Summary: Our task in our families is to become saints ourselves and to nurture our loved ones to sainthood.
Tuesday of 5th Week in Lent 2019
A number of years ago I was privileged to teach a speech course to some deacons in training, and I asked them to speak for a few minutes on their thoughts on the realization that they were mortal–that the life they now lead would end. I think I said “Reflect on the fact that you are on a mission that will end with your death.”
That’s one reality that everyone who comes to the age of reason has to face, early or late in life. We can only distract ourselves with amusements and work for a limited time. Then we have to admit that we are going to die–and then what? That question ultimately means we have to come to terms with our responsibility to our Creator. What will we be able to say when God asks us what we have done with this one human life of ours?
We’re presented with some Scriptural examples here. First, we heard about the impatient Israelites, who were freed from slavery, led out of Egypt, and then began forty years of griping about the food and desert conditions. We see that they stumbled on a huge nest of serpents who bit them so that many died. We see that they repented–at least for a time–and were saved by God, who asked them to look on the image of a serpent in order to be healed. Centuries later, Jesus used that story as a parable. As the serpent was raised for healing in the wilderness, so Jesus, the One Messiah, would be raised on a cross and would die for the healing of the sinful world.
(It’s also instructive to realize that the OT tells us this serpent was later worshiped by the descendants of the desert Israelites–made into an idol. It’s so easy for us weak and sinful humans to abuse even the greatest gifts of God.)
We also see Moses acting as an intercessor for the people, praying to God and erecting the serpent to show and bring about the healing of his people. Jesus did the same thing in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying for his own courage and for those His passion and death would save. But those He would save would have to believe in Him, and accept His grace through the sacraments He would establish. Christ gave us the Church and the sacraments so that we would grow in faith and repentance, and share His story with all the world. In other words, so that we would become saints, sacraments bringing the love and life of Our Savior to a world in desperate need of Him.
What Our Lord wants us to do today is to continue the task He began with Abraham and Moses and David and the Apostles–to grow families of faith spreading faith, hope, and charity throughout the world. That has been the task of the Church in every modern age, Her challenge to every culture.
Our saint today comes from seventh-century Belgium, Saint Waltrude. The Franks had conquered Roman Gaul many years earlier, and had generally accepted the Catholic faith. So there were areas of great piety and devotion. Waldetrudis, or Waltrude, “was the daughter of . . . Walbert and Bertilia and sister of . . .Aldegunus of Maubeuge. [She married] Vincent Madelgarius, she became the mother of children [named] Landericus, Madalberta, Adeltrudis, and Dentelin. When her husband chose to become a monk about 643 in the monastery of Hautrnont, France, he had founded, she established a convent at Chateaulieu, around which grew up the town of Mons, Belgium.”
Now listen to this. The piety and devotion in that family were such that the Church recognized Waltrude as a saint, but also her husband, Vincent, her parents, Walbert and Bertilia, her sister, Aldegunus, and her four children. They were all people of uncommon virtue.
Our task in our families, then, is the same as theirs–to become saints and to nurture our loved ones to sainthood. We will probably not be recognized as such, but we can create prayerful, just and giving environments in our house churches that nurture sainthood–close imitation of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family. And so we can say: holy family of St. Waltrude, pray for us.