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St Maria Soledad Torres Acosta, S.M
(entered heaven in 1887)
I’m sorry to hear that you’re still so sick. I’m not just saying that. It pains me to think of you, the swimmer and dancer and life of the party last year, confined to bed. You might think that God changed his mind: as if he endowed you with vigor and energy and then simply took it all away. I hope it’s only temporary, but even if it’s as serious as the doctors say, you and I both know that God has his reasons.
Today’s saint should encourage you. She was one of the founding members of a congregation of nuns started in 1851, in Madrid, Spain. They were dedicated to serving the sick in their own homes, especially the poor sick, who couldn’t afford to go to hospitals. When St Soledad entered the convent, she was full of doubts. She had always wanted to lead a life of contemplation, but there was no room in the contemplative convents. When she heard of Fr Michael Martinez’s new Congregation, the Servants of Mary, she felt a tug in her soul. But at the same time, she knew that serving the sick would be very different from a life of contemplation. Then it occurred to her that long hours in the sick room with suffering souls would afford her long hours of solitude and quiet in which she could speak with her Lord – the sick rooms could be her cloister. So she became one of the first seven members of the fledgling Order – and the only one of those original seven to persevere.
She had to overcome her horror of dead bodies and her disgust at the festering sores and gross deformations of her charges, but she did. And under her guidance the Congregation grew and grew. Today it serves the sick in over 21 countries.
Imagine what it was like for her in the early days, when the sisters were poorer than the people they served, sometimes eating only garlic soup for dinner. Imagine what it was like for her during those long nights tending the sick. What was in her heart? Where did she find the strength to carry on? At one point the anti-clerical governor tried to disband the young Order. But he soon fell sick himself and asked for one of the sisters to come and take care of him, and the testimony of the nun changed his mind. In the dark hours late at night, maybe she contemplated these mysterious ways of God, maybe she prayed for her work, for her patients, for her own soul…
In any case, perhaps you can imitate her example during your own sickness (may it pass quickly), and turn your bedroom into a cloister. Fill it with love, and hope, and the light of your beautiful heart and soul, and I am sure our Lord will love to stay with you there. And maybe St Soledad (whose name means “solitude”) will keep you company.
Your devoted uncle, Eddy