The Benedictine's at East Hendred have a good post about widowhood for today's feast in honour of St Monica and Richard Collins has also excelled himself with his musings on St Monica.
I did perhaps overdo the amount of widowhood (and alcohol) in my choice of patrons; choosing both St Monica and St Rita. Then again, they chose me, I did not choose them, and they have been the most loyal of friends. And indeed, a third widow, St Jane Frances de Chantal has recently come into my life. Whilst wandering throught the convent where I was staying, I found her relic and prayed before it. I then get back to Blighty on her feast day and find myself at Mass in her honour, I am just beginning to get to know her too.
One thing is certain, there is a great apostolate of prayer involved in widowhood. This is possibly, because in the loss there is a greater identity with God as the Infinite Solitude (see Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity's famous prayer). The Infinite Solitude isn't a concept our two most recent Holy Fathers have had much time for, but they are shepherds trying to bring home the flock, they have to stress the solidarity of God rather than the solitude of God. The "pious widow" is already in the sheep pen and waiting, she has stared into the abyss of unfathomable love and knows something of the solitude. Solitude isn't isolation or even lonliness in the sentimental sense, nor is it some existential crisis, it is a realisation that outside of God, there is nothing. Through the death of your partner, the unity of the marriage is broken, yet strangely made more whole. Widowhood is about allowing the Infinite Solitude to reach inwards and open up great fissures in your heart and soul so that one day you too may, in your own small, insignificant way have a soul that can magnify the Lord.
And if that wasn't enough, there's illness, there's bills and rent to pay, there's cooking, cleaning & ironing and there's teaching the drivel that passes as a science curriculum to uninterested teenagers.
The Young Widow - Edward Killingworth Johnson (1877), a bit sentimental for my tastes but it makes the point.