EDUCATOR AND PRISON REFORMER
(30 December 1934)
Merciful God, who raised up your servant Frances Joseph-Gaudet to work for prison reform and the education of her people: Grant that we, encouraged by the example of her life, may work for those who are denied the fullness of life by reasons of incarceration and lack of access to education ; through Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
In the week following the Feast of the Nativity on Christmas Day our calendar gives us celebrations of St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr; St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, the Holy Innocents, and Thomas Becket.
Then, on New Year's Day, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. The name of "Jesus" is given to him because he is a "Savior" or "Deliverer". That from which we are delivered is our sins, corporate and individual, things done and left undone.
The sin of the world is on display in Herod's condemnation of the Holy Innocents and in the continued willingness of tyrants in to sacrifice the lives of babes and children and women and men. Under Domitian's persecution John was exiled to Patmos where he experienced the visions of the Book of the Revelation; that strong witness to the triumph of God over domination and empire. The sin of the world leads to the martyrdom of Stephen at the hands of religious zealots and the cold-blooded murder of a faithful priest in the Cathedral precincts.
Over the sin of the world the Holy Name of Jesus is triumphant, because he delivers by the power of Love. That triumph is known in the lives of Stephen the Martyr, the John the Divine, and Thomas Becket. They refused to bow to the world's ways, and they did so in the power of the Holy Name of Jesus.
To this illustrious line-up we can now add the name of Frances Joseph-Gaudet, a remarkable holy woman from Louisiana who gave her life energy for the cause of prisoners and the disadvantaged youth of her time. When you consider the time and place in which she lived, you have to know what a courageous leader she must have been. Read more about her here and here.
For a powerful story written in her own hand about an early encounter with a prisoner, go here.
Frances Joseph-Gaudet acted in the Holy Name of Jesus in a very worthy way, changing many lives. Her work continues, and you can read about that here.
May God strengthen us in the Name of Jesus to continue her work in our own place and time.
image of cellblock: Dylan Oliphant, LaMarque, U.S.A.