“She loved the poor.”

It’s a peculiar epitaph – “She loved the poor.”

These are the words on the cross that marks the grave of Catherine Doherty, a Catholic woman who founded the Madonna House apostolate, was a noted spiritual writer, and who died on this date in 1985.

Of all the things to have on a person’s grave, why does hers say this?

A quick search reveals that connection between her love for the poor borne out of her reflection on “The Reality of Christ’s Poverty” about which she said:

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Your character in an epitaph

Do you ever think about what you might like others to say about you after you die?

I do not mean to ask whether you are concerned with being praised posthumously. The point is: Does what you want to have been true about you inspire you practically in your character and conduct now?

November 17th is the feast day of St. Elizabeth of Hungary. There is a wonderful piece by St. Edith Stein about her titled, “On God’s Mercy: The Spirit of St. Elizabeth As It Informed Her Life.”

In it, there are several sentences that speak to St. Elizabeth’s character in such a way that is eminently attractive and yet, upon any serious consideration, is grasped as being deeply countercultural.

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Twitter Has a Character Limit that Epitaphs Do Not

Twitter has a character limit – by which I do not mean the 160 maximum characters allowed in a Twitter bio nor the 280 maximum characters allowed in a tweet.

Of course I mean to highlight the limits we find in bio blurbs and tweets when it comes to revealing anything substantive about a person’s actual character from a moral standpoint.

However, it is not the circumscribed brevity that leads to the omission of character.

The case in point for this for me came from reading Martin Mosebach’s The 21: Journey into the Land of Coptic Martyrs.

In the chapter titled, “With the Martyrs’ Families”, Mosebach recounts travelling to visit the homes of the families of the Coptic Christians who were martyred by Islamists on the coast of Libya in 2015.

These poor Egyptian Christian martyrs did not have Twitter accounts. In fact, Mosebach gives us a sense of their lifestyle by indicating that these men didn’t sleep on sheets, didn’t have bathtubs, and were likely acquainted with fleas and lice.

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