A Reader writes: My daughter in the 8th grade has been assigned to write an article about women who faithfully followed the way of Jesus Christ. Can you give us some information or recommend a resource where she can gather information on this topic?
Dear Reader: Your daughter's project is wonderful! Hopefully it will help her to learn about the women who were such an important part of the life of Jesus. And also who Jesus is to us as women in the world today.
There are so many marvelous women from the past, the present (and we certainly hope there will be more in the future) who have followed the way of Jesus Christ.
The gospel tells us that as Jesus went from town to town preaching and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom of God, he was accompanied by women (Luke 8: 1-2).
Martha, Mary, and their brother Lazarus were clearly very good friends of Jesus. The gospels tell of Jesus going to their home. Apparently Martha and Mary were two completely different personality types. We often remember how Jesus himself pointed out to Martha that she was too "...anxious and worried about many things." (Luke 10:41). We forget that at the time of the death of her brother Lazarus, Martha entered into a great theological discourse with Jesus and proclaimed him to be the Messiah, the Son of God. (John 11:27)
Mary wasn't as busy. Instead of hurrying around she chose to sit at the feet of Jesus. There is a powerful message revealed in the silent action of Mary. Everyone in the house of Bethany realized what Mary's action meant. Mary had chosen the position of the disciple. And in spite of Martha's pleas to Jesus to make Mary come and help her, Jesus solemnly says that, "Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her." (Luke 10:42)
Also in the gospels, there was Simon Peter's mother-in law who got up from her sick bed, healed and ready to serve him. There was the widow whose son had died to whom Jesus gave back her son. There were Joanna and Susanna who followed him from Galilee. (Luke 8:1-3).
There was the Samaritan woman (John 4:4-39) who became the first missionary outside the Jewish community. "Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in Jesus because of the word of the woman, who testified, 'He told me everything I have done.'" (John 4:39.)
There was the woman caught in adultery whose sins he forgave and sent on her way. (John 8: 1-11) There was also the mother of the sons of Zebedee, James and John (Matthew 20: 20), who tried to "make a deal" with Jesus.
On the way to his crucifixion, a large crowd of women followed Jesus.
And to them he said, "Do not weep for me." (Luke 23: 56)
There was Mary Magdalene from whom Jesus expelled seven demons and who became the first witness to Jesusí Resurrection. (John 20:18) There were women in the early Christian community who formed groups of the followers of Jesus in what is referred to as The Church In Her House. There were Priscilla and also Phoebe. In Romans 16:1-6, Paul says, "Greet also the church that meets at their house." In 1 Cor 16:19, Paul greets Aqua and Pricilla together with the church of their house, "Priscilla and Aquila"... founded and supported a "church in their house," wherever they moved.
You can look at the stories of these women and others on this Bible Search Engine, BibleGateway http://bible.gospelcom.net/
There were also women who lived past the time of the early Church who are extraordinary witnesses of Jesus Christ.
Julian of Norwich
Julian was an English mystic of the fourteenth century. We are not even sure of her real name. When she was 30 years old, Julian had a series of "Revelations," or "Showings." After she experienced these visions she became an anchorite, that is a hermit, in the churchyard of St. Julian in Norwich, England. She dedicated her life to prayer and contemplating the meaning of the visions. In one of her visions she saw God holding a small nut in his hand, She interpreted this vision as meaning that God made it. God loves it. God will keep it. She applied this lesson to herself believing that even though we are small and helpless, God made us. God loves us. God will keep us. Julian believed that "all would be well" because God loves us so much. She summarized her thoughts in a book entitled Revelations of Divine Love.
Read more about her at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08557a.htm
St. Teresa of Avila
Teresa was born at Avila, on March 28, 1515 and died at Alba de Tormes, Oct. 4, 1582. Teresa was an intelligent and high-spirited child. At the age of 7 she ran away from home with her brother hoping to go to Moorish territory to be beheaded for Christ. Fortunately, an uncle found the two children on the road and took them safely home. Teresa was sent for her education to the Augustinian nuns at Avila, but owing to illness she left at the end of eighteen months, and for some years stayed with her father. She entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avila in 1535. After her profession she became very seriously ill. The account of her spiritual life contained in the "Life Written by Herself" in the "Way of Perfection," and in the "Interior Castle," forms a remarkable spiritual biography. Teresa's great work was the Reform of the Carmelite convents. After many troubles and much opposition, Teresa founded the convent of Discalced Carmelites Nuns of the Primitive Rule of St. Joseph at Avila on Aug. 24, 1562. After that she founded many other Convents. Teresa passed away on Oct. 4 1582,
Read more about her at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14515b.htm
Therese of Lisieux
Therese died when she was 24, after having lived as a cloistered Carmelite for less than ten years. Therese was born in France in 1873. Her mother died of breast cancer when Theresa only was four and a half years old. When her sisters, left to join religious life, Therese was left alone with her sister Celine and her father. Theresa wanted to join the Convent also. To distract her from these thoughts, her father and sister took her on a pilgrimage to Rome. While Therese was in Rome she attended an audience with the Pope. As soon as she got near him, she begged him to let her enter the Carmelite convent. Soon after Therese was admitted to the Carmelite convent. She knew that as a Carmelite nun she would never be able to perform great deeds. Therefore Theresa decided that she would follow the "little way" and as she said, "My vocation is Love!" She never did anything "great" in her life. After her death, the only book of hers was her journal called "Story of a Soul." However, 28 years after her death she was canonized.
Theresa also dreamt about the work she would do after her death, helping those on earth. "I will return," she said. "My heaven will be spent on earth." She died on September 30, 1897 at the age of 24 years old.
You can learn more about her at http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/saintt02.htm
Edith Stein was born on October 12, 1891 in Breslau (Germany), now Wroclaw, Poland. She died on August 9, 1942 in Auschwitz, Poland. Although she was raised as an Orthodox Jew, the young Edith Stein renounced her faith in 1904 and lived as an Atheist. As a student at the University of Jotting, Edith became interested in the philosophy of Edmund Husserl. She later became his assistant at the University of Freiburg. When Edith became familiar with the Catholic faith, she found that she was attracted to it. However, it was her encounter with the autobiography of St. Theresa of Avila that caused her swift conversion. She was baptized on January 1, 1922. After her conversion, Edith spent her days teaching and writing. In 1934 she entered the Carmelite convent at Cologne, taking the religious name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. By 1938 the threat of Nazis persecution of Jews made it necessary for to transfer out of Germany to the Carmelite convent at Echt in the Netherlands. However, on July 26, 1942 the Nazis began arresting all Catholics of Jewish extraction in Holland. Edith was taken from the Echt Carmel on August 2, 1942. She was sent to the death camp at Auschwitz. She died in the gas chambers at Auschwitz on August 9,1942 On May 1, 1987 she was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
Learn more about her at http://www.ewtn.com/faith/edith_stein.htm
Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan
These four women were murdered in El Salvador on December 2, 1980, On the evening of that December 2, Dorothy Kazel and Jean Donovan drove their van to the airport outside San Salvador to pick up Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford who were returning from a Maryknoll meeting in Managua, Nicaragua.
After leaving the airport, their van was taken over by members of El Salvador's National Guard. These four women were taken to an isolated location. They were raped, shot, and buried in a shallow grave along a roadside. These women, Maura Clarke, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel, and Jean Donovan may rightly be considered martyrs. They identified with the poor of El Salvador to the point that they lay down their lives for them. Here at Sadlier we are proud to acknowledge that Ita Ford worked with our company for seven years as an editor.
Learn more at http://www.rtfcam.org/martyrs/women/ita_ford.htm
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