Mother Maria Skobtsova

So many other people have written profoundly and at length about Mother Maria Skobtsova that I hesitate a little to write briefly about her here. But, as it's her feast day, I wanted to bring up an aspect of her life that might speak to you the way it did to me.

I haven't had a clear career arc. I grew up intending to be a writer, then through undergrad and beyond became a classicist, then a Modern Greek scholar, then a folklorist; taught in higher ed for a few short years, developed a freelance editing practice, spent a decade in corporate communications at massive financial services company--and now I'm one of the people behind Axia Women. Talk about zigzagging! 

My lack of a clear trajectory sometimes feeds my imposter syndrome, and it often confuses HR people. Maybe, like mine, your life or career hasn't followed a clear trajectory. Maybe you're wondering whether you should switch careers instead of sticking with a job that doesn't fit any longer (or maybe never did). Maybe what you feel called to do isn't the what the world finds valuable. Here's where we get to Mother Maria Skobstova. Because if any of these people I just described are you, you might take heart from the life of one of our modern saints did the following:

  • embraced atheism and radical socialism as a teenager
  • became a published poet
  • was elected deputy mayor and then mayor of a town in southern Russia, where she met her second husband
  • embraced Christianity
  • became a scholar of theology
  • took up social work
  • after her second divorce, ran a "convent" where she fed and housed those in dire need
  • was tonsured a nun as Mother Maria Skobtsova
  • joined the Resistance against the Nazis during WWII, and provided shelter for Jews in danger of deportation to concentration camps

It's unlikely that those who knew her in her early years would have predicted that she would die a Christian martyr in Ravensbruck for her Resistance activities. Be that as it may, the ups and downs of her life helped create the saint that she became. Those of us with zig-zag careers and vocations can take heart that we are not alone. We might be inspired by how her convictions and her compassion were unswayed by the rough and tumble of her life story -- they were even strengthened by it.

Holy Mother Maria, pray for us as we seek our paths, however winding or straight they may be!

Patricia Fann Bouteneff is a founder of Axia Women. 

Patricia Bouteneff