Now to him who is able to strengthen you in the gospel which I proclaim when I preach Jesus Christ, the gospel which reveals the mystery hidden for many ages but now manifested through the writings of the prophets, and, at the command of the eternal God, made known to all the Gentiles that they may believe and obey – to him, the God who alone is wise, may glory be given through Jesus Christ until endless ages. Amen. Romans 16:25-27
Audrey Hepburn, an Academy, Emmy, Grammy, Tony and Oscar award-winning actress and fashion icon in the 1950’s and 60’s, was born Audrey Kathleen Ruston in Brussels, Belgium in 1929. Through her father, a British businessman, she held British citizenship. Her mother, Ella van Heemstra, was a Dutch aristocrat. Most of Audrey’s early childhood schooling was at a private school in London.
In 1935, when she was only six, her parents divorced. For a time, she continued her schooling in London, but that changed with the beginning of World War II in 1939. Her mother, knowing that the Netherlands was a neutral country, felt it would be safer to move Audrey there, where the young girl continued learning in private schools. She studied ballet, too, and became – even as a young teen – a wonderful ballerina. Unfortunately, in May of 1940, the Nazis moved into and took over the Netherlands after only five days of fighting.
Audrey’s fame as a dancer in the city theater made her popular in the secret “black evenings” that allowed musicians and other artists who refused to join the Nazi party to continue earning some money. Patriots attended these performances, and soon funds were being raised for the thousands of Jews and others hiding from the Nazis not only in her hometown of Velp, but also throughout the Netherlands.
The evening performances were called “black evenings” because the windows were blacked out to keep the Nazis from seeing any activity occurring inside. Applause was not encouraged since people’s lives depended on the activity staying secret, and guards were placed outside to warn of any coming danger.
Even though Audrey was already suffering from malnutrition as others were in the country, she continued to dance at recitals held in homes; any money collected was given to the Dutch underground. At one point, because she was fluent in English, she was able to carry a message to a downed English pilot so that he could get to the Dutch Underground before the Nazis found him.
While getting very little to eat along with everyone else in the Netherlands, Audrey also experienced the greatest suffering when her dear Uncle and another relative were killed by the Nazis. Hunger at an early age may have led to the illness that finally killed her at age 63, colon cancer. What we do know is that suffering many tragedies and risking her life made her conscious of caring for others who suffered as well. In 1988, she became a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. She reached out to poor, hungry, and ill children in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. She did not do this just from afar, but she went to the places where children suffered, nursed the sick ones, and spread awareness of what was happening to them.
Just as St. Paul ended and summarized his letter to the Romans with the beautiful and heartfelt doxology, seen in today’s second reading, so Audrey Hepburn exploded with a blessing of the heart. While she did not profess an established religion, Audrey said she had faith. We cannot doubt that since she lived the Gospel truths, particularly caring for those who were ill, poor, hungry or suffering in any way.
Audrey Hepburn is our twenty-second Ornament of Grace.
Observing the Beautiful Ornaments
Do you see a way that the grace of Jesus Christ strengthened Audrey even if she did not profess a particular religion? How?
How can you show during difficult days that you “see and believe” the Word of God that has come to you through the ages?