God save the queen

When a long-reigning monarch or pope dies, the world seems less stable. I think that's the sense many of us have with the passing of Elizabeth II. Somehow, it's more than just the death of a 96-year-old sovereign; it's the end of an era. Time, of course, continues to march on. But that's why it's worth taking a moment to recognize that while I've lived through 12 presidencies and six papacies, in all that time and more, there has been only one Queen of England.

Lots of Americans are fascinated by the dynastic remnants that still exist in Europe and the Middle East, but especially the residents of Buckingham Palace. Television series like "Victoria" and "The Crown" always manage to draw a significant audience. I can't say that I've been particularly interested in the British royals, apart from their historical significance. Although when Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer, I did feel the kind of connection that comes from being the same age she was at the time. The fairytale, however, did not end happily ever after. Despite the persistent dreams of little girls, becoming a princess did not come with any guarantees. But somehow, it's hard to believe she's been gone for 25 years.

When circumstances like the death of a public person cause us to look back, we can see that God works in and through history. Somehow, he mysteriously weaves together all the choices made by all the people he has loved into being to serve his twofold purpose: our salvation and his glory. To everyone under 70, there is one, and only one, face that comes to mind with the words "the Queen of England." But Elizabeth wasn't born to rule. She was 11 years old when her uncle abdicated to marry a divorced American woman. That's how her father, a second son and Duke of York, became George VI. Before that, she was just a member of the royal family, not heir to the throne; a granddaughter and niece of kings and not a future sovereign herself.

At 11, Elizabeth was certainly old enough to understand the tectonic shift of history and experience its aftershocks. It must have been a very strange transition for her family to move from the sidelines to the center of the field of world events. Christmas in 1936 came with an unexpected gift, not just for her father, but for her. From that day on, her life's purpose was clear and already determined -- not by her preferences or choices, but by her uncle's.

Ironically, Edward's inability or unwillingness to embrace what a life of service required of him set the stage for what became Elizabeth's life of steadfastly generous service spanning seven decades. He failed to set his own personal desires aside for the good of his country. She saw duty to her country as her calling and made it her highest ambition. Admittedly, her rule didn't always serve the best interests of peoples who had been bound to England by colonial aspirations or a lust for empire. It was, nevertheless, an example of faithfulness and dedication worth noting. Even worth emulating.

I won't attempt to canonize or condemn the Queen. She was neither a demon nor a saint, just a sinner like the rest of us. Still, many have observed Queen Elizabeth's devotion to her faith over the years. For Catholics, that's a bit complicated by the fact that she was also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. But I imagine Elizabeth knew well that she had come to the throne only because God's will is more sovereign than that of any earthly monarch. It seems to me that she understood that human life is intended to be service according to one's means and station. For her, that included a palace, a throne, a crown, and a scepter.

While the shape and luster of our lives is unique to each of us, God's plan for every one of us is the same. We are all called to salvation and to service. No matter how poor or rich, no matter how powerless or influential, no matter how overlooked or celebrated. There is nothing about our lives that cannot serve God's glory or contribute to our salvation. He makes good use of whatever we surrender to him. Ultimately, we place our lives in God's hands with the hope of spending eternity in a kingdom decidedly not of this world. In the meantime, we can and should pray: may God save the Queen, and may God save us all.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.