We all, men and women, are called by Jesus to fight the devil and bring all souls to God. We often forget, living in a world predominantly ruled by men (although that is changing), that God used women in a more profound and dramatic way throughout all of salvation history.
If it wasn’t for the early faithful women in the Old Testament, our lives would be very different. We also have our female saints who love Christ and help us as examples of how to live godly lives. In Holy Handmaids of the Lord: Woman Saints Who Won the Battle for Souls, by Julie Onderko, we get to learn from these strong women how they fought the devil and won, and are continuing to win the battle for souls.
Sts. Perpetua and Felicity defeat the devil
Perpetua lived during a time of great persecution of the Church. She, along with other holy women were imprisoned for their faith, but could have been released if they only denied Christ. Perpetua was also a mystic and asked God to reveal the outcome of her imprisonment, and he showed her a golden ladder ascending into heaven with a dragon under the ladder. In her vision, she stepped on the dragon’s head and went up the ladder to be greeted by God and the saints. This gave her and the other women the strength to not deny Jesus and die for him as martyrs.
St. Thérèse and the soul of a convict
When Thérèse was only fourteen, she learned of a brutal murder of three by the hand of Henri Pranzini. Pranzini was a man of the world, faithless, and sentenced to death for the murders. Never meeting Pranzini, Thérèse decided she would pray for the conversion of Pranzini before his death, and believed God would forgive him even if there was no actual sign of that conversion. There was a priest available but Pranzini refused to make peace with God. Finally, just before he was to be put to death, Pranzini asked for Father Faure for the Crucifix, kissing it before the blade fell. St. Thérèse saved her first spiritual child and continues to win souls for Christ.
Zélie Martin overcomes regret
Zélie and Louis Martin are beautiful examples of an everyday, ordinary couple who struggled with family and work life. They both were refused by religious life and by chance met, fell in love and married. They thought about living chaste lives, but a priest advised them against it so they started their large family.
Zélie carried nine children, with only four girls surviving. The most difficult loss for Zélie was the loss of her ten-month-old Mélanie-Thérèse. Zélie was unable to nurse so they chose a wet nurse who lived far away. She didn’t realize until it was too late, that this wet nurse was neglecting her baby and she was starving. In the middle of the night, she tried to find another to nurse her baby but failed. As mother’s, we make countless choices for our children and not all of them turn out to be the right or best choice. We could fall into the pit of regret and self-pity, or we can pick ourselves back up like Zélie did and continue moving forward. If Zélie and Louis chose not to conceive again, then we would not have our beautiful Little Flower, St. Thérèse. Don’t fall into the spiral of guilt and dispare, instead lay in the laps of those saints who understand the pain of bad decisions yet hung onto Jesus.
Many times we look upon women as weak, timid or insignificant through the lens of history. While this may be true for some women, it was by the grace of God that these strong, faith filled women demonstrated the power of God’s love for all of us. Holy Handmaids of the Lord: Woman Saints Who Won the Battle for Souls, by Julie Onderko, shows us how a few godly women brought salvation into the world, by their faith, by their strength and even though the virginal birth of Jesus through Mary. Onderko goes into depth the power and grace of Mary, the mother of God. You too are called into a spiritual battle between good and evil. Because these women fought the devil and won, it proves we too can also win!