Thursday, December 3, 2015

Saint Narcisa de Jesús: Watching for the Bridegroom

Behold, the Bridegroom is coming; come out to meet Christ the Lord.  
—Communion Antiphon for the
Common of Virgins (based on Matthew 25:6)

These Advent days are a time of joyful expectation, a time for watching and waiting. The Parable of the Ten Bridesmaids, the young women charged with waiting for the arrival of the bridegroom before for the wedding feast (see Matthew 25:1-13) is a fitting lesson for this holy season. Just like the women of the parable, we have a choice of preparing our lamps—our selves—to meet the Lord when he comes. We also, of course, have the option of living only in the moment, coasting along without paying attention to our responsibilities as disciples.

On December 8, as we celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin, the Church also remembers Saint Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán, a woman who dedicated her life to watching for the Lord’s Coming just like the wise Bridesmaids in the parable.

Born in Nobol, Ecuador, in 1837, Narcisa was the daughter of farm laborers who both died when she was very young. She moved to the coastal town of Guayaquil—her home for the next fifteen years—supporting herself by working as a seamstress, dedicating her free time to prayer and caring for her poor and sick neighbors. Early in 1868, she moved to Lima, Peru, where she lived as a lay member of the Dominican convent of Patrocinio.

As she continued to grow spiritually, she saw that her path to holiness was to be found in the Cross and she embraced a life of poverty and humility. She spent eight hours each day in prayer and often dedicated several hours each night to prayer. She also practiced acts of penance, offering them to God as a sacrifice for the salvation of humankind. Her humility showed through in her desire to remain hidden in the world without seeking any kind of special recognition or religious status.

Saint Narcisa de Jesús died on December 8, 1869, at the age of thirty-seven. Her remains were returned to Guayaquil in 1955 and, eventually, taken to her hometown; she was canonized in 2008. At the time of her beatification in 1988, Saint John Paul II praised her as a model for all those women—especially in Latin and South America—who are forced to seek work in the cities in order to provide for themselves and their families.
In his homily at her canonization, Pope Benedict XVI reflected: “Saint Narcisa of Jesus shows us a path of Christian perfection obtainable for all the faithful. Despite the many and extraordinary graces that she received, she lived her life with great simplicity, dedicated to her work as a seamstress and to her apostolate as a catechist. In her passionate love for Jesus, who led her on a path of intense prayer and torment and to identify herself increasingly with the mystery of the Cross, she offers us an attractive witness and a perfect example of a life totally dedicated to God and to her brothers and sisters.”
During these Advent days, especially as we enter into this Year of Mercy, as Saint Narcisa de Jesús to help you remain focused on those things that truly matter so that with her—and all the faithful women of the ages—you will be prepared to meet Christ when he comes.

A Prayer in Honor of the Saint Narcisa de Jesús Martillo Morán +
Lord God,
who gave the holy Virgin Narcisa de Jesús
gift upon gift from heaven,
grant, we pray, that, imitating her virtues on earth,
we may delight with her in the joys of eternity.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
[from The Roman Missal]

This reflection was originally written for Mayslake Ministries and posted on their website during the week of December 6, 2015.

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