January 2020 Print

Letter to a Young Lady About Strength

By Fr. Vincent Gelineau

Dear Miss Agnes,

It certainly takes a lot of courage to remain a Christian today! In your nursing school, you feel very alone. The months pass and you find yourself measuring the difference between yourself and your classmates. You often speak to me about Isabel whom you get along with well, but that she is completely incapable of any supernatural reflection. You have the impression that you are wasting your time when you explain to her why you are against euthanasia. And you don’t even dare speak to her about the Mass or pilgrimages, since you have so little hope of being understood.

This solitude weighs upon you. You aren’t tempted by that which tempts your comrades. This life, without effort, without conviction, nourished by the little smartphone screen, seems insignificant and pitiable to you. It remains, all the same, quite seductive. It is so easy to go along with the world, to follow the current, but it takes courage to keep wearing the elegant skirt that singles you out. Today, you understand better what human respect means. You look with compassion at your friends who have little by little crumbled under the pressure of the college atmosphere and who have lost the fervor of their younger years. In order not to meet opposition, they have hidden their Faith. They have found for themselves a passion for reality television. Little by little, they have removed themselves from prayer and the sacraments. The worst is yet to be feared.

You do not want anything like this for yourself. But you fear that the anonymous pressure of this indifferent class of people will dominate your good resolutions. If at least, you had obvious enemies to deal with, things would be simpler. It suffers you to follow the example of the virgin martyrs, in particular that of St. Agnes, your patron saint.


But what can you do, faced with the creeping opposition that you are met with? Your dear friend Isabel could not suspect how much you are annoyed by her intellectual inertia, she who repeats often that each person has their own truth. This permits her to avoid each and every serious question. With the demission of the intelligence which refuses to bear judgment and the nullity of the will, which is captivated by the latest news, the idea of the virtue of force has completely disappeared from circulation and heroism seems to be out of place today. In fact, your comrades, even though very nice to you, won’t understand anything when you explain to the professors why you are resolutely opposed to abortion. This indifference discourages any frank reaction. You will see there, surely, a trap inhabited by the demon: wanting no more Christians, he doesn’t want any more martyrs or open persecutions. He is contented with anesthetizing intelligences and wills so they won’t be able to react and thus lose their souls. This gentle persecution is worse that the first, because it doesn’t make martyrs, but only apostates.

But do not fear. It isn’t sure that you won’t die a martyr. You will have to suffer in being overlooked, in being put in a separate category, but then perhaps you will have the joy of awakening a soul of good will and to help him to know the Catholic Faith. In effect, your classmates who seem to be hermetic to all supernatural reflection cannot help but to admire you. Some have even made the effort to come to your grandmother’s funeral. Do not be discouraged; your good example will bear fruit. Do not be a mediocre and contemptible soul under the pretext of false prudence. Do not follow your shy natural bent, but continue to be a good example which comforts the weak and touches those who are plunged in error and vice.

Remember your patron saint, who, regardless of her young age, kept all of her constancy when faced with a tyrant who menaced her virtue and her life. Delivered miraculously from the pains of fire, she chided the executioner who hesitated in giving her the death blow: “What are you doing? What are you waiting for? What is holding you back? Kill this body which can be seen by men and which I do not want to be seen, and let the soul live, which is agreeable to the eyes of God.” Let this remembrance help you to fight against human respect, which all too often neutralizes the best of resolutions. It doesn’t help to uselessly provoke hostile reactions. But do not forget that you are of the family of saints and martyrs. Like them, your soul is nourished with solid doctrine and elevated by sanctifying grace. Dare to live as a true Catholic!


Translated from the French by Associate Editor Miss Jane Carver.