When it was decided to rebuild a cathedral, the bishop, the canons, rich townsfolk, and neighbouring landowners made the first offerings. The king was next approached, and usually gave a large sum. Collections were then made throughout the city and surrounding countryside, and no one, not even the poorest, dared shirk so high a duty. ‘The Cathedral of Paris,’ said the papal legate, Cardinal Eudes de Chateauroux, ‘was largely built with the farthings of old women.’…At Paris even the ‘guild of prostitutes asked the bishop to accept either a window or a chalice.

Henri Daniel-Rops, Cathedral and Crusade: Studies of the Medieval Church (1050-1350) 


This Friday of Passion-week is consecrated in a special manner, to the sufferings which the holy Mother of God endured at the foot of the Cross. […] That we may clearly understand the object of this feast, and spend it, as the Church would have us do, in paying due honour to the Mother of God and of men, we must recall to our minds this great truth: that God, in the designs of His infinite wisdom, has willed that Mary should have a share in the work of the world’s redemption. The mystery of the present feast is one of the applications of this divine law, a law which reveals to us the whole magnificence of God’s plan; it is, also, one of the many realizations of the prophecy, that Satan’s pride was to be crushed by a woman.

In the work of our redemption there are three interventions of Mary; that is, she was thrice called upon to take part in what God Himself did. The first of these was in the Incarnation of the Word, who would not take flesh in her virginal womb until she had given her consent to become His Mother; and this she gave by that solemn FIAT which blessed the world with a Saviour. The second was in the sacrifice which Jesus consummated on Calvary, where she was present that she might take part in the expiatory offering. The third was on the day of Pentecost, when she received the Holy Ghost, as did the apostles, in order that she might effectively labour in the establishment of the Church. “We have already explained, on the feast of the Annunciation, the share Mary had in that wonderful mystery of the Incarnation, which God wrought for His own glory and for man’s redemption and sanctification. On the feast of Pentecost we shall speak of the Church commencing and progressing under the active influence of the Mother of God. […]

Why would God have her assist in person at such a scene as this of Calvary? Why was not she, as well as Joseph, taken out of this world before this terrible day of Jesus’ death? Because God had assigned her a great office for that day, and it was to be under the tree of the cross that she, the second Eve, was to discharge her office. As the heavenly Father had waited for her consent before He sent His Son into the world: so, likewise, He called for her obedience and devotedness, when the hour came for that Son to be offered up in sacrifice for the world’s redemption. Was not Jesus hers? her Child? her own and dearest treasure? And yet, God gave Him not to her, until she had consented to become His Mother; in like manner, He would not take Him from her, unless she gave Him back…Mary no sooner hears that Jesus is condemned to death, than she rises, hastens to Him, and follows Him to the place where He is to die. And what is her attitude at the foot of His cross? Does her matchless grief overpower her? Does she swoon? or fall? No: the Evangelist says: ‘ There stood by the cross of Jesus, His Mother.’ [St. John xix. 25.] The sacrificing priest stands, when offering at the altar; Mary stood for such a sacrifice as hers was to be. St. Ambrose, whose affectionate heart and profound appreciation of the mysteries of religion have revealed to us so many precious traits of Mary’s character, thus speaks of her position at the foot of the cross: ‘She stood opposite the cross, gazing with maternal love on the wounds of her Son; and thus she stood, not waiting for her Jesus to die, but for the world to be saved.’ [In Lucam cap. xxiii.]

Dom Prosper Gueranger, The Liturgical Year 

Notice that the rites of “washing” the chalice and ciboria [during a Catholic Mass] are called ablutions or purification. The word purification is used not in the sense that the sacred vessels are dirty in any way. It is used instead in the same sense as the rite of purification (churching) of women after childbirth. That is, the woman is not dirty after childbirth; the birth is holy – an imitation of God’s creating. So, in order for her to return to daily life, she and her child come into the church to give thanks and be blessed. In the same way, once the vessels have been used for the holy act of the Consecration, they must be blessed before they can be returned to the ordinary.

The Rev. James W. Jackson, FSSP, Nothing Superfluous (2016)

[Saint] Lioba was to live on more than twenty years, beloved and venerated by the German Christians as the dearest link with their apostle [St. Boniface, her brother]. Men of affairs in Church and State sought her counsel; Pepin the Short and Charlemagne, among others, held her in high esteem. Queen Hildegard, the wife of Charlemagne, herself esteemed as a holy person, fain would have kept Lioba always at her side. And the simple countryfolk round about Bischofsheim in their sicknesses and perils trustingly brought all their troubles to its venerable abbess.

But more than all others, her own nuns loved her intensely; they used to refer to her drinking vessel as Dilectae parvus, “the darling’s little cup.” According to her biography, compiled by Rudolph of Fulda from the testimony of her nuns, she was singularly beautiful and her face, the face of an angel, was always pleasant and smiling. Yet if the affair demanded it, Lioba could be resolutely strong, as when she moved with vigorous energy to clear one of her nuns of a cruel slander.

Whenever she journeyed to Fulda to pray at her brother Boniface’s tomb, the monks honored her with the extraordinary privilege of entrance into their own church. With an aged nun as companion, she was allowed to assist at divine services and to participate in the monastic chapter’s conferences. Such a permission no other woman has ever received.

Martin Harney, SJ, Brother and Sister Saints (1957)

Imagine for a moment Gilbert Keith Chesterton without Frances. Gilbert alone could have been a famous author, but he would have failed to arrive at most of his speaking appointments. He might have indulged his appetites disproportionately. He might have died in 1915, failing to write The Everlasting Man, Eugenics and Other Evils, St. Francis of Assisi, The Outline of Sanity, many Father Brown stories, St. Thomas Aquinas, all issues of G.K.’s Weekly, and a host of other articles and books. He might have never converted to the Catholic faith. Without Frances, he simply would not have been able to do all he did. As [Father] O’Connor wrote to Frances after Gilbert’s death: “How much of him and his best might have been lost to the world only for you.” […]

She who quietly carried the cross within the context of her own life, through the duties of the married state and the extra duties of marriage to Gilbert Keith Chesterton, was thereby able to bring it to another. This is an authentic apostolate, a bringing of Christ to a fallen world. And, as an enduring example to married women, she did so through the very basic, repetitive duties of her state in life (duties that might be monotonous, even married to G.K.).

Nancy Carpentier Brown, The Woman Who Was Chesterton (2015)

That summer, Frances [Chesterton] returned to Bath for another highlight: the production of her play, Faith and Fable: A Masque. The public received it enthusiastically and publicity photos abounded. Frances was asked to give a speech at the Bath Festival of Drama on August 9, 1927. Frances spoke on the subject of the children’s plays, and expressed the opinion that children should act in their own play, not simply watch movies or listen to radio. Movies and radio, she believed, were for older people who could no longer entertain themselves.

Nancy Carpentier Brown, The Woman Who Was Chesterton (2015)

All of the practical aspects of life were left to her; Gilbert was not a man who dealt in details, he was an ideas man. Frances not only prepared Gilbert for the public by dressing him, she coordinated his meals; shopped; negotiated with his agent and publishers; kept a kitchen and a flower garden; took care of the children and visitors constantly welcomed under their rook; hired the cooks, gardeners, secretaries, and housekeepers; cared for the pets; kept up the correspondence with everyone; paid bills and taxes. It is no wonder she was still up at midnight, finishing up the lasts of fifteen – or more – letters: “Since we came back from our holiday I have answered one hundred and seventeen letters for Gilbert,” Frances once said.

Nancy Carpentier Brown, The Woman Who Was Chesterton (2015)

As 1924 dawned…Gilbert attained the honorable age of fifty (Frances would turn fifty-five). Their writing output continued on a prolific scale, as always. Frances enjoyed particular success. Samuel French, Ltd. published three of her verse children’s plays – The Children’s Crusade, Sir Cleges, and The Christmas Gift – as a set.

The plays, Frances stated in her preface, “make no pretense to any historical or literary value. They merely serve as a text or background for the exercise of that ingenuity and love of pageantry and even rhetoric which is the common heritage of all children.”

Nancy Carpentier Brown, The Woman Who Was Chesterton (2015)

“If I had anything to do with this girl I should go down on my knees to her: if I spoke to her she would never deceive me: if I depended on her she would never deny me: if I loved her she would never play with me: if I trusted her she would never go back on her: if I remembered her she would never forget me.”

Gilbert in a letter, after meeting his future wife Frances, as quoted in Nancy Carpentier Brown, The Woman Who Was Chesterton (2015)

For nearly a century, Frances [Chesterton]’s story has been hidden amongst the pages of the poetry Gilbert wrote, Christmas cards sent to friends, letters to priests and relatives stored in library special collections, out-of-print biographies written by literary contemporaries, in boxes in the attics and garages of her grandnephews, and in scattered periodicals and books. Few people are now familiar with the details of Frances’s own writing career; few have read her published works.

It is, of course, a story intimately woven with the story of Gilbert. This is, after all, a love story. Frances and Gilbert worked as a team; they were lovers and friends, writing coaches and companions. They worked, ate, laughed, and slept together for thirty-five years, dependent on each other physically, emotionally, and intellectually. The love between them defined her life – and his. She was his first and biggest fan; his most successful marketer, and his most devoted cheerleader. She was the first to laugh at his jokes. She took dictation, dusted his hat, and tied his shoes. She clung to him when her life seemed out of control. She cherished the love poetry he wrote her, treasuring the words tenderly in her heart, never sharing the most intimate specimens with anyone. It is not an exaggeration to say that she was the person who would affect Gilbert’s life more profoundly than anyone. He was totally dependent on her for his happiness.

Nancy Carpentier Brown, The Woman Who Was Chesterton (2015)