Cecilia, an early woman saint

by Sr. Mary Ann Strain, C.P.

a "saintly companion" for the new millennium

Sr Mary Ann Strain, C.P.As an elementary school student in Narragansett, Rhode Island, I read a wonderful collection of biographies for children. These orange-covered books told about great Americans like Abraham Lincoln, Clara Barton, Abigail Adams, PT Barnum, General Grant, Thomas Edison and Harriet Tubman. I loved those great men and women who struggled to make their dreams come true. They inspired me and they became my friends and teachers; I wanted to be like them.

Unfortunately, I had a different reaction when I first read stories of saints. At age ten, someone gave me an old biography of St. Therese of Lisieux. I read several times and concluded I probably wouldn't have liked her. Other stories about holy people had much the same effect on me -- I couldn't relate to them.

The Role of Women Saints

Lately, though, I am rediscovering the saints and their role in the church. These compelling stories, especially the stories of women, interest me more than my ten-year-old self ever would have believed. The declining interest in the saints has caused women, especially, to lose something valuable. "When the saints go marching out" the Church's feminine face, as presented in Mary and other holy women, vanishes.

Restoring our awareness of saints provides another way of relating our faith to our daily lives. They enable women to relate to the Church as women. Women saints have always fulfilled an important role in the communion of saints, and because they do, it is one of the most inclusive groupings or categories in the Church. It is open to everybody. No one is disqualified, not even women. Indeed, the First Eucharistic Prayer, the ancient Roman Canon, calls seven women our "saintly companions". (Their names are Cecilia, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, and Anastasia.)

The stories of women saints should be told.

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