible study on ur own is a recipe for potential danger..could you explain

Jenni said...

Thank you so much Sister Mary Martha! I am not a military wife, but I am the wife of a husband who suffered a brain injury is a car accident we were in several years ago. He is doing very well, but I have to do a lot that he used to do and take care of him as well. I an afraid that I get overwhelmed at times and I am not sure I am doing all that well. Perhaps Zita is the patron saint for me as well.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you said that bible study on your own is a recipe for potential disaster. So many people do not realize that these groups, although they are well-meaning and sound appealing on the surface, would do well to have the guidance of a well-grounded scripture scholar who submits to the teaching magisterium. It is the Church who has the authority to teach us, and not we who have the authority to teach ourselves. Otherwise, Jesus would not have given "keys" to Peter. We can't possibly decide for ourselves what this or that passage "means to us," because that would be to admit that there are many possible meanings. A passage might move me more than it moves you - but that is a matter of the working of the Holy Spirit and our response to it - not a changing of its meaning. Our pastor calls bible study groups "sessions of shared ignorance," not in a haughty way, but more out of sorrow. Also, he offers an excellent study - so he does not leave us wanting.

Tracy said...

Dear Anonymous,

I would be careful not to discourage individual and group Bible study, which, if I am understanding things, the RCC no longer does. I share your Pastor's sorrow at all the freaky interpretations that can crop up, but that difficulty has to be balanced by all the comfort, strength, and guidance that goes on in millions of Christian lives from daily reading of Holy Scripture.