Mary, Mother of God and St Zedislava Berka

Matron (entered heaven in 1252)

Dear Zeke,

I promised myself I would write to you today because I thought you would need some encouragement.  If you followed through with your noble resolution of spending New Year’s Eve in a CHRISTIAN manner (this would have been the first time, right?), you may be struggling a bit at this point.  The “old man” inside of you may be raising a ruckus of complaints and regrets. And, on the other hand, if you didn’t follow through on your noble resolution, right about now your physical discomfort will be accompanied by a gnawing regret in your conscience.  In either case, I thought a note from your uncle would be in order.

One of the great things about being Catholic is the BALANCE our faith puts into our lives.  Take today’s celebration, for instance. We honor Mary, the Mother of God, as we begin the New Year.  God is smart. He doesn’t just give us his Fatherhood when he adopts us into his family, he also gives us a Mother in Heaven, a Queen Mother, overflowing with love and wisdom, and always making intercession for our many needs.  Imagine being part of a family that never had a mother. It would be incomplete, to say the least; lacking that special woman’s touch, that gentleness, and warmth that we so profoundly need in our lives, that unconditional motherly affection and love.  God knows we need that (he designed us, after all), and he has chosen to provide it in such a beautiful way – a real, natural mother, elevated by Christ’s grace to a supernatural level, without, however, losing the natural touch. How harsh and cold the Christian family would be without such a mother!

And yet, so many Christians who have left the Catholic fold (or whose great, great, great grandparents left it) are faced with just such a situation.  Mary for them is nothing special. Their heaven has no mother. Today we thank God for choosing to include a Mother in his plan of salvation.

This is no idle reflection.  Today, as you face the New Year with mixed feelings (depending on whether you kept your resolution or not), you can take comfort in Mary, who is looking after you, as only mothers know how.  You can also take a lesson from another saint commemorated today, one who faithfully followed in Mary’s footsteps.

Zedislaw was a noblewoman born in Brno (in today’s Czech Republic).  Her mother taught her not only the faith but also the art of healing the sick, using natural herbs and homespun remedies, always accompanied by heartfelt prayers.  She felt called to give her life wholly to Christ, but a stay in a hermitage didn’t work out, so she returned to high society and married Duke Havel of Lemberk. They had four children, but it wasn’t the happiest of marriages.  The Duke took his aristocratic airs seriously and insisted on his wife wearing sumptuous clothes and participating fully in much of the superficial but glamorous social life expected of royalty.

Zedislaw, on the other hand, spent all the time she could (and as much of their money as possible) in serving the poor.  They weathered their differences, and the saint even convinced her husband to build hospices and contribute to the care of the indigent refugees who were pouring in from the East in the aftermath of Tartar invasions.  She kept finding ways to extend her motherly care and concern to the entire duchy, becoming an inspiration and a model for all Christians in the land. Eventually, she found the perfect match for the desires of her heart in becoming a Third Order Dominican (you can imagine the conversations she must have had with Havel about that decision).

So, what lesson does St Zedislaw have for you?  A simple one. Following Christ will not extricate all difficulties and conflicts from your life – you will have to deal with plenty of Havels.  But precisely in the midst of those difficulties, you will find what you are looking for. So, my good nephew, keep your hands to the plow and don’t look back.  Happy New Year!

Your loving uncle, Eddy

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