While I’m trying to write one poem every day for thirty days–YOU GUYS–break in the action here to talk about: St. Alice.
I’m still researching saints for work-y things.
St. Alice was born in Brussels, Belgium, same place as those amazing waffles and amazing chocolates.
When she was SEVEN years old she apparently asked to join the convent. SEVEN. Years old.
So, the local convent had some kind of a boarding school, so off she went. And eventually she was old enough to join the order itself, which she did.
And then she contracted leprosy.
This is the Middle Ages. And they didn’t know much about the disease (which is now preventable, curable, etc.), so instead they employed this “the person with leprosy needs to stay alone and away from everyone else” train of thought.
Just imagine that you were St. Alice. For like one minute.
One of the reasons this woman joined a religious community was for that reason–COMMUNITY. And now she was told: look, you need to be permanently quarantined forever…or at least until you die.
I mean, add that to the fact that there was no cure at the time and that it was a painful and deforming disease. So not only does she have this death sentence of pain and deformity–she has to face it alone.
Literally how did the saints do it, right?
Like, if I was diagnosed with cancer tomorrow (and hopefully I’m not), presumably my family and my friends would do their best to surround me with love and support. They might joke with me. Maybe someone would shave their head, too.
But, this? To be handed a death sentence plus solitary confinement? Man.
Her biographer wrote this about her first night with the knowledge of leprosy: “her heart was so severely crushed and bruised, that her spirit fainted away, and her mind remained forcibly in shock.”
And of course. That’s only natural.
And everything that she knows on the day she is told this comes to pass. That’s how leprosy was back in the day. She slowly, painfully becomes deformed. She also loses her eyesight. Some sources say she becomes paralyzed as well.
And the hardest thing for her? She was denied access to the Eucharistic chalice.
In the stupidest, softest way possible…I get it. I have an intolerance to gluten. And when your faith is based around the Bread of Life…it gets really rough. Because you feel like God handed you a bunch of hardships and turned on you a little bit, too.
I mean, she probably understood the reason why. In those days, not knowing how the disease was transmitted, they didn’t want a woman with leprosy using the same chalice all of the other nuns were using. I get it. She probably, on the mental-level, understood too.
But on the spiritual level? The level where you just know you need Jesus more than anything? That’s where it gets hard.
But get this–Jesus Himself consoled her. He appeared to her and told her that he was fully present in both the consecrated wine AND the consecrated bread.
The words I’ve seen are, “where there is part, there also is the whole.”
OKAY THAT’S AMAZING.
THAT IS ACTUALLY A RELATIVELY BIG TEACHING OF OUR FAITH. Which is: if you’re receiving communion, you don’t need to receive both species. If you receive the consecrated host, you are receiving both body and blood. Likewise, if you receive the chalice, you are receiving both blood and body.
Personally, this affects me. My own gluten intolerance is not that bad, but, if I ever get a really bad flair-up, I’ve often consoled myself with, “Well, I could just be rather careful to attend mass where they offer the sacred blood, and that would be enough.”
I don’t have a Catechism near me at the moment, but I kind of suspect…that she was the one who set that teaching into motion. Her pain, her loneliness, her isolation, her leprosy…literally changed (or rather: enhanced) the way the church UNDERSTANDS THE EUCHARIST.
THIS WOMAN. SHE IS A HERO. SHE IS A POWERHOUSE. SHE IS A SAINT.
God bless her! God love her!
St. Alice the Leper….PRAY FOR MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!