According to St. John Paul II, “As the family goes, so goes the nation and so goes the whole world in which we live.” Families are a microcosm of society. The breakdown of the family unit is the greatest tragedy of our lifetime.
Living with other people is challenging.
Raising children is a full-time job. It’s an underappreciated and exhausting job. There is no parent manual. Too many unique circumstances exist for a clear-cut black and white rulebook. Right?!
While the details of parenthood can be debatable, there is a blueprint to raising a family with grace and love. This model is found by examining the Holy Family! Jesus. Mary. Joseph.
An analysis of Scripture and Traditional Catholic teaching will show us that the Holy Family’s love, obedience to God’s will, humility, and patience give you an example of how to foster meaningful and lasting relationships with your friends, spouses, children, and neighbors.
Model for the Family
In his Angelus on December 31st, 2006, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI declared, “The Holy Family of Nazareth is truly the “prototype” of every Christian family which, united in the Sacrament of Marriage and nourished by the Word and the Eucharist, is called to carry out the wonderful vocation and mission of being the living cell not only of society but also of the Church, a sign and instrument of unity for the entire human race.
Jesus displayed obedience to his parents. This truth is shown in the tradition of the Catholic Church. The opening Antiphon in the Divine Office for the Feast of the Holy Family is “Come let us worship Christ, the Son of God, who was obedient to Joseph and Mary.” Simple yet profound!
Imagine being God and still able to submit yourself to the authority of your father and mother.
Silence leads to sanctity
Guess how many words of St. Joseph did the Evangelists record in the Gospels? If you guessed a whopping ZERO than you are correct my friend! Though included in the key infancy and adolescent scenes of Jesus’ life the foster father of our Lord said nothing!
The adage “actions speaks louder than words” applies more directly to St. Joseph than arguably any other person in history– as we can only analyze his actions. Cardinal Robert Sarah in The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise plainly stated, “Man must make a choice: God or nothing, silence or noise.” Using Sarah’s logic Joseph not only clearly, but overwhelmingly chose God!
Joseph’s ability to heed the Angel’s message to flee the wrath of King Herod demonstrates a complete trust and dependence on God. The noise of life yanks me in different directions– all away from God. Looking to the silent saint as a role model helps to remind me of the importance of asking the Lord for help.
St. Joseph provides the ideal for what it means to be a kind and loving father and man. More than ever this world needs strong men to be role models for their families and communities.
Humility overcomes Hubris
According to St. Louis de Montfort, “The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary.” Mary is honored because of her humility and obedience to the will of God. Her YES to God’s plan was the pathway by which Jesus entered our world.
Like St. Joseph, Mary’s trust in God was evident in her obedience, despite the unique circumstances the Holy Family was in.
Due to Original Sin, humanity suffers a fractured relationship with God. The Mystery of the Incarnation involved God becoming man in the Person of Jesus Christ. Divine Love selected Joseph of Nazareth to be the legal and foster father of Jesus Christ and protector of Mary. Mary was chosen to be the mother of the Son of God.
St. John Paul II closed his Apostolic Exhortation Familiaris Consortio by saying, “I entrust each family to Him, to Mary, and to Joseph.”
May all men reflect upon the silent, humble, and diligent example of the Holy Family. Come Holy Spirit grant us opportunities to be holier versions of ourselves!
The Catholic Church Needs the Laity Now More than Ever
If you are a parent, teacher or have any authority over anyone in a job, then you may understand the cross you must carry at times when called set down the parameters for success. As we enter the following examination of conscience as members of the church in light of recent events in our Catholic church, let us consider the responsibilities of our leaders, and take on the mindset of child being guided by a loving (and human) parent, or a docile sheep following his trusted shepherd.
As with any confession, this is not the time to confess the sins of others in excuse for our own sins. This is a time to take a serious and deep look into our hearts and where we have failed to abide and participate in the well-being of our beautiful Mother Church.
Have I been praying for our leaders? Especially, priests, bishops and cardinals?
“When people want to destroy religion they begin by attacking the priest; for when there is no priest, there is no sacrifice; and when there is no sacrifice, there is no religion.”
— St. John Vianney.
While many of us sit and read the newspaper and watch our screens in horror at the sins of some of church leaders, we must ask ourselves in earnest, how many times have I honestly prayed for them in the past year? Month? Week? Today?
We should be praying for our church leaders. Every. Single. Day. Not only that, we need to be offering sacrifices and fasting.
If the millions of Catholics all over the world prayed for our leaders’ protection, the Holy Spirit would have listened and prevented many of the Enemy’s attacks on the clergy.
Over the years, my faithful group of Sisters in Christ have done some of the following weekly ideas:
A Holy Hour of Reparation
A rosary for our church leaders
Fasting on Fridays, even just from lunch
Offering your Sunday mass intention for them
A hand-written note reminding him that you appreciate the fact that he gave up his life to serve God and all of us.
It doesn’t have to be complicated. The smallest prayer and sacrifice can make a difference when we remember what God can do with the little we offer Him.
Do I understand that God works His will through my obedience to His authority?
Our priests are not supposed to be entertainers. I have heard people complain about the way he talks, the way he sings or doesn’t; his homilies are too long, too short or too “preachy” (really?) Maybe we didn’t like what he said or the way he said it. Maybe he told us something that challenged us or took away our favorite “toy” (Harry Potter Books, Yoga, Ouija, etc.) because he proclaimed the dangers it posed to our souls, and like a rebellious son or daughter, we reacted with an offended attitude of pride, and a sharp word for him and his failures.
Did we consider he is responsible for our sanctification? Sins of omission are when we hold back from telling the truth because of our own fear of rejection. He is responsible for the entirety of his parish in this way.
If I say to the wicked, You shall surely die—and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives—then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. 19 If, however, you warn the wicked and they still do not turn from their wickedness and evil conduct, they shall die for their sin, but you shall save your life. –Ezekiel 3:18-19
Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you. –Hebrews 13:17
Do I share in the priestly mission of the church by making my own holiness a priority?
What is the priestly mission of the church?
To understand the “priestly mission of the church”, we refer to CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI (POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION OF HIS HOLINESS JOHN PAUL II ON THE VOCATION AND THE MISSION OF THE LAY FAITHFUL IN THE CHURCH AND IN THE WORLD.)
The lay faithful are sharers in the priestly mission, for which Jesus offered himself on the cross and continues to be offered in the celebration of the Eucharist for the glory of God and the salvation of humanity. Incorporated in Jesus Christ, the baptized are united to him and to his sacrifice in the offering they make of themselves and their daily activities (cf. Rom 12:1, 2).
How can I help the priestly mission of the church?
By offering my prayer, work, struggles, suffering and joys each day.
Speaking of the lay faithful the Council says: “For their work, prayers and apostolic endeavours, their ordinary married and family life, their daily labour, their mental and physical relaxation, if carried out in the Spirit, and even the hardships of life if patiently borne-all of these become spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Pt 2:5). During the celebration of the Eucharist these sacrifices are most lovingly offered to the Father along with the Lord’s body. Thus as worshipers whose every deed is holy, the lay faithful consecrate the world itself to God”.
I recently stumbled upon a post on social media by a priest who is the new pastor of my home parish from years ago. He had posted a prayer that I found remarkably inspiring and it is the attitude we should all assume since each and everyone of us IS THE CHURCH. Pick up your yoke, give thanks to God and learn from this holy attitude that he has each mass pray together after communion each week:
Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you for our parish, St Mary’s Delaware. My parish is composed of people like me. I help make it what it is. It will be friendly, if I am. It will be holy, if I am holy. Its pews will be filled. if I help fill them. It will do great work, if I work. It will be prayerful, if I pray. It will make generous gifts to many causes, if I am a generous giver.
It will bring others to worship, if I invite and bring them in. It will be a place of loyalty and love, of fearlessness and faith, of compassion, charity and mercy, if I, who make it what it is, am filled with these same things. Therefore, with the help of God, I now dedicate myself to the task of being all the things that I want my parish to be. Amen. Sylvester Onyeachonam; pastor St Mary Church Delaware Ohio
Let us as laity follow the example of this loving shepherd and remember:
What I am, my church will be.
Megan Naumovski is a writer, teacher of the Catholic Faith, speaker and blogger at The Domestic Church of Bosco boscoworld.blog with a mission to form laity in the Church, support priests, and bridge Christian friendships beyond the borders of denominations. Formerly a youth minister, teacher of religious education and apostolate leader for youth, she now works in leadership with Catholic women and writes in her sleep because she can’t help it.
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower,” stated Albert Camus the 20th century French Novelist. Fall is my favorite time of the year. Colorful leaves carpet the lawns in my neighborhood. I enjoy seeing the visible transformation occur on trees and watching animals prepare for winter. My wife’s birthday is during October—the middle of fall. I am indebted to God for the gift of my marriage. Without my wife, my fervor for Divine Mercy and St. Maria Faustina—her confirmation saint— may not exist!
Reflecting on autumn, my wife, and the Polish saint allowed for me to have a profound revelation: the first week of October contains an all-star line-up for saint feast days!
Five of my personal favorite saints, and historical favorites among Catholics as well, have a feast day in the first part of October. On top of this amazing realization, October is also dedicated to the Holy Rosary and respect for all life. I will be dedicating other posts on these topics so I will focus on the five feast days of five stellar saintly role models:
My children and I ask for the intercession of our guardian angels every night before bedtime. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church number 336, “From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.202 ‘Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.’203 Already here on earth the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of angels and men united in God.” God sends his messengers from Heaven to keep us safe and remind us of His Presence.
Therese of Lisieux
According to St. Therese, “Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them.” Known as the Little Flower, the saint’s words provide a fresh perspective on my daily living and struggles. As a person who focuses on problems as something to be overcome, I sometimes place an emphasis on the amount of effort I have to put forth on a task. I also struggle with desiring recognition toward my works. Instead, if I focus on love as St. Therese teaches us, my life will be more joyful!
Francis of Assisi
Francis serves as an example of holiness, but for me, it is a personal reminder for my college days. I attended Franciscan University graduate schooling. The legacy the Italian saint left on me is truly immeasurable.
His transformation from a wealthy individual to a beggar of Christ is tangible example of the Gospel lived out. Struggling with envy and greed myself, I am able to look to Francis of Assisi as a role model. Lord make me an instrument of peace like your servant Francis!
No other 20th century saint, besides John Paul II and Maximilian, has impacted me as much as St. Maria Faustina. Known as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, the Polish nun is to the 20th century what St. Paul was to the 1st century Church—the evangelizer of truth to the Gentiles! Sister Faustina helped console my wife after her best friend from high school died by suicide.
The Polish sister led my wife to convert to the Catholic faith as well! She became instrumental in deepening my relationship with God over the past decade. St. Faustina is probably the biggest influence on viewing God first as a merciful Father as opposed to a vengeful Judge. Through St. Maria Faustina I heard God’s truth in her words, “Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies the soul. In suffering, we learn who our true friend is.”
Teresa of Avila
The final heroic example of holiness the first week of October is St. Teresa of Avila. Her life differs from Maria and Therese as the Spanish saint lived a much longer life. Teresa also experienced more of a 180°-type of conversion. As a young adult, Teresa enjoyed the allure of the world. It wasn’t until her entry into the convent that the Spanish nun learned the importance of meditative prayer. Teresa’s The Interior Castle is a profound spiritual work that explores the vastness of our spiritual journey. This spiritual treatise has helped aid me on my journey.
While autumn is akin to a second springtime, my communion with the saints during October is like a second spiritual springtime for me. My guardian angel, Therese of Lisieux, Francis of Assisi, Maria Faustina, and Teresa of Avila reflect God’s merciful and transforming love.
Through communion with these exemplary role models I am given hope that my personal vices of greed, envy, and pride are able to be overcome! The Church teaches “We worship Christ as God’s Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord’s disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples!” (CCC 957). I pray the communion of saints will continue to guide you in your path toward holiness and ultimately lead us closer to God.
Over the past few weeks, life has been throwing stress-filled curveballs at me. Reeling from anxiety, anger, and frustration, I recently went to the spiritual medicine box—Confession—to gain sacramental graces to help me grow in patience and perspective. I experienced a true transformation in my life this week in the days following my reconciliation with God, the Church, and my fellow man. September 21st, 2017 became a new launching point for my spiritual journey. Excited for this re-start on my path toward Christian holiness, I will provide a few reasons why this date holds a special place in my heart.
Anniversary of the Publication of The Hobbit
Eighty years ago, on September 21st, 1937, The Hobbit—an essential item on any fantasy fan’s bookshelf—was published. Eight decades later the tale of J.R.R. Tolkien still instills wonder in its readers.
Regrettably, I did not explore Middle Earth until my mid-20s. Over the past five years, I have read The Hobbit twice and The Lord of the Rings trilogy once.
A true literary treasure is measured through its ability to stand the test of time. Nearly a century later, I would say that Tolkien’s work passes with flying colors. Characters within the story seem to speak directly to me. For instance, the dwarf Thorin tells Bilbo, “There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” How easy is it for us to lose memory of the importance things in life? I forget fairly quickly. Tolkien reminds me to look for the hidden joys in my life. Perhaps, an unexpected journey is in store for me starting September 21st, 2017.
Happy Holiness Day
Along with the anniversary of The Hobbit, September 21st is the feast day of my patron saint—St. Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Before his “coming to God moment”, Matthew worked for the Roman equivalent of the IRS. Hatred of paying government taxes is an innate principle built into humanity. Palestine 30 A.D. was no different. What courage and faith it must have taken Matthew to leave his luxurious, high paying government job?
Tax collectors were considered traitors to the Jewish people. They basically did the Roman government’s dirty work of extolling individuals for money. I always imaged how Matthew would fit in with Jesus’ motley crew of Apostles. Was he accepted right away? Did trust issues exist?
While such questions are purely speculative, but I find pondering the transition of Matthew from a hated tax collector to an evangelist helpful in my relationship with my patron saint. I too struggle to fit in at times, yet I am gifted with the ability to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ just like St. Matthew! September 21st is the beginning of my re-commitment to evangelize through my writing, family life, and volunteering at my parish. I hope to exhibit the same steadfast faith as Matthew did when Jesus said, “Follow me” (Luke 5:27).
September of Sacraments
Together with my patron saint and favorite fantasy jubilees occurring on the same day, the month of September started as a transitional month for my family and I. My wife began a new job, our children started to get in the school routine, and changes galore occurred at work. Through the grace of God and ability in our hectic scheduling, and mostly due to my serious need for divine assistance I went to confession twice this month.
During my first confession, the priests gave me this amazing penance—pray the Prayer of Humility. Humility is the virtue that stands in opposition to the vice of pride. Pride is what made the Devil fall from his celestial pedestal as God’s favored angel. Pride leads me to be an inferior version of myself. Let us briefly ask God for the gift of true and beautiful humility:
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me. From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved… From the desire of being extolled … From the desire of being honored … From the desire of being praised … From the desire of being preferred to others… From the desire of being consulted … From the desire of being approved … From the fear of being humiliated … From the fear of being despised… From the fear of suffering rebukes … From the fear of being calumniated … From the fear of being forgotten … From the fear of being ridiculed … From the fear of being wronged … From the fear of being suspected …
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I … That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease … That others may be chosen and I set aside … That others may be praised and I unnoticed … That others may be preferred to me in everything… That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…
Be on the Lookout for Your Unexpected Journey
Unexpected journeys are difficult, but the joy attained through its travel is immeasurable. Jesus tells his disciples [and us], “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25). God asks us each day: will you follow me?
Starting on September 21st, 2017, I said yes! I renewed my commitment to follow His lead. Will I continue on this path? I certainly hope so, only time will truly tell. I will close with the following exchange between the hobbit and wizard before the great journey:
Gandalf: I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.
Bilbo: I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them …
Gandalf: You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back
Bilbo: You can promise that I’ll come back?”
Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same
According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are considered the only mammal that willingly delays sleeps. For more interesting facts about sleep here is a link: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/25-random-facts-about-sleep. Sleep is an issue that pervades all of human life. As a father to four young children, I oftentimes determine the success [or failure] of a day over whether my children successfully or unsuccessfully take their scheduled nap!
The stresses of life, dealing with sick family members, and limited sleep due to my new work schedule drain me on a daily basis. The exhaustion last week became so overwhelming that I almost gave up hope. But the thing about tiredness is that is oftentimes causes people to forgot and lose strength to continue.
On the verge of wallowing in a lake of lassitude, I suddenly remembered the words of Bishop Paul Swain that he said at a confirmation Mass. Specifically referring to the sacrament of confirmation, but I believe his words apply to the rest of the sacraments as well, the successor of St. Peter said, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.”
In the past, I associated the sacraments as offensive weapons against sin, however, recently I have come to view the sacramental system as a means to shield and sustain oneness from the endless assault of the Enemy’s attacks. Below I wish to explore my experience with how the sacraments of confession, Eucharist, and marriage help provide spiritual rest for my pilgrim journey.
Growing up I remembered the summer vacations my family and I went on involved a ton of driving. If the rambunctious nature of sons is any indication of what I was like as a kid, I imagine my parents looked forward to taking a pause in the long drive to allow my siblings and I to run out our energy. As a parent, I learned that a periodic rest stop sometimes solves a fussy situation in the car. Pope Francis once declared, “Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey.”
Too many times I forget that life is more of a pilgrimage—toward Heaven. Life is not simply a tourist attraction for me to amass as much pleasurable and exciting experiences as possible.
Without Jesus as the focus of my journey I lean toward being a tourist of the world instead of a pilgrim in the world. Confession is the sacrament that provides me an opportunity to rest and receive God’s graces. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it” (CCC 1469.
Recently, I received the sacramental graces of the medicine box. I felt a large burden lifted from me and have the strength to be able to encounter the busyness of life with a calm assurance that God will sustain me even during tough situations.
Eucharist— Fuel for the Road Ahead
While Confession heals the wounds of my sins, the sacrament of the Eucharist provides me nourishment and strength for the journey for the rest of the week. In the book of Exodus, God listened to the plea of his people, traveling in the wilderness, a plea for food to sustain them during the tumultuous journey. As amazing and unmerited the gift of manna in the Old Testament, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist as a fulfillment of this prefiguration in Exodus. Jesus decisively teaches us in John 6,
Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.
After receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ every Sunday Mass, I gain the strength to make it through the trials of this world. According to the Catechism paragraph 1391, “The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”
Reading this passage makes me reflect on the popular adage, “you are what you eat”—receiving Jesus in this sacraments helps transform us into the best [i.e. most Christ-like] versions of ourselves!
Matrimony—Momentum for the Journey
G.K. Chesterton is considered a king of wit and satire—especially among Catholics. His quotes on marriage frequent social media. Ironically, I actually shared the below memes on Instagram recently!
Wait! “I thought this article was about theological REST STOPS for our pilgrim journey—not holy hand grenades,” one might say. I agree with Chesterton, oftentimes marriage is like going to war—sins of pride, impatience, anger, lust, greed, and sloth [to name just a few]—become casualties. However, war does not always involve active or constant movement. Rather, a large part of war entails strategizing against the enemy—and that involves resting and planning. The sacrament of marriage is a gift from God that allows spouses to acquire the graces of rest and perseverance.
Marriage as a sacrament involves total commitment towards one’s spouse. Husband and wife do not split responsibilities as in a 50/50 contract. Instead, marriage is a covenant—an oath that involves 100/100 dedication of the husband toward the wife and vice versa. Honestly, I sometimes struggle to view marriage this way. Throughout periods in my wife and I’s marriage either she or I would have to “more time and effort” than the other “put in”. Keeping a tally sheet and IOUs does not lead to a fruitful marriage. Only by donning a servant mentality did I truly receive the sacramental graces of matrimony to acquire true peace and rest.
Rely on the Sacraments for Rest!
To close, I wish to again ponder the words of Bishop Paul Swain, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.” Do you take advantage God’s oasis’ for holiness? If you are married do you take time to see God work in your spouse? Is there any ways you may be able to deepen your participation in the sacrifice of the Mass? Let us use the rest of Lent as a time to grow in holiness and thank God for the gifts of the sacraments—theological rest stops for our pilgrim journey!
Try to quickly name the five first people you consult for advice when you have an important life decision to make. Look around your desk or your home and notice if you have pictures of these people in a frame or a photo album, or perhaps on your phone? My top five are usually at the top of my email, texts and phone call scrolls.
Now, imagine that those people who you so admire and consult often were perfected; they were unable to make mistakes. How much more would you value their support and guidance? How must deeper of a trusting relationship could be forged with those whom you knew could never direct you toward a detriment or misguide you in any way? These people would have complete purity of intention in cultivating your success. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? We could call them a “dream team” because there are more powerful in a group, and they are all on the same side: yours. “They” are our advocates, the saints. And the Captain of every team? Jesus Christ.
Consulting the Dream Team…
My mom had a friend who never decided anything without consulting her group of favorite saints, which she called her “dream team”. Over the years she had read about various saints of the Catholic Faith and was especially inspired by many of them. She kept a keychain handy with medals of her saintly friends. When it was time to consider even the smaller decisions of her life, she would excuse herself with “I will be right back; I have to consult the team.” Soon after, we started to notice people wearing bracelets with icons of saints around them, and we called them “team bracelets”.
Not only do we choose them, they can choose us…
Among our Catholic friends, we sometimes joke (respectfully) that when a certain saint repeatedly appears in our lives by means of social media posts, books, or discussions, we are being “saint stalked”. Like the shepherd seeking the lost sheep with great fervor and devotion, these hard-working servants of God seem to have to use some creative methods to get the attention of their more thick-headed earthly counterparts.
Stalking by a saint seemed silly to me until one day a friend came by for a visit and said “I feel like St Padre Pio is stalking me. I see him everywhere!” About three minutes later I handed her a book she wanted to borrow, and a large picture of Padre Pio fell out of the pages. I had never seen that picture before, and after staring at each other in shock for a few minutes, we attributed it to the zeal for souls for which St Padre Pio was well-known.
Communing verses worshiping…
In the Catholic Church we are often misunderstood to “worship” saints, but what our critics don’t understand is what we have in the “Communion of saints” can be likened to what Protestant believers may call “Fellowship”. The difference is simply that the fellows we hold dear are now on the other side of the veil between Heaven and Earth but are even more active in our own personal lives because they are not bound by earthly limitations, and they are holy.
The intercession of the saints. “Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness…. They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus…. So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.” [LG 49; cf. 1 Tim 2:5.] From the Catechism of the Catholic Church
August is best known in the Church for the Solemnity of the Assumption, but…
The month of August in the Catholic Church is probably best known for a great Marian feast, the Solemnity of the Assumption of The Blessed Virgin Mary, especially because it falls mid-month, on August 15th and is a Holy Day of Obligation.
The Blessed Virgin is always a premier intercessor for anyone seeking a devoted advocate because she is first and foremost, our spiritual mother, whom Jesus gave to us all through John at the foot of the cross. Lesser known, but the focus of this article, are the star-studded set of members for any person’s line-up of saintly friends. Rounding out the end of August are some amazing draft picks for your own saintly “Dream Team”.
August 24: Feast of St Bartholomew, Apostle
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite.[a] There is no duplicity in him.” John 1:47
It is thought by scholars that Bartholomew, one of the twelve apostles, is the one referred to as Nathanael in scripture. Honest and devoted, the few lines of scriptures Nathanael has in the gospels are always clear and sincere, and Christ compliments him for it. According to John 1:49, “Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God;[a] you are the King of Israel.'”
The Patron Saint of Plasters, this saint was said to have converted many souls, which eventually cost him his life, being martyred in Armenia.
August 27: Memorial of St. Monica
Many a struggling mother has enlisted the help of this patron saint who suffered her own share of heartbreak. She persistently prayed and sought deliverance of her son St Augustine, (who we celebrate one day later) as she watched him fall far from God before his astounding conversion. She won over the conversion of her fiery-tempered husband and his mother, who both made life difficult for her but finally were won over by her loving and pious example. As patron saint of Alcoholics, conversions, married women and mothers, many of us find comfort in the steadfast ways of St Monica.
August 28: Memorial of St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
If we struggle with a temperament that is reactive or impassioned, it may benefit us to call on St Augustine as a member of our own dream team. As outlined particularly in his well-known work, The Confessions, he journeys from an embattled life of sin, to a powerful conversion to become one of the most revered doctors of the Catholic Faith. A powerful group of saints were surround the life of this great thinker and writer, who 1500 years later continues to stoke the fires of theologians and philosophers alike.
“Venerate the martyrs, praise, love, proclaim, honor them. But worship the God of the martyrs.”
–ST. AUGUSTINE, Sermons
August 29: Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist
We finalize the late August Dream Team with St John the Baptist; whose unique celebration is described here in the Breviary of “yesterday’s” St Augustine;
“For all these the final day of their lives, the day on which they completed their earthly service is honored. But for John the day of his birth, the day on which he began this mortal life is likewise sacred. The reason for this is, of course, that the Lord willed to announce to men His own coming through the Baptist, lest if He appeared suddenly, they would fail to recognize Him. John represented the Old Covenant and the Law. Therefore he preceded the Redeemer, even as the Law preceded and heralded the new dispensation of grace.”
“The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, [Cf. Heb 12:1 .] especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were ‘put in charge of many things.’ [Cf. Mt 25:21.] Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.”
Megan Naumovski is on a mission to remind the world of the love God has for each and every soul, and how that love deserves our response. Every day she is a wife and mom in her domestic church, but in the world she helps lead others to Christ though ministry leadership, teaching, speaking and blogging at The Domestic Church of Bosco, http://boscoworld.blog .
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.
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.
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 whenever I struggle with sin, I reflect on individuals who struggled with similar temptations and ask for help. My particular vice is anger. St. Jerome was known to be quite hot-headed and rash with his words. In fact he minced words with St. Augustine several times throughout his life. Eventually 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!
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.
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.
A fruit of my of relationship with my spiritual brothers and sisters in Heaven is that I am more closely united with the rest of humanity. By mirroring good and holy role models I am better able to display works of charity and humility toward the poor in both spirit and materially poor in my community. It is not enough to magically state, I love mankind in the conceptual sense. Instead 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!