Monday, June 13, 2016

Blessed Francisca de Paula de Jesus Isabel: Learning to Love Our Enemies

Francisca was born in São João del Rei, Minas Gerais, Brazil, in 1810. Born into poverty (with no record of her father), she and her brother were orphaned when their mother died in 1820. Francisca never received any formal education and remained illiterate throughout her life. As she grew into adulthood, she chose to never marry and devoted her life to her faith, particularly her devotion to the Blessed Virgin.  
Blessed Francisca de Paula Jesus Isabel

In time, she won the love of the local people, who came to honor her as Nha Chica—“Aunt Chica.” She eventually settled in the village of Baependi and many came to ask her counsel and prayers. She received everyone with a spirit of true hospitality. In time, she used her meager resources to begin construction of a chapel in honor of the Virgem da Conceição (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception), next to her small home. This chapel remains a popular place of pilgrimage.

Nha Chica died in Baependi on June 14, 1895, and was beatified 2011. The liturgical commemoration of Blessed Francisca is celebrated on June 14.

In today’s Gospel (Tuesday of the Eleventh Week of Ordinary Time), Jesus reminds us—in no uncertain terms—that we are to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. For the Christian, being guided by the Gospel, there can be no “other.” Everyone we encounter is a neighbor, a brother, and a sister. This was certainly true for Blessed Francisca as she welcomed pilgrims, seekers, the sick, and the poor into her home and chapel. She welcomed everyone who came to her as a sister or brother and everyone was welcome to share what little she had.

As we continue to grieve the tragic and senseless loss of life that took place in Orlando this past Sunday, there are some who are trying to politicize these events, encouraging us to place blame on those whom they perceive to be “other.” For us, as Christians, this is never an option and that attitude will never help us realize the justice and peace we all so desperately desire.

Pray today for a sense of openness to those who might be different from you, recognizing that they too are our brothers and sisters, deserving of our love. Pray, too, that God will soften and convert the hearts of those who promote violence, hate, and division. Ask Blessed Nha Chica to help you to love as Jesus wants you to love.

Prayer +
O God, who declare that you abide in hearts that are pure, grant that through the intercession of the Virgin blessed Francisca we may be so fashioned by your grace, that we become a dwelling pleasing to you. 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. Amen.
(from The Roman Missal: Common of Virgins—For One Virgin)

Originally written for and published on their site on June 14, 2016.

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