"He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist." ~ St. Francis of Assisi
I couldn’t help but share this quote with you as we just celebrated Labor Day on Monday and will remember our Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek today.
Today, we celebrate the feast day our Martyrs of Nowogrodek, Blessed Mary Stella and her Ten Companions. During the Second World War, they offered their lives for prisoners who had been taken from their families to die. The sisters were killed on August 1, 1943 in the woods beyond Nowogrodek. Sr. Malgorzata, the sole survivor of this brutal execution, also lived a martyr’s life in that she remained faithful to ministering to the people of Nowogrodek until her death in 1966. The miracle was that those whom the Martyrs of Nowogrodek offered their lives for were spared the death camp and returned to their families. (This is a very short version of the story. More extensive information is available at Blessed Martyrs of Nowogrodek on our website.)
The St. Francis’ quote made me think about our Martyred Sisters. Each of the sisters was an artist, according to St. Francis’s definition. Each of them in their own way used their hands, head, and heart to care for the families in Nowogrodek during very challenging times. I am sure they had to be creative in the ways they ministered and were present to families, in the end giving their lives for these families.
Today’s challenges for families are different, yet there are some similarities. How do we face those challenges? Do we respond to the need as a laborer, craftsperson, or artist? How do we handle our own family situations or those of our friends? How do we handle families in our ministries or where we are employed? Even more, how do we view the lives of so many immigrant families? What is our attitude toward them and their situation? I think it takes courage to speak to some of these situations, like the courage our Blessed Martyrs had. We may not give our lives physically, but I am sure there is some dying to self that is taking place. Do we possess the courage, faithfulness, and creativity to be a true artist in the midst of family challenges? There will be obstacles in our way. Just as gold is purified by fire, we may have some similar experiences. We need to trust and use the tools of the Artist – hands, head, and heart.
May your week be one of reflecting on St. Francis of Assisi’s quote. I am sure you will find much to discover about yourself. And remember to whisper a prayer to our Martyred Sisters when you feel the challenge coming on.
May peace and courage be your companions this week,
P.S. I invite you to pray with us through the intercession of Blessed Mary Stella and her Ten Companions. You can find a prayer to the sisters on our website at Prayer through the intercession of Nowogrodek Martyrs.