November 17, 2016
In reflecting in the light of today’s gospel reading on some of the saints whom the Church remembers today, the phrase “fierce women” came to mind. So I did a quick Google search and the images that came up ranged from Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Wonder Woman, Beyoncé Margaret Mead and Audrey Hepburn; but they also included a host of other less famous women of many nationalities, races, shapes and sizes.
The point, I think, is that any woman has the capacity to be fierce…and fierce in her own way. St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Gertrude the Great and St. Agnes of Assisi were fierce in their holiness but they lived it out in their own ways.
Margaret, who lived in the 11th century, began life as a political refugee with her family. She eventually reached Scotland, where she married King Malcolm, had eight children and was revered for the generosity and compassion she showed to those who were poor. Gertrude, who died at the beginning of the 14th century, was received into the convent at the age of 5(!) and later became a renowned mystic. Agnes, who died in the middle of the 13th century, followed her sister Clare into religious life under the tutelage of St. Francis, resisting the expectations of her family (especially the men) in favor of God’s call. Like Clare, she was utterly devoted to a lifestyle of radical evangelical poverty. She would be the abbess of a Poor Clare community in Florence.
In today’s gospel passage, Jesus challenges us to consider the stewardship of God’s gifts to us. How much are we willing to invest? How much are we willing to risk?
Saints Margaret of Scotland, Gertrude the Great and Agnes of Assisi were diversely gifted and yet flexibly fierce. They assumed what were then rather conventional roles and, using their own gifts, made them their own.—JC