5 Reasons Why Praying to the Saints is Not like Magic

The teaching about the Communion of Saints is oftentimes a stumbling block for non-Catholics and even new Catholic converts in learning about the faith. I know my wife had a few questions about this when she initially converted almost a decade ago. Although I am a cradle Catholic, I try to put myself in the mindset of a non-believer to better understand other people’s perspectives about the Catholic faith. A common misconception about saints is that they provide a sort of magical aid or instant assistance on particular issues. Communicating with the saints solely for the spiritual relief they provide can lead to a sort of idol worship—this is not the intention of the doctrine about the Communion of Saints.

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According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church,

It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself (CCC 957).

Instead of leading us astray from God, communicating with the holy ones in Heaven is a great way to help increase our own holiness. Below are five reasons for why praying to the saints is not akin to usage of magic.

Other-centered vs. Self-centered

The primary aim of asking the saints for help through prayer is not about yourself. When I ask the saints for intercession it is usually to assist myself along with my family, friends, and the community around me. On the contrary, magic tends to be geared toward the individual. Fortune telling, Ouija boards, crystal ball reading, and other forms of magic are first and foremost focused on providing answers [usually regarding the future] for the person who uses the magic.

Call to Universal is Universal, Cauldron Brewing is a Niche Practice

Throughout the history of the Church, holiness has always been a universal call and not simply for priests and religious life. Saints appeal to everyone. In order for an individual to be officially canonized a saint they must help to a large amount of people. Truth is universal!

If a person truly lived virtuously their life would appeal to diverse population across time and space. For example, St. Augustine lived in the 4th century A.D., but his struggles with lust and promiscuity still relate to people in the 21st century who struggle with an addiction to pornography or treat sex as a casual act.

On the other hand, magic is not a universal practice. It is a niche field that appeals to a small section of humanity.

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Saints Help You Become the Best Version of Yourself

Along with being focused on others and a universal appeal, communication with the saints in Heaven ultimately help you become the best version of yourself. From my experience when I struggle with sin,  I reflect on individuals who struggled with similar temptations  and ask for help. My particular vice is anger.

Saint Jerome was known to be quite hot-headed and rash with his words. He minced words with St. Augustine several times throughout his life. Through prayer, study of the scriptures, and the sacraments, Jerome learned to overcome his anger problems. Examples like him serve as good role models for me to mimic. True and honest communication with the saints through prayer will only lead to you finding a better version of yourself!

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Magic Seeks Mastery over Material World, Sanctity Seeks Mastery over Spiritual Matters

Magic focuses on worldly matters and manipulation of matter. Alchemy seeks to transform ordinary objects into elements of greater value [i.e. other elements into gold]. Fortune telling seeks to grasp control of an individual’s future. Contrarily, praying to the saints leads to a mastery to spiritual vices and an increase in virtue.

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Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Perennial truth exists in Aesop’s timeless fable The Tortoise and the Hare. Although he was much faster, the hare assumed that the race was in the bag. Instead of running consistently through the entire race, the hare lazily snoozed for half of the race. On the other hand, the tortoise knew that the race was long, but he was constant and diligent. By the time the hare woke up the tortoise crossed the finish line. Throughout literature magic is usually a device individuals use as a shortcut to solving a problem or ethical dilemma. Oftentimes the quickest and easiest path is not always equated with the most dependable option—at least not in the long-term outlook.

Whenever I have asked the saints for assistance the relief was not immediately granted. Occasionally I received help quickly but it is not a guarantee in prayer. Regardless of the time-frame on when answers arrive from my prayer request I am always sure to pray CONSISTENTLY and BE THANKFUL.

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The saints help me love my neighbors better. Saints are models for how to grow in charity and humility. It is not enough to magically state, I love mankind in the conceptual sense. I meet the individual in the daily circumstances of my life. My spiritual helpers in the communion of saints draw me closer to Jesus and others!

Related Links

A Holy Kaleidoscope—The Diversity Of The Saints In Light Of Christ

The Beginner’s Guide to Catholic Saints

5 Stunning Facts about Saint Catherine of Siena

Aren’t We All ‘Saints’?

The Origins of Halloween & All Saints Day

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Saint Jude—Patron of Impossible Causes Pray for us

O most holy apostle, Saint Jude, faithful servant and friend of Jesus,

the Church honoureth and invoketh thee universally, as the patron of hopeless cases,

and of things almost despaired of.

Pray for me, who am so miserable. Make use, I implore thee, of that particular

privilege accorded to thee, to bring visible and speedy help where help was almost

despaired of.

Come to mine assistance in this great need, that I may receive

the consolation and succor of Heaven in all my necessities, tribulations,

and sufferings, particularly (here make your request) and that I may praise

God with thee and all the elect throughout eternity.

I promise thee, O blessed Jude, to be ever mindful of this great favour,

to always honour thee as my special and powerful patron, and to gratefully

encourage devotion to thee.

Amen.

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Spiritual Surgeons— Clean Out the Wounds of Your Soul with Teresa of Avila

Saint Teresa of Avila


Editor’s Note: Article originally published in 2017.


Does Your Soul Need a Deep Clean?

My wife and I completed an intense bout of pre-spring cleaning (it was a mere 2 days before the official start of spring J) this past weekend. That coupled with a reference to avoiding desolation and clearing our soul from the “dustiness” of a dry spiritual life during my weekly parish men’s group influenced the title of this post and inspired me to write today.

I am a neat freak. In fact, one of the major three tenets my blog is based on is organization. I am passionate about decluttering, sorting, and cleaning dusty crevices in my house. Yet, when it comes to the spiritual life, why do I occasionally lack the same fervor that I have cleaning my physical house?

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 797,

“What the soul is to the human body, the Holy Spirit is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.”243 “To this Spirit of Christ, as an invisible principle, is to be ascribed the fact that all the parts of the body are joined one with the other and with their exalted head; for the whole Spirit of Christ is in the head, the whole Spirit is in the body, and the whole Spirit is in each of the members.”244 The Holy Spirit makes the Church “the temple of the living God”.

The Cleansing Power of the Holy Spirit

This imagery of the Holy Spirt being housed in the church is not new. St. Paul clearly states this in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 2 Corinthians 6:16 to name just a couple verses. However, it was through the intercession of St. Teresa of Avila’s writing that I especially encountered this truth recently.

She begins her greatest work, Interior Castle, with the following divinely inspired words, “ I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions.”

Teresa’s description of the soul is easy for me to understand yet at the same time illustrates the complexity of our human condition.

Throughout the Interior Castle the doctor of the Church takes readers on a spiritual journey by examining how in navigating through the castle of our soul we are able to grow in closer union with God.

Saint Teresa of Avila Pray for Us

Without a thorough examination of oneself and spiritual guidance we are not able to recognize the graces God grants us daily and gives ways for us to clear out the “dustiness” of our soul. Just like how my home needs frequent seasonal cleanings, the Church in Her wisdom has seasonal cleanings as well for us to grow in holiness.

My goal is to take a few minutes each week to reflect on St. Teresa of Avila’s words in Interior Castle. I hope you all prayerfully consider to join me in this journey and cleanse your own soul of the “dustiness” of sin and temptation.

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Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons—Saint Catherine of Siena

Spiritual Surgeons— Saint Isidore of Seville

Doctors of the Catholic Church: Definition and Complete List

Spiritual Surgeons— Alphonsus Liguori

Spiritual Surgeons—St. Lawrence of Brindisi

 

 

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Join Together—the Message of Jolly Pope John XXIII

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on October 15, 2018.


According to the Nicene Creed, the first of the distinguishing marks of the Catholic Church is unity. Without unity things tend to fall apart: societies collapse, families fight, and friendships evaporate. Over the course of history the Church has undergone a multitudes of developments and faced its share of difficulties threatening union. Jesus Christ promised that in spite of the conflicts unity still would persist through the office of the papacy.

United by the Holy Spirit

Guided by the power of the Holy Spirit all successors to the original “rock” of the Church, the Apostle St. Peter, provide stability and direction to the faithful. While I have been blessed with to live witness the tail end of the prominent papacy of St. John Paul II [the Great], I recently made an effort to acquaint myself with former pontiffs from the 20th century. Most recently, I learned more about the wondrous, albeit brief, papacy of the St. John XXIII.

Two words immediately come to mind with I think of John XXIII—jolliness and unity! He was a joyfully jolly individual whose papacy promoted greater unity for all mankind.  The Italian pope declared, “The whole world is my family.”

While at face value, this appears to be a simple and unimpressive statement, looking at the human conflicts currently existing in the world today and throughout history, we suddenly realize that disunity is part and parcel of human nature. Opening the world to the Catholic Church via the initiation of the Second Vatican Council, John XXIII opened the supernatural ark and invited humanity a chance assess the spiritual graces housed in the Catholic Church.

I am grateful to have discovered the positivity, and harmonious message of the pope of the Second Vatican Council. Below are several insightful and uplifting words from St. John XXII we can reflect on for the rest of the week!

Selected Quotes

“I want to throw open the windows of the Church so that we can see out and the people can see in.”

“Before everything else, fidelity to the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Jesus did not found several churches, but one single Church.”

“O Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, I would like to be filled with love for You; keep me closely united with You, may my heart be near to Yours. I want to be to You like the apostle John. O Mary of the Rosary, keep me recollected when I say these prayers of yours; bind me forever, with your rosary, to Jesus of the Blessed Sacrament. Blessed be Jesus, my love.”

“Men are like wine – some turn to vinegar, but the best improve with age.”

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Faustina’s Faith: How A Simple Polish Nun Changed My World


Editor’s Note: Post originally published on October 10, 2017.


October 5th marked the Feast Day of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska. Venerated by the Catholic Church as the “Apostle of Mercy” the Polish saint influenced the world arguably more than any other individual in the 20th century. I have mentioned this previously and I will mention this again, Sister Faustina holds a special place in my heart. She has impacted my writing and spirituality as much as anyone. Classified as a mystic because of her unique spiritual experiences and visions from God, Maria Faustina is a model of what holiness looks like when an individual completely trusts on the Father’s will. As a belated celebration of her Feast Day, I will reflect on a couple ways the Polish nun influenced my life.

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Daily Dose of Divine Mercy

Maria Faustina received this message from our Lord during her visions,

“‘I am love and Mercy Itself.  There is no misery that could be a match for My mercy, neither will misery exhaust it, because as it is being granted – it increases.  The soul that trusts in My mercy is most fortunate, because I Myself take care of it.’” (1273, page 459).

In His infinite wisdom, God reminded the world—through the young Polish sister—that His mercy overcomes anything. The 20th century experienced two world wars and many decades of Communism. St. Faustina died of tuberculosis before the advent of WWII. God used her as an instrument to prepare people that hope will not be lost despite the atrocities of the Holocaust.

On a personal level, my family has been transformed spiritually by God’s mercy. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy Prayer pulled my wife from the depths of despair after her close high school friend died by suicide. Faustina’s intercession within my wife’s life poured into my spiritual life as well. Frequently, I look to God’s mercy in times of trial and desolation in daily living. I am grateful for St. Maria Faustina’s “YES” to God’s divine plan.

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Trust Me I’m the Doctor

I need to be direly ill before I allow myself to go to the doctor. Unfortunately, sometimes the same can be said about my spiritual life. Because of my stubbornness and pride, I only seek help from the divine physician when I need spiritual triage. I need to develop a better trust is Jesus Christ—my divine healer—to aid me both in desperate times and during daily living! According to St. Faustina, trust is an essential feature in growing in the spiritual life. Here is an excerpt from her diary:

Today the Lord said to me, ‘Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it.  Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself entirely in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul.  When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you.  I am only hidden by the priest, but I Myself act in your soul.  Here the misery of the soul meets the God of Mercy.  Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust.  If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity.  The torrent of grace inundate humble souls.  The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls. (1602, page 568)

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Do I trust that God is present in the confessional? Am I aware that I am spiritually infirmed and in need of healing? Jesus tells us, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Luke 5:31). Through the intercession of Sister Maria I have learned to view Jesus more as a divine doctor and the Catholic Church as a hospital.  Let us ask for healing from our sin and weakness by asking Christ the Divine Physician for restorative union with God:

Healing Novena

To Christ the Great Physician
We know that there is one physician:
Both flesh and spirit
uncreated, yet born
God in man
True life in death
From both Mary and From God
Subject to suffering and then impassible
Jesus Christ our Lord!

We ask O Great Physician, for spiritual, physical, and emotional healing, especially my intention of ______.
You of both flesh and spirit

May we spend all of our days in your healing presence
You the eternal Son born for us

Grant us the healing benefits of your Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection
You who are true God and true man

Grant us your true life in the midst of death
You, the true life in death

Grant us to follow your example and that of your Blessed Mother
You, from both Mary and from God

May our suffering be for our growth; free us, we pray, from that which we cannot bear
We ask You, O God the Word who became man to suffer

We ask you to grant us this healing if it brings us closer to you,
Jesus Christ our Lord!

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Related Links

3 Ways St. Maria Faustina Provided Buoyancy in the Overwhelming Ocean of Life

Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska The Humble Instrument

St. Faustina’s Eucharistic Wisdom: 10 Gems

3 Reasons Why I Am Thankful for Divine Mercy Sunday!

 

 

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5 Stunning Facts about Saint Catherine of Siena

Saint Catherine of Siena was one of the greatest followers of Christ. Her ability to articulate to Gospel and her ability to charitably bring the papacy to reform are among the key reasons she is one of my favorite saints. My youngest daughter is even named after this amazing saint. Here’s five amazing facts about Catherine.

Catherine of Siena

25 Kids and Counting

While it may seem astronomical to us, having 25 children was not insane back in the Middle Ages. Due to the low infant mortality rate and disease, families gave born to many children but unfortunately few survived to adulthood. Catherine was the 25th child born to her mother, but only half of her siblings survived childhood!

Still, it is incredible to think that if Catherine’s parents lived in today’s society, it would be very likely they would not have been as open to live of so many children. It is astounding that God works in miraculous ways to take one of the youngest of such a large family to grace her with the eventual title of Doctor of the Church!

None of the Nunnery

I always believed that Catherine was part of a religious order and lived in a convent  similar to spiritual greats like Therese of Lisieux and Teresa of Avila. After reading more about her, I learned that she actually never spent time in a convent.  Instead, Catherine joined the Third Order of St. Dominic. This permitted her to associate with a religious society while remaining within the confines of her home.

Gone too Soon

Why do the most innocent and vibrant of souls perish too early? From film stars to sports figures that perished at a young age, to maybe someone within your life that died too soon, it is natural to question the purpose of an early death. While I do not have the answer to that question, I found it interesting that Catherine of Siena died at the mere age of 33—the exact age that Jesus Christ was crucified, died, and buried!

Never Let Obstacles Get in Your Way

It would have been easy for Catherine to give up when she wrote the pope but she remained steadfast. Her persistence and charity were instrumental in convincing Pope Gregory XI to return from Avignon to Rome.

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Unseen Suffering

The stigmata are wounds certain saints received on their hands and/or feet. It is a sign of their closeness to Christ and was given to them as a reminder for Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. In the case of Catherine, the stigmata wounds were visible only to her. She accepted this unique suffering with grace and hope in God’s Providence.

God raises up holy individuals in times of great need. Saint Catherine of Siena is a perfect role model for Catholics in the 21st century in a world where it’s common to be less than enthusiastic about the faith. May we ask for her help to grow in love and devotion to God.

“Be who you were created to be, and you will set the world on fire.”

― St. Catherine of Siena

Related Links

Spiritual Surgeons—Saint Catherine of Siena

Saint Catherine of Siena’s Miracle in My Life

How Saint Catherine of Siena Leads You to God

St. Catherine of Siena: Saint of the Eucharist

Catherine of Siena Novena

 

 

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Book Review— St. Maria Goretti: A Journey into Forgiveness and Redemption

Forgiving people who wronged you can be tough. Jesus constantly told his disciples to show mercy and forgive. People who have modeled excellence in virtue and holiness can be canonized as official saints in the Catholic Church. They reflect the light of Christ in the world.

Sometimes it seems like the saints are people who are inaccessible to the ordinary person. But when you break it down the path to holiness is simple (not the same as easy)— love like Jesus.

I had the pleasure of reading a book about an amazing saint who reflected Jesus’ love throughout her life— Saint Maria Goretti. Authored by Bret Thoman A Journey into Forgiveness and Redemption details the young saint’s life, death, and canonization process.

Saint Maria Goretti

Thoman begins his book with a chapter on Maria’s parents: Luigi and Assunta Goretti. I have sometimes doubted the impact I could have on my kids and their faith journey. I was reminded of the importance of showing love in the family after reading about the saint’s parents. Holiness is a habit not an isolated event. Maria didn’t randomly decide to follow Jesus. She experienced a personal love from her parents and witnessed the love they displayed to each other.

The book continues to chart out Maria’s life and describes her interaction with her parents, siblings, and faith. Thoman brings a realness to her story interweaving accounts from his pilgrimage to Italy and important places from Maria’s life. This alternating pattern between biography and personal pilgrimage captured my attention throughout the book.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on Alessandro Serenelli. It drew me into Maria Goretti’s story even more. I had some familiarity with her story and death but didn’t realize her murderer actually lived with her family for several years before he committed the horrendous act.

After the death of her father Luigi, Maria’s family had to share a house with the Serenellis. Alessandro came to consider the Goretti’s like a family and Maria as a sister. However, he began to make sexual advances towards Maria. He sunk further into this sinful behavior, and it eventually led to her death on July 6th, 1902, when he stabbed Maria to death after an attempted rape.

The harrowing details of Maria’s death in A Journey into Forgiveness and Redemption were uncomfortable to read at times, but it displayed how connected she was to Jesus until the end. Maria was able to forgive Alessandro even as she lay on the floor dying. Something I take for granted being a cradle Catholic is the notion of forgiveness. It sometimes seems like an idea into of a reality. Of course, we need to forgive (seven times seventy even!) but to forgive someone when you are in the most painful and horrifying situation is sanctity of another world.

Thoman’s book provided an intimate look into the Italian saint’s life. I enjoyed the number of details he gives of Saint Maria Goretti’s life, death, and the redemption of Alessandro. This book is an excellent read about a holy witness to the faith!

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