Conference Speaker Urges Women to ‘Love Like A Saint’

Posted on May 15, 2022 in: News, Norwich Diocesan Council of Catholic Women

Conference Speaker Urges Women to ‘Love Like A Saint’

The stories told of two unknown yet faith-filled women inspired participants at the 12th Annual Diocesan Women’s Conference to ‘Love Like A Saint.’ 

Keynote speaker Liz Kelly, an award-winning author, professor and spiritual director, told women attending the virtual conference, “If love needs revision in you – a reboot or a deeper conversion – you can trust Jesus is here. He is calling your name. He is calling you to him, personally and passionately.” 

Through the stories of two women featured in her latest book, “Love Like a Saint: Cultivating Virtue with Holy Women,” Kelly showed how Jesus worked miracles in the lives of these women, calling them to a deeper understanding of the virtues of perseverance and love.

Kelly began with the story of Blessed Benedetta Bianchi Porro, a young woman from Forli, Italy whose aspirations of becoming a medical missionary doctor were thwarted by a debilitating degenerative disease that took her life at age 28. Through her physical suffering, Benedetta became aware of the richness of her internal life and the faithful presence of Jesus accompanying her. “In my Calvary, I do not lack hope,” Benedetta wrote in her diary, “I know that at the end of the road, Jesus is waiting for me.”

Kelly called Benedetta a perfect example of someone who practiced the virtue of perseverance, which she defined – using a quote from her former professor – as ‘the graced ability to continue giving one’s deepest heart.’ “Perseverance has nothing to do with one’s ability to be tough and not give up,” said Kelly. “The emphasis is on what God will do and my deepest confidence in Him. It is my confidence in His ability to give me the graced ability to continue giving my heart to Him no matter what may be happening to me.”

She called Benedetta’s life a powerful example of that graced ability and the mysterious ways Jesus brings each of us to flourish even in the most unexpected environments. While Benedetta never achieved her dream of being a missionary doctor, Kelly judges she became a doctor, nonetheless. 

“Her life teaches us that the path to being made new with Jesus is not always painless or perfectly easy. In receiving this graced ability, she becomes a doctor of another sort – a surgeon to those souls that came to her.” Kelly called her a ‘spiritual doctor’ who had the capacity to read souls and to know their needs with an uncanny capacity to radiate joy despite the limitations of her life. Pope Francis beatified Benedetta in 2019. 

Kelly also talked about Eve Lavalliere, a star of the Paris stage in the early 20th Century. Despite the fame and fortune Eve achieved, she could never rid herself of the demons that tortured her following her traumatic childhood. That changed drastically for Eve when she encountered the life of St. Mary Magdalene in a book that she prayerfully read on her knees about the saint’s life.

“The woman who got up thereafter was a new creation,” Kelly said. Eve became a joyful penitent, received communion for the second time in her life and left the distractions of the stage and her once lavish lifestyle behind her. She spent the later years of her life working with the underprivileged, making several trips to North Africa asking the question each day, ‘Where is my love needed?’

“In Magdalene’s story, Eve found something of her own…she saw the unconditional love of God and the mercy of Jesus and the power of love it would bestow on the recipient,” Kelly said. “This modern Magdalene, born on Easter, would be born again when Jesus made His presence known to her.” Ironically, Eve died on Easter Sunday 1929 at the age of 63. Scripture tells us that Mary Magdalene’s life was reborn through her encounter with Jesus and was one of the first people Jesus appeared to on Easter morning. 

“Eve’s story reminds us that we all fall down in love,” Kelly said. “I want to reassure you that there’s nothing you can have done, no sin you can have committed…no place where the love of God cannot find you. There’s no place where Jesus will not go; no darkness He will not enter to find you and to love you just like He did with Eve.” 

In living out this virtue of love in our lives, Kelly said each of us must ask the question Eve asked herself, ‘Where is my love needed?’ 

She closed by challenging participants to prayerfully consider, “Who needs your love right now and how might you bestow it? Also consider that maybe the person who needs your love at this moment might be you. It might be you.” 

The annual women’s conference is co-sponsored by the Diocesan Office of Faith Events and the Norwich Diocesan Council of Catholic Women. 

By Mary-Jo McLaughlin

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