Blessed Joan of Toulouse
In 1240, some Carmelite brothers from Palestine started a monastery in Toulouse, France. The great Carmelite priest, St. Simon Stock, passed through Toulouse twenty-five years later. A devout woman asked to see him. She introduced herself simply as Joan. She asked the priest earnestly, "May I be part of the Carmelite order as an associate?" St. Simon Stock was the head of the order. He had the authority to grant the woman's request. He said "yes." Joan became the first lay associate. She received the habit of the Carmelite order. In the presence of St. Simon Stock, Joan made a vow of perpetual chastity.
Joan continued her quiet, simple life right in her own home. She tried to be as faithful as possible to the rules of the Carmelites for the rest of her life. Joan went to daily Mass and devotions at the Carmelite church. She filled the rest of the day with visits to the poor, the sick and the lonely. She trained the altar boys. She helped the elderly and infirm by performing useful tasks and running errands. Joan prayed with them and brightened many lives with her cheerful conversations.
Blessed Joan carried a picture of the crucified Jesus in her pocket. That was her "book." Every now and then, she would pull out the picture and gaze at it. Her eyes would light up. People said that Joan read some new and wonderful lesson every time she studied the picture.
Cheerful conversation can brighten many lives. What difference does it make to others?