St Bertilla Boscardin

Martyr (entered heaven this day in 1922)

Dear Bert,

You are, sadly, falling prey to the most voracious devourer of future saints, that spiritual plague known by the experts as vanity, or “human respect.”  I can see so clearly from your notes that your major concern this year has changed; instead of striving with all your heart to discern God’s will for you each day and work to please him, you are more interested in what the rest of the Catholic community thinks of you.  Now that you have a leadership role in the campus ministry, it’s understandable for you to be concerned with the opinions and needs of those you serve, but your primary responsibility is still to God, and it always will be. If you want to become all that he created you to be, you must be careful never to let peer acceptance trump obedience to God’s will.  Perhaps the alarming example of today’s saint may be of assistance.

She was born to a peasant family in Northern Italy.  Her father was a violent drunk, and as a girl she had to contribute to supporting the family by working as a house servant.  She had few natural talents. In fact, she was so dimwitted that early on she earned the nick-name of “the goose” (as in “silly as a goose”).  But her heart was pure and radiant, and when she came of age she decided to dedicate her life to serving God in a religious order of nuns who worked as nurses.  In 1904 she joined the Sisters of Saint Dorothy, Daughters of the Sacred Heart. Even there, however, she was relegated at first to the convent’s kitchen and laundry services; only three years after joining did she receive training as a nurse.

But such difficulties didn’t affect her.  Whether tending sick patients in the children’s ward (where her effervescent joy and attentive care made her a favorite) or folding clothes, she offered herself to her Lord in an ongoing act of self-surrender.  

When World War I brought one of its bloodiest battle lines to the doorsteps of the hospital where she worked in Treviso, she served the soldiers tirelessly, even risking her own life during bombing attacks to tend the wounded.  Her reputation grew steadily – so much so, in fact, that a jealous superior took her out of the sick rooms and sent her back to work in the hospital’s laundry. She obeyed with alacrity. But the head of her order heard about the mistreatment, and put St Bertilla in charge of the children’s section of the hospital, a task she performed admirably for the last three years of her short life.

So, as you strive to achieve great things for Christ this year, remember that what is greatest in his eyes may not be so great in the eyes of your peers, and vice versa.  Decide now which eyes you value more, and act accordingly.

Your devoted uncle, Eddy

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