Black (And Catholic) Like Me 5: Servant Of God Julia Greeley – Black Body, Sacred Heart (Black Catholic History Month 2019)
Here’s the second Black saint featured for Black Catholic History Month 2019 and the 5th installment of my article-series Black (And Catholic) Like Me: Servant Of God Julia Greeley
Article-series synopsis: Black (And Catholic) Like Me is article-series that features a Black Catholic saint from history (or soon to be one) and tells a little about him/her and what I believe we can all learn from this godly one about holiness. The idea is simple. Here’s someone who was Black and Catholic, like me. For more info on this article-series and others, visit here. Black/African saints covered in Black (And Catholic) Like Me article-series are placed in the list of Black Saints and Holy Ones.
Born: Between 1833-1848
Death: June 7, 1918
Cause Opened: by Archdiocese of Denver (Servant of God)
Patronage: Black Americans, slaves, Denver (Wikipedia)
The following is adapted from The Black and Indian Mission Office’s website:
– Born a slave in Hannibal, Missouri
– Endured horrific treatment
– Lost right eye as a child when a slave master was
beating her mother and the whip cracked back and hit her
-After slavery, worked for the family of Colorado’s first
territorial governor and around 1878 was brought to
Conversion to the Catholic Church and Robust Catholic Life
– Joined the Church in 1880
– Daily communicant
– Active parishioner
– Became member of the Secular Franciscan Order
A Life of Charity After the Sacred Heart of Jesus
– Had a special devotion to the Sacred Heart
– Fervent promoter of Sacred Heart
– “Despite her own poverty . . . collect[ed] food, clothing
and other goods for the poor. She would often do her
work at night, so as to avoid embarrassing the people
she was assisting.”
– “Only $10 to $12 a month cleaning and cooking . . .
used much of it to help other people who were poor.”
– “Often seen pulling her red wagon of goods to deliver
to the poor and homeless of the city.”
– Walked on foot and delivered Sacred Heart images
and information about prayer to firefighters in Denver.
– Died the Feast of the Sacred Heart
Website dedicated to her Cause: http://juliagreeley.org/
* * *
My personal thoughts:
When I first read her story about how she lost her eye I winced both externally and internally. I vividly picture from her perspective a scared little girl in horror watching her mother getting whipped. She tries to keep her eyes averted from the evil in front on her, yet she can’t help but to take a few frightened looks to see if Mom is okay; maybe even like watching a car crash – there’s a primal and raw sense to peer out at it all. Then one slash by the slave “master” at her mother strikes again. Mom screams out in brutal pain. Julia’s head turns instinctively towards her, and right after she does the slaver driver’s whip veering back for another blow snakes in air towards Julia and pops her in the eye. I can see the final view of the whip just before it hits her, and I can almost feel the terrible streak of instant pain Julia must have felt. This really stuck with me – this was a mark from slavery left upon Julia for the rest of her life.
Even still, God had the last mark on her life. No one remembers her former “master” but many remember Julia. And if she (God willing) is made a Saint of the Catholic Church, she will be remembered until the end of time. The evil of slavery did not take her down in bitterness. Rather, she still lived a life of radical charity and witness to Jesus and His Love in the Sacred Heart. She shows us the convert’s zeal (a zeal I know well) and lived a very active Catholic life from 1880 on. Something of Jesus got her as she spent her days giving out of her own poverty for her fellow poor. The fact that she walked around town with a red wagon giving out food, clothes, and images of the Sacred Heart might seem kind of strange to us today. Who would do that? Running around with a wagon. What would people think? No time for that, anyway. Seems like a way to be made fun of, right? A small price to pray for this “fool for Christ.”
She shows us a way – how many of you are daily Mass goers or at least active at the parish? Third Order member of some kind? You are on the right track. Maybe after all is said and done you can be a Servant of God too.
Above all, her life is one about the tons of little things and sacrifices to attended to in ordinary life. A life of persistently doing the good for He Who is Goodness itself. A Black body marked by the bitterness of others, yet a heart kept sacred for Our Lord’s own Sacred Heart.
Servant of God Julia Greeley pray for us!
Pray for her canonization!