Saints



Quote and Thought of the Week:question mark in sky

“What most prevents us from becoming saints is undoubtedly the difficulty we have in consenting fully to everything that happens to us, not, as we have seen, in the sense of a fatalistic passivity, but n the sense of a trusting total abandonment into the hands of our Father God.”

~ Fr. Jacques Philippe: In the School of the Holy Spirit

 

Fr. Phillipe speaks about the reality that when we encounter trials we often rebel or bear them unwillingly.  His solution is to accept God’s invitation to embrace a positive and fruitful attitude quoting St. Therese as a model: “I choose it all!” He says this means “I choose everything that God wants for me.  I won’t content myself with merely enduring, but by a free act of my will; I decide to choose what I have not chosen”.  The exterior reality does not change but ones interior attitude does and that makes a significant difference.  “This consent”, says Fr. Philippe, “inspired by love and trust, makes us free and active instead of passive, and enables God to draw good out of everything that happens to us whether good or bad” (Pg. 34).

 

Come Holy Spirit assist me to respond to the grace you’ve given me to practice abandonment!


all saints1The Halloween Season is probably the most popular of all celebrations (outside of the holiday season).  At least we can say this is true from a secular perspective.  Even in Religious Education Programs and Catholic Schools I see Halloween decoration and “trunk or treat” events that, in many cases, promotes Halloween with no faith lens.  All Hallows Eve reflects the darkness and the effects of sin in our world and All Saints reflects the light of those who have followed the light of the world – Jesus Christ.  We have to make an impact in the little things.  This year in our Religious Education Program our students are being encouraged to come to class on October 30th dressed as saints.  They are encouraged to be creative and come with 2 facts they know about that saint.  All those who dress up as a saint will get to be a part of a pizza part toward the end of class.  We are looking forward this this next week!

What is you doing in your program to celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints?


In our ministry, whether it is in Religious Education, RCIA or with Youth it is crucial that we communicate that being a saint is attainable with God’s help.  Helping others see the heroic virtue of saints is very important but it needs also to be seen as attainable to reach verses something that is not possible for the average Catholic.  Butler’s Lives of the Saints is a wonderful contribution to the Catholic but if he had a flaw it was that the saints were completely flaw-less and totally perfect from head to foot.  Reading his book is inspiring but it can also be a little discouraging because most of the people that read it realize they are not perfect and have not yet come close to the perfect that he speaks about.

Lucy Fuchs wrote an article for St. Anthony Messenger and came up with 7 characteristics of the saints that we can imitate.

Seven Characteristics of the Saints

All saints are filled with the love of God.

They have chosen God above all others and made a definite commitment to God.

In her book Saint Watching (Viking Press), Phyllis McGinley writes that saints are human beings with an added dimension. “They are obsessed by goodness and by God as Michelangelo was obsessed by line and form, as Shakespeare was bewitched by language, Beethoven by sound.”

All saints love other human beings.

It cannot be any other way. In the First Letter of John (4:20) we read: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”

McGinley also says that, although saints may be different in many ways, they are always generous. You will never find a stingy saint.

All saints are risk-takers.

When God called, they answered. For some it was taking a chance on a new way of life in a new place. In the Old Testament, we have the example of Abraham, called at an old age to leave his country and to go to the place God had selected for him. Even today, it is difficult for older people to leave their level of comfort and to face the new and unknown.

Abraham’s story is a marvelous example of trust in God, but even more so of a decision to plunge into the unknown. Like Abraham, saints responded to the graces that were given to them. Some were called to be popes, bishops, abbots or abbesses. Others found their calling in a quiet, reserved life, far away from the center of activity.

St. Julian of Norwich lived in a small cell attached to a church. She was even walled in, but that did not keep people away; they came to her and asked for her spiritual advice.

St. Catherine of Siena lived at home, not in a convent, as a person dedicated to God. People flocked to her, but not because she wanted them to.

Others, whose names are not well-known, lived simple lives among their families and friends, serving God with all their hearts, but never making a splash in the world.

The saints are humble, willingly and lovingly attributing to God all that they have and all that they will ever be.

Humility has always had a poor press; many people think that humility means saying derogatory things about oneself. Far from it! The saints showed their humility by using whatever gifts they had to perfection, but never attributing these gifts to themselves.

St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas were brilliant men and they did not go around saying how stupid they were. They did acknowledge, however, that all they knew was as nothing compared to the infinite wisdom of God.

Saints are people of prayer.

Some, especially members of religious orders, had entire days of prayer. Others found their time with God in other ways.

Dorothy Day—not canonized but recognized by many as a truly holy person—started her day with prayer but said that she met God daily in the crowds of the poor who came to her hospitality house. None of the saints saw prayer as a waste of time or as an activity for only the weak or naive.

The saints are not perfect.

Each of the saints had human flaws and faults. They made mistakes. Even at the end of their lives, they still found themselves in need of contrition, pardon and reconciliation.

St. Jerome, it is said, had a fearful temper. When another scholar of his time, a former friend, Rufinus, questioned his conclusions, St. Jerome wrote pamphlet after pamphlet blasting him.

St. Aloysius apparently had bad timing in his spiritual quest; the other novices were just as happy when he was not there. He was the kind of saint who did not seem to know how to enjoy the things of this life.

Some saints misunderstood their own visions. When St. Francis was told to rebuild the Church, he thought it meant the local church building. It is interesting and amusing to note that Jesus did not clarify the request for him until after he had exerted a lot of sweat and energy repairing an old church.

St. Joan of Arc was coerced into signing a retraction of her visions, although she later retracted that retraction.

St. John Vianney, “the Curé of Ars,” did not believe the children of La Salette concerning their visions of the Virgin Mary.

During the time of the Babylonian Captivity of the Papacy at the end of the 14th century and beginning of the 15th, when one pope resided in Avignon and another pope in Rome, saints found themselves on opposite sides of the rival popes, as confused as many of the common people were.

The saints are people of their times.

One wonders how anyone escapes being of his or her time. There were injustices around the saints that they did not speak out against. St. Paul did not condemn slavery but encouraged slaves to obey their masters. St. Thomas Aquinas considered women unequal to men. He believed their only task in life was to bear children.

If we look at the lives of all the saints, we can certainly find faults. Far from discouraging us, this can give us courage. Perfection is not what we are striving for, unless it is as perfect a love as possible.

 

 

What characteristics would you add?  How do you motivate your students or those you catechize to be holy and respond to their vocation to be a saint?

 

 


Happy Solemnity of St. Joseph!  He is the patron saint of the universal Church.  Today I wanted to share with you some great quotes about St. Joseph and his influence on the New Evangelization.

Quotes

St. Bernardine of Siena (d. 1444) said,

“He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of His greatest treasures, namely, His divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying, ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord.'”

St. Teresa of Avila (d. 1582) wrote,

“I took St. Joseph as my advocate and protector, and recommended myself very earnestly to him. He came to my help in the most visible manner. This loving father of my soul, this beloved protector, hastened to pull me out of the state in which my body was languishing, just as he snatched me away from greater dangers of another nature which were jeopardizing my honor and my eternal salvation! For my happiness to be complete, he has always answered my prayers beyond what I had asked and hoped for. I do not remember even now that I have ever asked anything of him which he has failed to grant. I am astonished at the great favors which God has bestowed on me through this blessed saint, and at the perils from which He has freed me, both in body and in soul.”

Pope John Paul II in Redemptoris Custos (1989) exhorted the faithful to look to St. Joseph in our troubled age:

“This patronage must be invoked, and it is always necessary for the Church, not only to defend it against dangers ceaselessly cropping up, but also and above all to support it in those fearful efforts at evangelizing the world, and spreading the new evangelization among nations where the Christian religion and life were formerly the most flourishing, but are now put to a difficult test…. May St. Joseph become for all a singular master in the service of the saving mission of Christ that is incumbent on each and every one of us in the Church: To spouses, to parents, to those who live by the work of their hands or by any other work, to persons called to the contemplative life as well as to those called to the apostolate.”

I love what Pope Benedict XVI said about St. Joseph:

“Dear brothers and sisters, our meditation on the human and spiritual journey of Saint Joseph invites us to ponder his vocation in all its richness, and to see him as a constant model for all those who have devoted their lives to Christ in the priesthood, in the consecrated life or in the different forms of lay engagement. Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in his way. Joseph is a ‘just man’ (Mt 1:19) because his existence is ‘ad-justed’ to the word of God.”

New Evangelization

At the heart of the New Evangelization Pope Benedict says is 1) Conversion, 2) The Kingdom of God, 3) Jesus Christ and 4) Eternal Life.  St. Joseph is a model of faith that draws us to conversion though his faithful and focused response to God’s call in his life.  He proclaimed the Kingdom of God through the authentic witness of his life.  Jesus Christ, his adopted son and the one Joseph received supernatural adoption was the one Joseph knew was his Lord and Savior.  After Mary, Joseph was the closest to Christ.  Therefore, his union to Christ was, like Mary’s, incredibly rich and profound.  Much can be pondered from the silence of St. Joseph, but one thing is sure – His holiness intensified and was illuminated through his life with Christ.  Our lives likewise should be intensified and illuminated through our encounter with the living God – especially in the Eucharist.  And finally, our ultimate goal is Eternal Life and St. Joseph knew this.  His example and faithfulness show us that it is not in the big things, in recognition or wealth that one acquires the greatest of prizes.  It is union with God and life everlasting with God that is our ultimate goal and to that which all our endeavors should be aimed.  

Each of these 4 points from Pope Benedict point us to the heart of this New Evangelization.  St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church lived a life of holiness and union with God worth modeling as we consider living and carrying out the New Evangelization.  May St. Joseph inspire us and intercede for us in all our endeavors to bring about a New Evangelization that empowers and transforms, first, us and then the world we live in.


Today in our summer program students took an hour a 15 minutes to visit 5 saints.  Each group (divided by grade level) spent 15 minutes a piece learning about St. Francis Xavier, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Nicholas of Myra.  The Catechists and kids seemed to really enjoy learning about these saints through people dressing up as them.  During this Summer School of Religion Program students are also learning about 5 other saints (this year I’ve asked that 10 saints be covered).  I am so grateful for those who were willing to dress up as a saint today and share about the holy lives of these saints.  The theme for our Program this year is “We Are Called” and one of the phrases that I’ve emphasized is that we are called to be saints.

May the Holy Spirit lead these children and all of us to be holy and to be saints…for “We Are Called”!

 

 


A few days ago I picked up a book entitled Church History in the Lives of the Saints by Fr. Joseph Dunney.  It was written in 1944.  Fr. Dunney has a wonderful way of describing things.

One line that stuck out when speaking about St. Peter was: “The chief disciple might, yes, would, falter under sudden onsets of trial, yet never was there question of his abiding allegiance.”  I hope that might be said of me when I’m no longer on earth.

Another great description of St. Peter’s qualities goes as follows:

“Peter was affectionate but of quick temper: brave, yet not seldom wavering: rough and ready, none the less sincere, single of eye, clean of heart.  Heir to a past with all its bluff and brawn, his defects of quality had to be corrected.  Well for Peter that he has a Divine Master who can teach him to obey, take his impetuous spirit, demand that he humbly submit to the yoke.” 

What a great picture he paints of St. Peter.  I think St. Peter is a great model for catechists.  He had a heart full of zeal and excitement to follow the Master.  His imperfection shows us that one isn’t “all or nothing” but a disciple in training and always being more and more conformed to Christ.  We can all relate to that.  🙂

Fr. Dunney, when speaking of the intense days of Roman persecution under the Emperor Nero describes the suffering Church and it’s leader:

“Think of St. Peter during these terrible days, living in the thick of trial, going about strengthening his flock.  The Vicar of Christ was destined himself to “bear witness” and become a victim in the gruesome festival!  His Divine Master had made his very clear- “Amen, Amen, I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst.  But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee.”  Ancient tradition describes the dire perils Peter faced, the pit of danger that yawned beneath his feet.”
 

St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and inspiration of catechists…Pray for us.


Pope Benedict recently concluded a series of talks on the role of saints in the Church and living a life of Holiness during his Wednesday Audiences at the Vatican.  He ended the series by discussing 3 ways to be a saint, stressing the fact that holiness is not only for a select few but for all.  Here is what he shared:

1) “Never let a Sunday go by without an encounter with the risen Christ in the Eucharist; this is not an added burden, it is light for the entire week.”

2) “Never begin or end a day without at least a brief contact with God” in prayer.

3) “And along the pathway of our lives, follow the road signs that God has given us in the Ten Commandments, read in the light of Christ; they are nothing other than explanations of what is love in specific situations.”

This should be the very minimum for those involved in any form of ministry.  The good news is that it is not burdensome or time consuming, but does require a willing and open heart who will intentionally choose to follow Christ and live a holy life.  May the Holy Spirit continue to lead you and guide you!

I’ll conclude with the following words from Pope Benedict: “How great and beautiful and also simple is the Christian vocation seen in this light. All of us are called to holiness.”

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