“Only love pushes me to work.”
Today, January 5, we celebrate the feast day of a courageous “modern” saint, Saint Genoveva Torres Morales (1870-1956), foundress of the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy Angels (The Angélicas). In his canonization homily, Pope John Paul II proclaimed, “Saint Genoveva Torres was an instrument of God's tender love for lonely people in need of love, comfort and physical and spiritual care. The characteristic note that fuelled her spirituality was adoration of the Eucharist for the expiation of sins, which formed the basis of an apostolate full of humility and simplicity, of self-denial and charity. “
Genoveva was born in Almenara, Spain, in 1870. She was the youngest of six children born to her parents, and sadly, by the time she reached eight years of age, her parents and four of her siblings had died. Genoveva, despite her young age, was left to care for herself and her younger brother, Jose. Jose was respectful to his sister, but was also demanding and difficult to raise, and Genoveva found herself alone most of the time. It was from this early age that she found joy in her solitude, using it to grow closer to the Lord. By age 10, Genoveva had become a voracious reader, reading everything she could, particularly spiritual books. Here, she found her life’s rule, that the only pathway to true happiness was through submission to the will of God. For Genoveva, this became her life’s mission, to follow God’s directives, and fulfill the meaning of her creation.
Genoveva’s life was far from easy. Not only did she raise her brother single-handedly, as a child, at approximately age 13, her left leg was amputated due to an infection and subsequent gangrene. As anesthesia was expensive, she suffered without sufficient pain medication, and her physical suffering—in the form of pain and sickness—continued throughout her life. While she became accustomed to using crutches, Saint Genoveva’s leg never properly healed, and for the remainder of her life, she was never far from suffering.
Following surgery, Genoveva took up residence at the Mercy Home, run by Carmelite nuns. For nine years, from ages 15 to 24, she deepened her life of piety and faith, and honed her practical sewing skills. She also, during this time, met and befriended Father Carlos Ferris, a Jesuit priest, who became her spiritual guide in founding her own order and charitable organization.
While Genoveva intended fully to join the Carmelite order, she was denied due to her physical limitations. Wishing for nothing more than to be consecrated to the Lord, Genoveva continued in prayer and piety, praying for guidance, and seeking to form herself to His will.
At the age of 41, Genoveva was encouraged to form her own religious community for women, who might live together and support themselves through charity and works. The congregation was named the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Holy Angels. The order would also care for those women who had suffered extensive hardship in life, which Genoveva was all too familiar with. Her first community was established in Valencia, Spain. With its establishment, women began arriving, wishing to join in the apostolic and spiritual life created, and soon, other communities were formed throughout Spain. Saint Genoveva’s order received papal approval in 1953, three years before her death.
The constant establishment of new foundations and communities was difficult for Mother Genoveva, who wished nothing more than to return to her interior solitude, alone with the Lord. However, she never let her own personal discomfort or physical suffering interfere with the acceptance of God’s call. She is remembered for saying, "Even if I must suffer greatly, thanks be to God's mercy, I will not lack courage". Saint Genoveva further inspires us today with her reputed kindness and acceptance of all people as God’s creations, as well as for her sense of humor despite her pain and suffering.
Quotations from Saint Genoveva:
“I loved freedom of heart very much, and worked and am working to achieve it fully. It does the soul so much good that every effort is nothing compared with this free condition of the heart.”
“Even if I must suffer greatly, thanks be to God's mercy, I will not lack courage.”
"That the torch of faith be our beacon. Love God and neighbor our guide, our strength and hope.
“No proof is needed that we love God, if we leave a little difficulty to serve you faithfully. To cope with the difficulties of life is necessary fortitude. "
“Charity is manifested daily in kindness, mutual respect, support, and small sacrifices. Living without suffering, is to live without love, love without suffering, is killed.”
|Saint Genoveva's Entombed Relics|
Oh God, rich in mercy, who through Santa Genoveva Torres Morales, virgin, invalid in her body, you have shown the greatness of the love of the love of the Heart of Christ, especially for those living alone. By his intercession, grant us the ability to faithfully imitate and follow your Son Jesus Christ. He, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.