Sister Lucia’s assessment of her character defects is one we can all use

by Barb Ernster –

Sister Lucia as a Dorothean nun

It’s always refreshing to know that the saints or saintly people had a human side. Some, like St. Louis de Montfort and St. Damien of Molokai, both had angry temperaments that they had to conquer. Sister Lucia was known for her “rough” temperament and tendency towards impatience with others.

As a young Dorothean nun at Pontevedra (she was known then as Sister Maria das Dores), knowing the Rules for humility and docility regarding menial chores, she struggled with her temperament on more than one occasion. In one story as told by Father Robert Fox in his book The Intimate Life of Sister Lucia,  Lucia was coming down the stairs carrying a mattress and a young novice asked if she needed help. Lucia replied curtly, “If you do not have anything to do, ask the Mistress of Novices for work.”  The young novice was rightly upset and took it to the Mistress of Novices, who told her, “Sister, don’t consider Sr. Dores a saint just because Our Lady appeared to her. She has to work to be one.”   

Other third party testimonials refer to similar roughness in Lucia’s character. The privilege of corresponding with an angel and the Blessed Mother was not enough for saintliness. She had to strive daily to conquer her defects and sins and conform to God’s will, like everyone else. What helped her most in her early formation, was to surrender to her daily duties no matter what was asked of her, and to glorify God by offering them to Him as an act of love. This was the essential sacrifice Our Lady asked for at Fatima, because it is how we detach from ourselves and the earth. Once she surrendered to the frustrations of convent life, she began to grow spiritually. Her Mother Superior, in a letter to Lucia’s spiritual director at the end of 1925, wrote “she continues in her saintly simplicity and humility so much so that she enchants all of her companions. I have her set the meanest and humblest duties, but no matter what duty I have set her, it is always accomplished.”  (Intimate Life, p 130).

Lucia also developed a profound awareness of her character defects, which caused her to sin.  She compiled a list of these, which was written around 1934 and found later by her Mother Superior in the convent archives. It is one that we can all utilize in examining ourselves. Father Fox states that her level of self-awareness shows how much she grew in grace and holiness over those 10 or so years.  The list is:

– Resentments which do not allow me to forget the defects of others.
– Faults against charity which these resentments lead me to.
– Egoism which leads me so many times to choose the best for
– Self love which leads me to have my view prevail.
– Excessive propensity to be grieved with trifles.
– To remain quiet many times in order not to have my opinion
rejected with people who I know beforehand have to win the
argument, even without good reason.
– Lack of respect and disdain for those who contradict me.
– Sadness and weariness produced by wounded self love.
– Consenting to complaints of self love.
– Concentrating on the faults of others without seeing my own.
– Curt replies to the Sisters.
– Not valuing the work of others.
– In my eyes I think my work better than others.
– To want others to esteem my work.
– Resistance to grace.
– Distractions which diminish insights of faith and touches of grace.
– Curiosities.
– Useless words in moments of silence.
– Uncharitable thoughts and words.
– Omissions of charity.
– Carelessness in the practice of small sacrifices.
– Lack of patience in unforeseen events.
– Lack of an ability with others.
– Lack of respect for the opinion of others.
– Not valuing the others’ opinions.
– The difficulty in allowing others’ opinions prevail.
– Allowing myself on many occasions to be very happy or very sad.
– Not being punctual enough.
– Not taking correction willingly.
– Unwillingly to assume my own feelings.
– Being rude to those who displease me.
– Failing of devotion in my spiritual duties and visits to the Blessed
– Failing to be diligent in obedience.
– Failing to be pleasant with others.
– Failing to use ejaculatory prayers during the day to maintain my
union with God.
– Failing to visit the Blessed Sacrament in my free time.

During these 40 days of Lent, we are called to take a good look at ourselves and work on those areas that are obstacles to charity, mercy and growth in holiness. Sister Lucia shows us that we need to dig deep in our self-examination.

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