Recently my sister told me that she had been in contact with our cousin Christopher who lives in Australia. We were both happy as we did not wish to lose the link to our past that our mother had kept up until the 1990’s. The connection to Australia began with our great-grandmother who had many children in the difficult years of the 1800’s in Ireland. As the story goes, a neighbor couple was moving to Australia where life promised better times. They had no children and asked our great grandmother if she would give them one of her girls to accompany them, promising that they would give her a good life. Her startling reply lives in me as a testament to selflessness and courage. She said, “No, I won’t give you one, but I’ll give you two,” assuring that they would be companions for one another in a new land. Thus, a whole new branch of our family was begun in Australia, followed soon by another of those who settled in Massachusetts, USA.
I was thinking of this and all the brave, unsung women I have known – many who have lived to a “ripe old age” and been models for me of “everyday holiness.” Today’s gospel speaks of Anna, the prophetess. Luke says she was advanced in years, having lived with her husband for seven years and then as a widow until she was 84. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. (LK 2:36-40) She is not remembered for great deeds but for her fidelity and steadfastness as she waited for the Messiah whom she recognized when Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple as was the custom of the day. Like Simeon, she had longed to see the “day of the Lord” and when it arrived, she felt she had fulfilled her mission. My guess is that she was never ostentatious but that people were aware of her holiness because it shone out of her from the inner light of relationship with God.
Today, then, I give thanks for brave women who live their lives quietly (or not so quietly) who have (perhaps) lived into old age doing what is before them to do, whose glory is in their willingness and their trust that God is their constant companion on this journey we call life.