As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:20)
There are no dead ends with God. Most of us are familiar with the story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis, how his jealous brothers sold him into slavery. It looks like a dead end: he is carried away from his homeland into servitude in Egypt. But that’s not the end of the story: in Egypt Joseph rises to a place of prominence he never would have enjoyed if he had remained a shepherd tending the flocks of his father Jacob. He becomes a blessing for the land of Egypt when he protects it from the ravages of famine, and a source of blessing even for his wicked brothers when they come asking for his help (see the quote above).
In my post “Liturgy Wars: What’s Latin Got To Do With It” we saw in the ugly wounds that Christ retained in his glorified, perfected, body that God doesn’t waste anything: “in everything God works for good with those who love him.” (Romans 8:28). There are no dead ends with God.
We see a wonderful example of God’s economy in the life of one of today’s lesser-known saints, St. Monegundis, who died in the year AD 570. Monegundis was a married woman with several daughters. She was overcome with grief when her daughters died, and with her husband’s permission became a recluse, a hermitess devoted to prayer. She soon moved from Chartres to Tours, where she established herself near the tomb of St. Martin. As is often the way with holy hermits, she was unable to keep her light under a bushel (Mark 4:21): her sanctity attracted companions who wanted to share in her life of prayer and who, as the hagiography at Catholic.org puts it, “forced her to establish a rule that led to a convent founding” (which was the convent at St. Pierre-le-Puellier). Even after her death St. Monegundis continued to share the graces she had received: numerous miracles were reported by pilgrims at her tomb.
Even a millennium and a half later we can still benefit from those same graces. First of all, St. Monegundis offers us a lesson in Christian suffering. The death of her young children undoubtably caused her enormous emotional distress. Rather than giving in to despair, or seeking escape in some worldly pursuit, she turned her life over to God, and found consolation in a life of prayer. Not only that, her holy example brought her many more spiritual daughters, and not only in her lifetime, but for generations afterwards in the convent she founded.
We also can see something of the working of Divine Providence, in that whatever plans we make for ourselves, God may have something else in mind. St. Monegundis first set out to live her life as a wife and mother; when tragedy robbed her of that prospect, she next settled upon a simple life of prayer. That also did not turn out as she expected. In the end, however, her Lord in his wisdom gave her something else that combined her two previous plans in a way she never intended: spiritual motherhood (as we saw above), and the leadership of a whole community of prayer. A beautiful concrete image of this aspect of God’s economy is the modern church building which visibly incorporates in its walls remnants of the older church from St. Monegundis’ convent of St. Pierre-le-Puellier.
God doesn’t do it all, of course: he wants our active participation: as St. Paul reminds us, “Brethren, do not be weary in well-doing.” (2 Thessalonians 3:13) Just because she couldn’t control, or even foresee, the outcome, we should not conclude that St. Monegundis’ efforts played no part in it. If it weren’t for her fidelity to Jesus Christ it all would have ended very differently, and we would be talking about somebody else today. And that faithfulness , after all, is what makes a saint a saint. St. Monegundis reminds us that we all experience setbacks and detours in our personal lives, and defeats both private and societal (some of which I have recently discussed in these pages); those things can be very painful, but they are beyond our control. God is in charge. As Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta, another woman of sanctity, is said to have remarked, we are called not to be successful, but to be faithful.
In recent years we’ve seen no shortage of reasons in both Church and state to become discouraged. The life of St. Monegundis is just one reminder that God always wins in the end. I’ll leave the last word to another saint whose life also turned out very differently than he expected:
You may for a time have to suffer the distress of many trials; but this is so that your faith, which is more precious than the passing splendor of fire-tried gold, may by its genuineness lead to praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ appears. (1 Peter 1:6 – 7)