If you consider yourself to be an ordinary follower of Jesus Christ, you might find the descriptions of the lives of some of the most famous saints of the Church to be somewhat annoying. After all, your everyday life probably looks nothing like the daily life of Saint Louis IX, who was the king of France; Saint Thomas Aquinas, who was a Dominican priest; or even Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was an American wife, mother, and widow, but who also founded a religious order.
Contrary to what many people think, there are plenty of male and female saints whose lives primarily involved the same ordinary, mundane tasks that fill up our own days. These saints and blesseds faced arguments with their spouses, tried to settle fights between their children, and worried about their grandchildren. In the month of June alone, there are three such “ordinary” women who are honored by the Church for their lives of heroic virtue and their love for God and neighbor.
Clotilda was a faithful Catholic. When she married, she married for love. But her husband was not only not Catholic—he was not even interested. Clotilda gently tried to share her faith in Christ with her husband, and he tried to be respectful of hers, even learning a bit about it to please her.
After the birth of their first child, she begged him to have the baby baptized. He eventually agreed. But when the child died soon afterward, they were both devastated—and he was angry. So far as he could tell, there were no benefits to being a baptized Christian.
Although this family situation may be all too ordinary, one aspect of their married life was not. Clotilda’s husband was Clovis (c. 466-511), king of the Franks. Despite Clotilda’s loving example, Clovis remained a pagan until one fateful day when he was leading (and losing) a battle against a great enemy. He decided, as a last resort, to ask “Clotilda’s God” to help him out. He won the battle, became a Catholic, and led his entire country of France into the faith.
Although she was a queen, Clotilda’s greatest struggles in life were the same struggles facing many women today. They were simply intensified by the power of her position. Siblings squabble from time to time; her sons fought one another on the battlefield, and two of them even killed their third brother’s sons in front of Clotilda in their fight for control of the kingdom. When those two sons were later about to face one another in battle, she spent the whole night praying for them; a storm arose the next day, and the battle was averted. Saint Clotilda died a widow after spending many years in a monastery in 545, but you can bet she spent a lot of that time praying for her children and grandchildren.
Blessed Anna Maria Taigi (1760-1837) was twenty years old and was working as a housemaid in a nobleman’s house in Rome when she married Dominico, who was a butler. Theirs was not a fairy tale marriage either.
Anna Maria’s years of service in the gorgeous palace of a noble family had dampened her Christian devotion and enkindled in her an inordinate desire to be well-dressed and the talk of the town. Unsurprisingly, this not only earned her flattering compliments about her appearance, but a flirtation almost led her into adultery. Her shame over this serious sin caused her to repent, seek out a faithful priest for Confession and spiritual direction, and make dramatic changes to her life.
Dominico, however, was not delighted by his wife’s newfound interest in personal mortification and devotion. Biographers tend to characterize him as bad-tempered and cantankerous, and Anna Maria got to practice patience every day during the many years of their marriage. In time, Dominico’s temper softened somewhat.
Anna Maria and Dominico had seven children, although they lost two of those children when they were young. Regardless of their modest circumstances and the realities of a busy household, she made sure that her children knew their faith and lived it. Just like many mothers today, Anna Maria worked from home to supplement her husband’s income. Her needlework earned extra money for her family but also for the poor.
Over the years, Anna Maria became more than just repentant and devout. She became a true mystic; she could read consciences, seemed to know when people were in need of prayer, and received visions about important events before they happened. It’s no wonder that word got around the city of Rome, and important people—including noblemen, cardinals, and popes—showed up at her humble home for her spiritual advice and encouragement.
Blessed Marianna Biernacka (1888-1943) lived perhaps the most ordinary life of all three of these women. She was a wife and mother of six children in Poland. After her husband died, she moved into the home of one of her sons and helped care for her grandchildren.
During the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, underground groups committed periodic acts of resistance. After one such event, the Nazis responded by entering Marianna’s town and arresting two random citizens: her son and daughter-in-law, Anna. Anna happened to be pregnant. Both were condemned to be executed in retaliation for the recent violence.
Marianna begged and begged the soldiers to take her in place of her daughter-in-law. They finally agreed. After two weeks of imprisonment, Marianna and her son were executed. She was holding her rosary when she died by firing squad. Anna lived to be ninety-eight years old, and she recounted the heroic story of Marianna’s selflessness in saving the lives of both her and her unborn child.
Despite what we may think, it is generally the ordinary events of our daily lives that help each Catholic grow in virtue. Sometimes our everyday activities may give us the opportunity to gently share our faith with those who reject it, even if we are rejected again and again and again. Sometimes those events involves being patient with tired and difficult family members. Sometimes those events call upon us to perform a heroic act for the sake of those we love. However ordinary you think your life may be, it can be the life of a saint.