We Catholics don't always appreciate what a wonderful resource we have in the Communion of Saints. After the de-mystification of recent decades, we often are not aware even of the major saints; how much do we know of the the hundreds of less familiar saints on the liturgical calendar? Despite their obscurity (from our perspective), they sit at the feet of God in Heaven. We should not be surprised to find that we can learn a lot from them. One of today's saints, for instance, is St. Monegundis, who died in the year 570 A.D. Here is the brief biography from Catholic.org:
Hermitess of Tours who inspired the foundation of St. Pierre-le-Puellier convent. She was born in Chartres, France, and married. When her daughters died, Monegundis received her husband's permission for her to become a recluse. She started a hermitage at Chartres but then moved to a site near the tomb of St. Martin at Tours. Disciples who joined her forced her to establish a rule that led to the convent founding. Many miracles took place at her tomb.
We see in the life story of St. Monegundis, first of all, a lesson in Christian suffering. The loss of her young children undoubtably caused her enormous emotional distress. Rather than giving in to despair, or seeking escape in some worldly pursuit, however, she turned her life over to God, and found consolation in a life of sanctity. Not only that, her holy example brought her many more spiritual daughters, and not only in her lifetime, but for generations afterwards in the convent she founded.
We also can see something of the working of Divine Providence, in that whatever plans we make for ourself, God may have something else in mind. St. Monegundis first set out to live her life as a wife and mother; when tragedy robbed her of that prospect, she next settled upon a simple life of prayer. That also did not turn out as she expected. In the end, however, her Lord in his wisdom gave her something else that combined her two previous plans in a way she never intended: spiritual motherhood (as we saw above), and the leadership of a whole community of prayer.
Just because she couldn't control, or even foresee, the outcome, we should not conclude that St. Monegundis' efforts played no part in it. If it weren't for her fidelity to Jesus Christ it all would have ended very differently, and we would be talking about somebody else today. And that, after all, is what makes a saint a saint. St. Monegundis reminds us that we all experience setbacks and detours in our personal lives, and defeats both private and societal (some of which I have recently discussed in these pages); those things can be very painful, but they are beyond our control. God is in charge. As Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, another woman of sanctity, is said to have remarked, we are called not to be successful, but to be faithful. I'll let a man whose life also turned out very differently than he expected, St. Peter, have the final word:
You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears. (1 Peter 1:6 – 7)