The Top 5 Women in My Formation (minus Super-Formators Mom and the Blessed Virgin--that's too easy!
(If you want to play, please leave your top 5 in the comments box, or post them on your own blog and link back here. You can use your awesome mother or the Sweet Mother of God; I just had to limit myself!)
1. Elisabeth Elliot. A Protestant missionary whose first husband, Jim Elliot, was martyred in the Amazon jungle in 1956, Elisabeth Elliot was probably the biggest influence on my young, pre-Catholic spiritual life. As an eleven-year-old, I devoured her Shadow of the Almighty and Through Gates of Splendour, both of which cover the story of Jim and his companions, as well as A Chance to Die. The zeal for God and His Word made an enormous impression on me and encouraged a lasting love of the Christ who "calls us apart" and asks us to pay the price for His Crown. Passion and Purity, when I was about 13, confirmed in me a love of the Christian sexual ethic that I still believe saved me endless heartbreak in high school.
2. Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross). Where to begin? I think I encountered her in my senior year of high school, as I was deciding to major in philosophy. At the time, I was sure I would become a nun, and her story captivated me. Because of her, I wanted to study phenomenology, the meaning of which I couldn't (and still can't) really grasp. Again, she was a woman of total integrity. Like Elliot, she believed that a life worth living was a life totally given over--no half measures. At first, she was convinced this meant a total devotion to philosophy, which led her inexorably to a total devotion to Truth, which she suddenly found was a Person, was Love. Since I was now Catholic, I needed someone who went beyond Elliot and Stein provided this for me. She continues to challenge me each day, even though I did not follow her footsteps into the convent.
3. Sr. Anna Wray, OP. No link available here! Sr. Anna, who I mentioned in the last post, showed up during my first week at Catholic University. I had never had a friend before of my own age who loved Christ (and was a total dork about philosophy). She was flame. She began a weekly adoration hour of praise music, followed by a short sermon from the friars, silent prayer, and Confession. She was also my dearest friend. We discerned together, prayed together, fasted together, and I listened to her talk philosophy (I couldn't always follow her). She, soon joined by many other young women, taught me that we cannot do this alone. Total gift of self is not just something I can do all by myself. I need the example of those holier and more zealous than I. "Losing" her to the convent was a wrenching experience, but also one of the most beautiful gifts I ever could give to God (and it made room for Todd!).
4. Therese of Lisieux. Ah, Therese. It's been a long, long road. When I first read Story of a Soul in high school, I was a little befuddled and even turned off. She was so ... drippy. But she has a habit of hanging onto one. A friend and I later joked that, instead of being our "Little Flower," Therese was our "Little Weed." I started to pray for her help in early college and entrusted Todd's conversion to her. It was highly effective. The woman pulled no punches, even sending me numerous snowstorms (she loved snow) and roses on various and appropriate occasions. I began reading her autobiography yearly, and ever since have been completely hooked on her Little Way.
5. Laura Ingalls Wilder. I had to dig back into the early childhood influences, since Miriam is almost to this point in her little life. It was a close call with Little Women, but the Little House (so many "littles"!) books certainly influenced both my imagination and hopes for the future. I couldn't imagine a memory or play without some reference to life on a farm, in the woods, on the prairie, or in a family. Charles and Caroline's marriage was so beautiful to me, as was the children's love of learning and the hard work of daily life. Surely that had something to do with where I am today.
Runners-Up (because I can't stop!)
~ Clare of Assisi
~ Mother Angelica
~ Kari Beckman
~ Ann Hartle
~ gosh, there are so many more ...