Blessed Laura Vicuña (5 April 1891 – 22 January 1904)
Last evening I celebrated Mass for the Feast of St Agnes (c.291 - c.304) with 'The Miracle Girls'. St Agnes, among other things, is the patron saint of victims of rape. My homily was mostly about the life of Blessed Laura Vicuña, whose life and dates of birth and death parallel those of the Roman martyr. Blessed Laura is the patron of abuse victims. Today is her feast day.
For some years now in Holy Family Home for Girls we have celebrated these two young girls who have been recognised by the Church for their holiness. Sometimes we have the Mass on the 21st, sometimes on the 22nd. Many, though not all, of 'The Miracle Girls' have been victims, some within their own families.
Some of 'The Miracle Girls' and friends.
I told the girls how the brutal treatment of her step-father led to Blessed Laura's death. her father had died when she was three and her mother, Mercedes, who was left with little means, then lived with a landowner but without marrying him. Before she died Laura told her mother that she had offered her life to God for her conversion. Mercedes began to live a life according to God's will.
Mercedes Pino, the mother of Blessed Laura
Both St Agnes and Blessed Laura made a choice to offer their lives on order to 'buy the field where the treasure was', to 'buy the pearl of great price', as Matthew 13:44-46, the gospel suggested for the feast of St Agnes, which we read, tells us. We can under-estimate the power of God's grace in young persons. yet there are many great examples in the history of the Church, especially among the martyrs.
St Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, the First Reading, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.
Young Agnes and young Laura were prepared to accept death for the sake of Jesus Christ. Blessed Laura'a offering of her life for the conversion of her mother parallels the example of her older contemporary, St Thérèse of Lisieux who, when she was about 14, made her first mission the conversion of a notorious criminal named Pranzini who was due to be executed. God listened to her prayers too.
Though St Agnes and Blessed Laura were powerless at one level, in the depths of their being they were free, through God's grace, and able to make choices that astound us. Yet the same grace is available to all of us. These two young holy people bring hope, rooted in their awareness of God's love, to all of us who are struggling to follow Jesus faithfully. And, as a friend of mine keeps telling me, it's in the struggle that we become saint.
Fr John Murray, a parish priest in Belfast, told the story of Blessed Laura some years ago in The Sacred Heart Messenger, an excellent popular monthly that the Jesuits in Ireland have been publishing now for 125 years. We published it, with permission, in Misyon, the Columban magazine in the Philippines that I edit. Here is Father Murray's article.