“Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” ― G.K. Chesterton
I’ve always been a fan of fairy tales and fantasy stories. The appeal initially began with the wonderful plots and scenery. But it’s the character development (at least in Disney renditions of the fairy tales) that continues to enchant me to revisit these tales. In the book A Catholic Field Guide to Fairy Tale Princesses: Modern Virtues in Tales as Old as Time, author Therese Zoe Williams examines a panoply of classic and modern princesses and the virtues they espouse.
One of the challenges Catholics faces is how to evangelize in a secular modern not in line with traditional Catholic Church teaching. Followers of Jesus know this world is not our home. It’s a pilgrimage towards the next reality― Heaven. But this doesn’t mean we should flee from worldly things completely or never engage with the present culture. Williams says it well, “If we are to be truly ‘in this world but not of it’ (cf. Romans 12:3), then we have to sincerely engage pop culture at large. The whisper of God is in everything” (p. 18).
Williams’ book is divided into four sections: The Official Disney Princesses, Other Notable Disney Princesses, Other Disney Women of Virtue, and Noteworthy Non-Disney Princesses. Each chapter includes a description and brief history of the fairy tale related to the princess. Williams also includes a section titled A Real-Life Fairy Tale where she focuses on a saint who exhibits the same virtue depicted by the fairy tale heroine. Chapters conclude with a prayer related to the virtue and/or saint.
This was a fun and quick read. Williams did a great job in showing how the virtues exhibited by Disney princesses are relevant to our lives today. I particularly enjoyed the Real-Life Fairy Tale section. Williams found appropriate saints throughout Church history to match their fairy tale counterparts.
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Saint Patrick lived in the 5th century and was a Christian missionary. He was instrumental in converting Ireland to Christianity. Known most for his usage of the shamrock to help explain the Trinity, Patrick’s successfully converted the pagans.
Several posts on this feast day focus on “little known facts” or about whether Saint Patrick was actually Irish. I’m going to on something a bit different. Saint Patrick’s Breastplate prayeralways provided me a great comfort. This article will examine the various aspects to his prayer.
Here’s the short version of the prayer (for the long version check out the link in the related resources at the end of this article):
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Put on the Armor of God
Immediately, I think of Saint Paul’s description in Ephesians 6:10-18. The Bible acts as a defense against the temptations of the devil and the world. Reading and listening to the Word of God shields one with truth. The Devil enjoys sowing discord and twisting truth to fit his desire― draw people away from God.
Christ is always with us but sometimes it can be easy to forget. Sometimes we push God away or turn our back on Him. Saint Patrick’s breastplate prayer uses directional words to help remind one the closeness of Jesus. Jesus is beside you. He is with you. On the right and left. Christ’s presence envelops you as a protection like how armor surrounds a soldier in battle.
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself
In Matthew 22:39 Jesus tells the Pharisees, “The second (greatest commandment) is like it (the first): You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Saint Patrick loved God first, but he followed the second great commandment too. He served the Irish peoples by leading them out of the errors of paganism and towards the truth of the Gospel.
In praying Saint Patrick’s Breastplate prayer, one is reminded to see God in others. It’s easy to get frustrated at strangers who commit a wrong: cutting you off in traffic, providing less than helpful advice at a call center, or even those who annoy you at church. Patrick was a foreigner in Ireland (contrary to popular views he wasn’t Irish!). But he accepted God’s call to spread the message of Jesus Christ as Savior. And you and I are called to do the same in our words and deeds.
Drive Out the Serpent(s)
The above image is a p(f)unny way to describe how Saint Patrick drove out the snakes from Ireland. Joking aside, it was because of his cooperation with God’s will Patrick had the ability to perform such as miracle (herpetologists might disagree). Christ with me. Those opening words to the Breastplate prayer can give us hope. The battle and journey through life doesn’t have to be done alone. God is with us. He was (and still is in Heaven) with Saint Patrick during his early years when he was captured as a slave. And God was with Patrick as he drove the snakes (and the pagan ideologies) out of Ireland.
Saint Patrick pray for us to put on the armor of God, to love God and fellow men, and to relay on Jesus to help us drive out the spiritual serpents in our lives. Amen.
Deciding on which college to attend is a large part of a high schooler’s life. So much time and pressure are spent boosting our GPA, participating in extracurriculars, and volunteering so that we get accepted into our ‘’dream school.’’
I was not one of those people.
My GPA was good, but I didn’t have to put in much effort to earn it. The only extracurricular activity that I was involved with was theatre. And for volunteering, I spent some summers helping the public library in my town plus being one of the leaders for Vacation Bible School at the local church.
I applied to four colleges in my state: a private Jesuit university, a private Catholic university, and two public state universities. I ended up deciding on attending Western Connecticut State University. It’s public state college about 45 minutes from my hometown. I picked WCSU because of the financial aid they awarded me, its smaller size, and the opportunity to have a fresh start.
When move-in-day finally arrived, I was surprised at how quickly I adjusted to college. In a matter of weeks, I was able to walk around campus without getting lost. Plus, I had found a group of friends to hang out with.
The Life Changing Experience of the Newman Center
Around the end of September, however, my entire life was changed when I was introduced to my university’s Newman Center.
The Western Connecticut State University Newman Center.
At the time, I was a Catholic at surface level. I was raised in the faith as a child and attended religious education classes. I also received the sacraments of First Holy Communion, Reconciliation, and Confirmation. However, I did not have my own personal relationship with God. Daily prayer was something that I did not partake in. Nor did I attempt to go to Confession or read the Bible.
The only time that I thought about Jesus was once a week.
Four FOCUS missionaries resided at the Newman Center. It was the first time I witnessed young adults live out their Catholic faith. All the missionaries prayed daily, went to Mass daily, and received Confession often. What was more amazing was the fact that they interacted with others in a welcoming manner. Not only that, but everything they consumed, said and did was for the glory of the Lord. Their actions reminded me of this Bible verse:
Finally, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. ―Philippians 4:8
Challenges of Being a Catholic in a Secular College
As I spent more time at Newman, I got to experience many things that I have never experienced before: engaging in fellowship, attending a Bible study; being in the presence of the Lord during Adoration. By learning and growing in faith, I realized that I must do a very important thing; the most challenging thing that I have ever done (or ever will do): being of the Word and not of the world.
Attending a small, secular, state school has made this no easy feat.
Being a Catholic at a college where faith isn’t a priority in many students’ lives can be frustrating. I have encountered the following challenges along the way:
Questioning whether I should wear my Miraculous medal or the shirt with Our Lady of Guadalupe on the back out in public instead of during a time when I’m in my dorm room more.
Whispering the rosary at night, hoping that my roommates don’t hear me and call me out on what I’m doing.
The awkwardness of discussing with classmates why I haven’t seen an episode of Euphoria because ‘’that show is something that I am not a fan of.’’
It’s watching some of my friends outwardly (and proudly) state that a woman has the right to decide what to do with her body, even if meant killing the innocent human being that was inside her.
Honestly, there have been times I’ve been upset and wished I attended a Catholic university. In the moment, it seemed ‘easier’ to be surrounded by people who were just like me.
Living the Christian Faith is Worth It
But walking with Christ has never been (or never will be) easy. If it was, then we wouldn’t be able to grow in our faith. The temptation to go with the crowd and abandon my beliefs is something that I will always have to fight against.
But it is something that’s worth fighting for.
No matter what my peers say about the Church, I will continue to advocate for Her. I have experienced faith, fellowship, love, and servitude, and I know just how beautiful it can be. More than ever, college students are chasing sin to fulfill the emptiness in their hearts. But what they don’t realize is that those desires of being seen, wanted, and loved can be satisfied in Christ.
The Lord wanted me to attend a secular college so I can discover Him in a non-traditional setting and to become a vessel of His love for the campus community.
For a girl who never obsessed about which college to attend, I ended up at the school where I was meant to be. And that’s all because of Jesus.
About our guest blogger:
Erica Lynn is a third-year Communication and Marketing student at Western Connecticut State University and is Secretary of her college’s Newman Club. Erica is passionate about fellowship and the power of social media to evangelize within the Church. Follow her on Instagram @_catholit_ to see more Catholic content.