Widows and widowers know the wrenching grief the death
of a spouse brings, and the great gaping wound it leaves in
one’s life. Anna, the prophetess, experienced this at much too
young an age. She could not have been much older than
twenty-one or twenty-two when she lost her husband, and
may have been a widow for over sixty years. In a culture
where a woman’s identity was essentially connected to her
relationship with her father or husband, Anna’s being thrust
into this state must have been particularly devastating.
Deep grief, no matter its source, has a way of shaking the
foundations of our identity. Who are we when we are no
longer someone’s wife, husband, child, parent, friend? When
we are no longer secretary, lawyer, teacher, cook? When we
can no longer garden, walk, see?
Primitive societies allowed a widow communally pro-
tected solitary space to mourn her loss, accept her vulnera-
bility, and reach within for a renewed and deepened identity.
Anna found that protected space in the Temple. There she
was able to find her identity in God. Healed and renewed she
became a spokesperson for God, a prophet.
Our losses can be openings to a deeper identity. If with
the support of others we allow ourselves the protected solitary
time and space needed to turn more totally to God—accept-
ing, adjusting to, and integrating our losses in life—those
unnerving psychic earthquakes can deepen our experience
and conviction of God’s ever-loving presence. In the light of
that presence we see in new ways, and we are able to reveal
God’s compassionate presence to others.
Sr. Katherine Howard, Waiting in Joyful Hope
Katherine Howard, OSB, is a member of St. Benedict’s Monastery
in St. Joseph, Minnesota.