St Eustochia Calafato

Virgin and Religious of the Order of St Francis (The Poor Clares) (entered heaven on January 29th, 1491)

Dear Esmeralda,

Perhaps your mother never told you, but today is the feast of your patron saint.  I know, ‘Eustochia’ is a far cry from Esmeralda, but it was (and still is) a common practice to change one’s name upon entering the convent, and that’s exactly what today’s saint did when she became a Poor Clare nun at the age of 15, after having outlived the widower to whom her father had engaged her two years before, and after having outlived the father who so vehemently opposed her vocation, and after having already returned from an initial flight to the convent when her feisty brothers threatened to burn it down if she didn’t come home.

As you can see, I am beginning to realize what an appropriate patron saint she is for you.  Now that you have made your ‘official’ decision to spend the next two years working full time to serve the Church, I am not surprised that both family members and friends (and even future employers) are clamoring more than ever for your attention.  From their perspective, you seem to be throwing away your youth and talents.  I realize that their failure to understand pains you, but does it change the truth?  Does it change the fact that only one Kingdom is going to last forever (and it’s not the kingdom of Coca Cola or General Motors or any other corporation trying to win you over)?  Of course not.  Your conviction that the pleasures and honors of this world are fleeting and insubstantial, the conviction that led you to decide to give these two years to Christ, is the true one.  It’s the same one that gave St Eustochia the strength to persevere in her vocation in spite of such violent opposition from her Sicilian family; it’s the same one that inspired her to buck even the ecclesiastical system by leaving behind the convent she joined in order make a new foundation, one more faithful to the original severity and purity of St Clare’s vision for her nuns;  It’s the same conviction that attracted young women who met her to follow in her demanding footsteps, even though Italian society at the time was churning with seductive worldliness and sensuality.

You share this true conviction.  In the moments when it comes under attack, invoke the intercession of your patron, and call to mind the incontrovertible proof that no matter what the world may say, God agreed with Eustochia’s point of view (and thus with yours); he proved it by keeping her virginal body incorrupt even until this very day.  If I ever get out of this miserable cubicle-prison, I’ll be happy to you on a pilgrimage to Messina to see it.

Your devoted uncle,


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