OBLATES OF THE HOLY FACE
Osculamini filium, nequando irascetur et peribitis a via
Our Oblate order currently has two Sister novices, Sister Eulalia of the Holy Child Jesus Doctor of the Sick, and Sister Ulrica of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart.
Sister Eulalia is mainly in charge of the sacristy of the St. Gertrude the Great Parish. At the start of her novitiate she received the name Eulalia, in honor of a famous Spanish Saint named Eulalia of Merida. The name Eulalia comes from Greek and means “sweetly speaking” or “eloquent”. The French version is Eulalie which features in a poem by Edgar Allan Poe named “Eulalie – A Song” (1845), and tells about a man who finally overcomes his depression by marrying a beautiful woman named Eulalie. Also in William Faulkner’s civil war-themed novel Absalom, Absalom! (1936) there is a character named Eulalia, who is abandoned by her husband because she is of mixed race.
In the time of St. Eulalia, in the beginning of the 4th century, Merida was the capital city of Lusitania. St. Eulalia was born in one of the most noble families in Spain, raised to the Catholic Faith, and was even as a child very sweet, modest, and devoted. She also showed great contempt of worldly dress, ornaments, and company.
Eulalia was only twelve years old when the edicts of Emperor Diocletian were issued. These compelled all persons, without exception of age, sex, or profession, to offer sacrifice to the idols of the Empire. Eulalia took this publication for the signal of a battle of martyrdom; but her mother, not wishing her to die, delivered her into the countryside for safety.
But Eulalia managed to escape by night. After the exhausting journey back to Merida, she arrived there at sunrise. As soon as the court started its session that same morning, Eulalia went before the cruel judge, whose name was Dacianus. She reproached him of his great boldness and impiety in persecuting peaceful and sincere Catholics, by forcing them to make a choice between state and one true God.
The judge ordered Eulalia to be immediately arrested. But he realized that it would arouse a great attention and scandal, if the daughter of one of the most prestigious families of Spain would be put to death for the sake of religion. So after threatening her with the usual process of torture, reserved for the Catholic faithful, in order to save her, he tried to strike a deal with her: she wouldn’t need to renounce her Catholic Faith and apostatize. She wouldn’t even need to offer sacrifice to the idols, as the edicts of Diocletian ordered. All she needed to do was to touch a little bit of salt and incense, meant for the sacrifice, with the tip of her finger, and the judge would consider her having fulfilled the imperial precept.
But Eulalia had none of that. She threw down the idol, trampled upon the cake which was laid for the sacrifice, and to the end spat at the judge – which latter act was little imprudent, but she can be excused because of her youth and great zeal for the holy religion. If the judge had first been lenient, and tried to save her, now he unleashed an unprecedented rage toward the little girl. And he also submitted her to such cruel tortures, that even in the midst of the horrible persecutions of Diocletian it’s hard to find torments comparable with hers. But all this time, nothing was heard from the mouth of Eulalia except thanksgiving to God. She finally died when the fire, which was one of her torments, caught her hair, surrounded her head and face, and she was stifled by smoke and flames.
But at the moment Eulalia died, a white dove came out of her mouth, and flew upwards to heaven. The executioners were so terrified that they left and abandoned her body, which was later covered by pure white snow falling from heaven. Together with her was killed also another young girl, St. Julia of Merida. Their feast day is December 10.
The Holy Child Jesus Doctor of the Sick is a devotion started in Mexico in 1942. Some Josephine Sisters, who were in charge of a municipal hospital in Tepeaca, placed a statue of the Child Jesus as the Little Doctor of the Sick in the hospital chapel. From there the devotion became known and loved by many souls who received blessings by practicing it, especially the sick. The first feast day of the Holy Child Jesus Doctor of the Sick was on April 30, 1961. In 1963 the statue was moved to the parish church of St. Francis of Assisi, and enshrined on a side altar, which was later enlarged to a beautiful little chapel.
Sister Ulrica of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart has been assigned to teach in our St. Gertrude the Great school. Her name Ulrica comes from Old German which means “leader” or alternatively either “power of the home” or “power of the wolf.” It is a popular girls’ name in Germany and Scandinavia. It comes from St. Ulric, holy Bishop of Augsburg, who was the first saint canonized by a Pope, done by Pope John XV in 993.
The girl who was baptized as Franziska was born in 1882 in the town of Oberdorf am Ipf in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, as the first child of Ulrich Nisch and his wife Klothilde. The father was very strict and often acted harshly toward his eldest child. Nevertheless, Franzizka fulfilled her duties at home faithfully and showed the greatest respect towards her parents. So much so that after she in 1904 joined the Sisters of Charity of the Holy Cross, she took as her religious name Ulrika in honor of her father. When she joined, the novice mistress asked her what work she would like to do, and she answered: “Give me a job where I can make many sacrifices.” So she was assigned to help in the kitchen. Also, the Sisters’ chaplain, Father Adolf Schwarz, sought always to teach them a twofold lesson: love of seclusion and love of humiliations. In both of these, Sister Ulrika was his best student. Her work was exhausting and required sacrifices, such as often having to go without Mass and Communion during the week, and missing common prayer and recreation. She also worked cleaning the house, and took care of the sick.
Sister Ulrika was sometimes absent-minded and, now and again, made mistakes in her duties. One evening, as she was preparing food for the Sisters who would be working to do the laundry until late into the night, she forgot to take it to them. Another time, having promised a novice to load the stove for her, she put the coal not in the fire but in the ash-pan. For this she was severely reprimanded, but she remained perfectly calm. The Sister cook in charge commented: “One can make her some remarks, and she does not take offense at it in the least.” She never minded to be corrected or punished, but her greatest sorrows were the faults and lapses that escaped others’ notice, errors of weakness, omission, and haste due to human weakness. She herself said: “In spite of the numerous graces, still many flaws!”
Still, Sister Ulrika was always joyful, and kept up everyone’s spirits with amusing retorts. She taught beautiful hymns to the young women she supervised in the kitchen, and sometimes even danced with them. And most of all, she was filled with charity towards all her neighbors. She always knew, with an amazing certainty, how to seize the opportune moment with a difficult person, find the right word, and do what had to be done. Her love for her neighbor was revealed in particular in dealing with a young woman named Gusti. This girl had had a child out of wedlock and in her anguish, threw the baby in a ditch, leaving him to die. She was sentenced in prison, and after she was released, the Sisters of the Holy Cross took her in as an employee. But because she was filled with anger and bitterness and had an implacable hatred for all, everyone in the house distanced themselves from her. Everyone except Sister Ulrika. She began to give her special attention. It was difficult, but she prayed and offered God her daily humiliations and sufferings that the girl’s change of heart would happen. And it did. Little by little, thanks to Sister Ulrika’s kind gestures, smiles, and words of comfort, Gusti’s mood changed. She became friendly and started to get along with the Sisters. She would later say: “Sister Ulrika gave me a new soul.” Gusti eventually left the convent and was happily married.
Due to fatal tuberculosis in the lungs, Sister Ulrica had to give up her kitchen duties in 1912 and retire to the sick room to prepare for death. But even while dying, she was still remarkable for her patience in suffering, her unpretentiousness, and her gratitude. She died on May 8, 1913, as the Sisters said, “unselfishly, just as she had lived”, on the feast of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart. It was in the Cincinnati area, in 1874, when the parish of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart was established to serve the English-speaking Catholics, mostly the Irish immigrants who lived in the Ohio area of Reading, Lockland, Wyoming and Sharonville. And it was on these very areas where Father Daniel Dolan would start to serve the faithful traditional Catholics in the 1970’s, eventually purchasing the first church building of St. Gertrude the Great in Sharonville.