Mary is an important figure in catholic faith, Mother of Jesus Christ in physical body, she is also the spiritual Mother of the Church, the Bishops of the Second Vatican Council gave this title to her.
We know little biographical information about Mary, our greatest source would be the books of Matthew, Mark, John and Luke. From these spiritual accounts – and knowledge of the everyday circumstances she would have faced – comes a picture of the Mary the shepherds would have found in Bethlehem: a woman who was young, devout, offended by injustice, devoted to her child, and, many believe, sorrowful in the knowledge of what his fate would be. Mary was bethroed to Joseph when the angel Gabriel appears to her and says she is to bear the son of God, she asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”
She is told that nothing is impossible with God. Mary’s consent and willingness to endure social injustice for God is an holy act in itself, as women suspected of adultery were often stoned to death. Throughout her life she seen as very holy and is believed to be the Immaculate Conception i.e. born without any sin. Although Mary herself is holy as well as all her acts, the most courageous act she did was watching her son die on the cross. Mary endured the pain because she was a good piteous woman devoted to God, she knew Jesus’ death was inevitable.
Florence Nightingale was born in May 12th 1820. She was an aristocrat born to wealthy British parents. At 16 Florence thought she heard the voice of God telling her that she had a special mission in life. Florence suspected it had something to do with nursing because as a young child she had always enjoyed caring for the sick. Traditionally she was meant to behave like a ‘upper class lady’, but Florence was reculant to do so, having found her passions elsewhere. She turned down suitors and social parties to instead take up studying health and medicine. As she was a woman of the upper class, this behaviour was not expected. A cultured lady of that day did not enter in hospital work and her family’s opposition finally prevented her from working in a hospital. She overcame this obstacle by studying at a protestant school for nursing.
Later she became the superintendent of a hospital in London. At the Crimean War, Florence was asked to take charge of nursing. There she revolutionized hospital care. She cleaned up the hospital, set schedules, ordered supplies, and once the hospital was running smoothly- taught the soldiers how to read and write. When she returned to England she fell sick from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Ministers, heads of government, authors, politicians and reformers came to her for her advice. She received many public honors and was the first woman to be awarded the British Order of Merit. Florence almost single-handedly invented modern nursing, as we know it today, and created a new image of female nurses as a professional class.
Irena Sendler was born in 1910 in Otwock, a town some 15 miles southeast of Warsaw. She was greatly influenced by her father who was one of the first Polish Socialists. During WW11 Irene defied the Nazi’s and in a show of remarkable bravery, rescued 2,500 Jewish children by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto. She was rescuing these children from most certain death, as very few came out of the Warsaw Ghetto alive. Irene worked in the Warsaw Social Welfare Department and as a result was able to go about freely without suspicion. When Irene saw the prejudice and terrible conditions that were being forced upon the Jews she was appalled and decided to join the Polish underground resistance movement Aid to the Jews. Irena Sendler accomplished her incredible deeds with the active assistance of the church. “I sent most of the children to religious establishments,” she recalled. “I knew I could count on the Sisters.”
The children were given false identities and placed in homes, orphanages and convents. Irena Sendler carefully noted, in coded form, the children’s original names and their new identities. But the Nazis became aware of Irena’s activities, and on October 20, 1943 she was arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the Gestapo, who broke her feet and legs. Though she was the only one who knew the names and addresses of the families sheltering the Jewish children, she withstood the torture, refusing to betray either her associates or any of the Jewish children in hiding. She escaped from prison but for the rest of the war the Gestapo pursued her.
After the war she dug up the jars and used the notes to track down the 2,500 children she placed with adoptive families and to reunite them with relatives scattered across Europe. This lovely, courageous woman was one of the most dedicated and active workers in aiding Jews during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Her courage enabled not only the survival of 2,500 Jewish children but also of the generations of their descendants. Her courage, strength and the goodness of her spirit is honored forever by those lives she saved.
Compare and Contrast
Mary, Irena Sendler, and Florence Nightingale all have something in common. Each and every one overcame social injustice, discrimination and prejudice in the name of all things good. Virgin Mary knew she would be shunned, as her baby was conceived before marriage, back then adultery was punishable by stoning to death, yet she agreed to do god’s work out of love for the Lord. Irena Sendler risked her life for the 2,500 children she saved, her deeds could have gotten her killed yet her faith and morality was more important to her, and Florence Nightingale overcame the social ethics and restrictions of her time to do what she believed to be God’s work.
Another similarity is the fact that all three women saved lives in their own respective way. Unlike Florence and Irena, Mary did her deeds indirectly and in a more spiritual sense, she gave birth to Jesus who is spiritually viewed as the savior of mankind, he gave people salvation, faith and hope. Also, today many people see Mary as a role model and through her seek inspiration that leads many people to give up sin and live a good and holy life. This contrasts to the work of Florence Nightingale and Irena Sendler, these two woman saved people in the physical sense, through knowledge, nursing, and trying to prevent genocide.
These woman strike inspiration and strength in all that read their story. Though they come from different eras and have different life stories to tell, all three are fine examples of the strength, faith and capabilities of a woman.
Book of Saints Mark Straton 1991 J.M Dent Pty.
Dictionary of World Biography. Barry Jones 1998 The Age
Encyclopedia of World Biography McGraw Hill 1973 McGraw Hill Inc.
Florence Nightingale John Drasedon 1988 Wiley and Sons LTD
Virgin Mary Linda McWell 1963 Curtin Pty.