Monday, June 12, 2006

June 12 - Blessed Yolande (Jolenta) of Poland 1235-1298, franciscan tertiary

Yolande was the daughter of Bela IV, king of Hungary. Her mother, Mary, was the daughter of the Greek emperor of Constantinople. In the year 1240, when Yolande was scarcely five years old, she arrived at the court of Poland. Her elder sister, Blessed Kinga (Cunigunda), who was married to the duke of Poland, had asked to supervise the child's education. Under such a mistress, Yolande grew not only in age, but also in virtue and grace before God and men.

When she arrived at young womanhood, Yolande was married to Boleslaus, the duke of Greater Poland. But the young duchess was not enamored of the glory and pleasure of this world. It was a greater pleasure for her to do good in her elevated position. Like a true sovereign, she came to the assistance of the poor and sick, the widows and the orphans. She and her husband built hospitals, convents, and churches, and she was so great an inspiration to him in everything that was good and pleasing to God, that he received the surname of the Pious.

But Boleslaus was soon to receive the reward of his piety in heaven. After his death and after two of her daughters were married, Yolande and her third daughter left all the glamor and riches of the world and withdrew to the convent of the Poor Clares at Sandec, where, devoted to prayer and mortification, she led a life entirely hidden in Christ. Disturbances resulting from war compelled her after a time to move to the convent at Gniezno, which she herself, assisted by her last consort, had founded.

In spite of the reluctance to which her humility prompted her, she was advanced to the position of abbess. So successfully did she guide her sisters by word and by example in the practice of all the religious virtues that the convent flourished like a new garden of God. Even beyond the walls of the cloister she did very much good, so that the fame of the holy abbess spread far and wide.

But, notwithstanding all her fame, she remained entirely devoted to the interior life, as her vocation required. Her favorite devotion was meditation on the sufferings of Christ, during which the Divine Savior once manifested Himself to her under the appearance of the Crucified. He announced to her that He would soon lead her to glory. Attacked by a serious illness, she asked to receive the last sacraments. Then she admonished her spiritual daughters to persevere in fidelity to the holy rule, and departed blessedly in the Lord in 1298.

After her death Yolande appeared in wondrous glory, together with St. Stanislaus the bishop, to the sick abbess and restored her health. Many other miracles occurred at her grave down to our own time. Pope Leo XII, in 1827, approved the veneration given to her.

1. Consider how happy Yolande was already here on earth, when she left the world and all that it held out to her, to serve God as a Poor Clare. Could the enjoyment of all the pleasures and all the goods of this world ever have brought her such happiness? King Solomon tasted worldly pleasure in its fullness, but it did not make him happy. He says: "And, therefore, I was weary of my life, when I saw that all things under the sun are evil, and all vanity and vexation of spirit" (Eccl 2:17). Did not this duchess make a better choice? Still, what Thomas a Kempis says is true: "For it is not granted to all to forsake all things, to renounce the world, and to assume the monastic life." May you always heed the warning of the Apostle: "And they who use this world as if their hearts become attached to it. -- Is your heart attached to this world?
2. Consider how vain and deceitful the goods of this world are. The honors of the world, on which we expend so much energy, cannot make us better, and sometimes they vanish suddenly without any fault of ours. Its riches cause us so much more anxiety the greater they are. Its pleasures are short, and often missed with much bitterness, as the maxim says: "Many a flower grows smooth and fair, But bitter the root that it doth bear." Have you not experienced this yourself? But, as Thomas a Kempis says: "The world is censured as deceitful and vain; and yet it is with reluctance abandoned, because the concupiscence of the flesh too much prevails. Some things draw us to love the world; others to despise it." -- Examine yourself. What is it that holds you to the world, that keeps you from loving God with your whole heart and serving Him?
3. Consider that our heart should set its goal on something higher if it wishes to despise the world. The heart of man wants to cling to something, yet man was not made for this world and its perishable goods. As Christians we have a higher, a nobler goal, where genuine, imperishable goods await us. That is why the prince of the Apostles says: "Blessed be God, who has regenerated us unto an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that cannot fade, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet 1:4) -- Direct the desires of your heart to that inheritance. Then it will soon despise the seeming good things of the world.

Almighty and eternal God, who didst mercifully withdraw Blessed Yolande from honor and riches, and didst graciously inspire her to choose instead the humble cross of Thy Son and the mortification of the flesh, grant, through her intercession and mercies, that we may despise temporal things and with upright hearts seek those that are eternal. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.