Saint Ealhswith is one of a large number of saints about whom we know very little. There are umpteen different versions of her name, which is rather typical for some of these folks during that era. Etheidwitha is one. Ealswitha another. She was a Mercian princess, the daughter of Aethelred Mucil and a female scholar named Eadburgh, who was prominent at court. Ealhswith was married to a very famous person (King Alfred the Great); we know that she established a convent, Nunnaminster at Winchester Cathedral, also known as Saint Mary's Abbey; and that her children and other descendants were illustrious, William the Conqueror being one of them. Many of her descendants live in America, and I am one of them.
Customarily, I research a saint on their feast day so that I can come to an understanding of the particular gift(s) to be emulated. In cases such as these, where little is known, an outstanding feature is usually the fact that the person founded a convent, monastic order, or a grand church, giving land and/or monies for this purpose.
I can barely support myself, so making a big splash with a large piece of land and a fine convent is not something I can do, though I would like nothing better and think of little else on the rare occasion I buy a lottery ticket. It has been a dream of mine for a very long time, and these days I still imagine that I will establish a community of disabled and/or elderly ladies who will pray their little hearts out with their last bit of energy left on earth.
This is where I have to get creative. How can I emulate this ancestor of mine? I have to recall the "little way" of the little flower, Saint Therese, and accomplish the essence of what my ancestor did, in a small way.
By holding a space in which people can be supported in a community of prayer, I am doing my very little bit. I have a Facebook group called CATHOLIC FAITHFUL SANCTUARY, in which I try to post inspiring items and which I try to maintain as a worry-free zone. In my home, I have two prayer corners, and, although people do not typically come to my house to pray, I hope that the atmosphere and visual image will be taken home with visitors.
Although I may not be able to found a convent or even join one, I can live a convent style of life, something for which many of these saints are valued.
As I work toward this worthy goal, I ask for your prayers of encouragement and support.
God bless us all.
Silver "Rose" Parnell