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Bl Antonia Mesina
(entered heaven this day in 1935)
Without a doubt, winning membership in Phi Beta Kappa as a junior is commendable. But I have to tell you that I am not surprised. Just remember amid your glee that your extraordinary intelligence and the good study habits that are allowing it to flower are due not to your own merit, but to God’s graciousness and your parents’ wisdom. And also remember that getting good grades, though important, is not the end-all and be-all of life – at least, not for a Christian. On that note, you may find it useful to reflect on the life of today’s saint.
Antonia was the second of ten children born to a peasant family on the Island of Sardinia, off the west coast of Italy. She grew up between World War I and II, when education was being made available even for the poorest of children. But after just four years of school, she was forced to leave her studies behind so that she could take over the housekeeping for her mother, who had been confined to bed by a painful heart condition. She accepted this hardship humbly and joyfully.
Antonia didn’t let either her lack of education or her poverty keep her from loving Christ. When she was ten, she joined Catholic Action, Italy’s national apostolic movement for lay people. She was a model member, and energetically fulfilled her commitments and recruited other young people to join the group. As she continued to work and to build up the Church, she was exercising all the Christian virtues – to honor Christ and live in friendship with him was her first care and her first priority.
On one afternoon when she was 16, she went out to gather wood for the stove at home. Alone, she was accosted by another, older teenager, a boy who tried to rape her. She resisted, and he beat her. She continued to resist, and he continued to beat her, trying to force her submission. But she knew that her body was a Temple of the Holy Spirit, and she would not submit. The would-be rapist’s anger grew into fury, and he beat her to death.
Antonia is a beatified saint. She was faithful to her Lord, and her virtue has infused (and continues to infuse) strength and grace into the Church. That, my bright young nephew, is a life worth living, however brief – notwithstanding the unfortunate fact that she barely even knew how to read. I encourage you to follow in her footsteps, always keeping first things first, regardless of Phi Beta Kappa pins and parties.
Your loving uncle,