Monday 8 June 2015

Guides of Europe

On Saturday I gave the local company of the Guides d'Europe my lecture on Catholic Heroines of the 20th century. Here are my heroines again:

1. Saint Edith Stein (Saint Teresa Benedetta of the Cross, martyr)
2. Blessed Natalia Tułasiewicz (member of Zachód, martyr)
3. Servant of God Catherine de Hueck Doherty (founder of Madonna House)
4. Servant of God Dorothy Day (founder of Catholic Worker)
5. Anna Haycraft (better known as Alice Thomas Ellis, novelist)
6. Jennifer Paterson (elder of the "Two Fat Ladies", celebrity chef)

Had I all the world and time, I would have printed out photographs of all these ladies, but as it was, I didn't, so I just collected copies of their books to show the girls. There are photos of Saint Edith on books I have about or by her, but for Blessed Natalia, I just found her photo on the internet.

"She's so pretty!" sighed the girls. 

I had not really thought of Blessed Natalia as a pretty girl, but as I studied her solemn photograph, I acknowledged that she had been a pretty girl. I did not find it appropriate to wonder what she might have looked like after a month at Ravensbrueck concentration camp although I did relate that this is where, after falling ill, she was executed.

"How was she executed?"

"Ahhh..... They sent her to a gas chamber."


The Guides of Europe pondered the gas chambers of the Second World War with due sobriety. I was terribly glad, after relating the two martyrdoms, to get to the Servants of God Catherine and Dorothy who lived to ripe old ages and died in their beds. However, despite exciting beginnings (Russian Revolution, San Francisco Earthquake), I could see that their very worthy lives were becoming a bit dull, so I moved as quickly as I could to Alice Thomas Ellis and Jennifer Paterson, whose lives were not quite so exemplary but were at least British. Also, at least one girl had heard of the former, and others had heard of the latter, and I was delighted with Jennifer for not being pretty but her wrinkled, made-up, bejewelled old self on the covers of her cookbooks. 

I think I will be a bit thinner, but the lipstick, definitely.
"This is what we all look like when we're old," I fibbed, for perhaps some of us won't look that good and perhaps some of us will look better. One of the amusing things about J.P. is that she strongly resembled Doris Day, whom she disliked, when she was young, and therefore dyed her hair jet-black for the rest of her life. 

Along with being a famous British novelist and literary society hostess, Alice Thomas Ellis was known for trashing the legacy of Liverpool's Archbishop Warlock after he died and being fired from the Catholic Herald for it. (Damian Thompson's description of the event here.) She was madly trad, of course, so I thought the girls--who had all gone to the Chartres pilgrimage--should know about her.  She was not pretty in the photo I showed them, but she certainly looked modern, with her modern loop earrings. She was happily married, too--the only woman among my six heroines to stick to one man from marriage until death and have multiple children by him. (Catherine and Dorothy were both divorced. Catherine got an annulment. The other three stayed virgins, and St. Edith was a nun too, of course.) 

After hearing that originally Alice Thomas Ellie wanted to be a nun, one of the girls asked why so many women wanted to be nuns in the old days. I thought that was a splendid question and talked about the many reasons in the past women wanted to be nuns. Unfortunately, I didn't get to the subject of why women want to be nuns in the new days. However, after showing them all my wedding dress, and hearing about how one wants a wedding dress like that of the Duchess of Cambridge, I thought I should show them photographs of my friends in the Benedictine abbey at Ryde. 

For some reason, the girls were fascinated by the idea that in some religious orders, the nuns take their vows wearing a wedding dress, and there seemed to be some disappointment that my Benedictine friends don't. When Sister Mary Thomas took her final vows and became a consecrated virgin, she got a wedding ring, but was just wearing her Benedictine habit which, in my humble opinion, is as beautiful as any conventional wedding dress.    

So I hope I gave all the various states-in-life a fair shake, as well as making it very clear that if you drive your motorcycle after heavy drinking, nobody will ever think it worth their while to open the cause for your canonization. I hope I also made it clear that looking pretty is not the be-all and end-all of female existence.  Naturally the girls know that already, but it cannot be said too often. 

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