Judith 13:15

Then she took the head out of the bag and showed it to them, and said, “See, here is the head of Holofernes, the commander of the Assyrian army, and here is the canopy beneath which he lay in his drunken stupor. The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman.

Now here's a passage we bet you never expected to read in a feature called "Words of Encouragement"!  Human heads in bags and warm, affirming sentiments of spiritual uplift are not normally closely associated in modern devotional literature.  But Judith is part of the Catholic Bible and, like much of the rest of Scripture, does have some rather Macbeth-like moments.  However, for the people who first wrote and read it, Judith was decidedly devotional literature: that's why it's in the Bible.  Judith is a retelling–like the Lord of the Rings or Jack and the Beanstalk or the Miller's Third Son–of one of the oldest tales in the world:  "He has cast down the mighty in their arrogance and lifted up the meek and the lowly."  Women were not, in the ancient world, closely associated with feats of valor in combat.  The story of Judith is the tale of an Unlikely Hero and of the Triumph of the Little Guy (or in this case, Gal) against overwhelming odds: like a plucky janitor taking Hitler prisoner or a courageous cab driver besting Osama bin Laden in hand-to-hand combat.  The point is that God can take anybody, even an obscure carpenter from Nazareth, and make him the linchpin in a divine plan.  So it's best not to take anybody for granted.

Mark Shea


Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog and regularly blogs for National Catholic Register. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.

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