As I have mentioned in previous posts, my oldest son was diagnosed with being on the autism spectrum a couple years ago. This journey toward an answer to helping our son has been filled with both joys and struggles. One of the fruits of this process is my wife has discovered her calling as a special education teacher. Another benefit of her knowledge is that it helps my cousin who is experiencing similar trials as my son. Recently, my mom was doing research on saints who assist with people on the autism spectrum. She came across St. Thorlak who is currently being considered as a patron saint for people with autism spectrum disorder.
Born in 1133 A.D. Thorlak received the sacrament of Holy Orders at a young age. He was ordained a deacon at age 15 and became a priest when he was 18 years old! Eventually founding a monastery based on the rule of St. Augustine, Thorlak lived a monastic way of life for a several years. Thorlak was ordained a bishop of the Icelandic diocese of Skalholt. He continued to carry out the reforms instituted by Pope Gregory VII. St. Thorlak die in 1193 at the age of 60.
Relatively little information is known about Thorlak compared to other Catholic saints, such as Augustine, John Paul II, Teresa of Avila, Joan of Arc, etc. Despite this, my review of the website that is championing his cause for patron sainthood provides some insight as to how Thorlak could be a relieving guide in both my son’s life and our family in general.
Rigidity in manner
Being unbending in his moral expectations, St. Thorlak demonstrates a parallel to children with autism that commonly sees the world in terms of black/white dichotomy. My son for example, is a “rules kid” and will follow our household law to the letter.
Failure to Initiate or Reply to Social Interactions
According to http://mission-of-saint-thorlak.weebly.com/patron-of-asd.html, the Icelandic saint said little during the discernment process for him to become bishop. St. Thorlak displayed reticence in social situations as well. Many times children with autism spectrum disorder are non-verbal when it comes to communication.
Although a lot of Catholic tradition relies on daily routine, St. Thorlak adhered to a strict routine of fasting and prayer—especially in his time of founding and living in the monastic community. Similarly, my son thrives on a strict and regular routine.
To be clear asking saints for help is not an easy solution to daily turmoil that medicine or therapy fails to soothe. Rather, I look to saints for guidance and relief for my personal trials or family strife. In regards to St. Thorlak, I believe based on the information I learned about his life that he would be a great role model for my son to look to when it comes to the challenges a child with autism faces on a daily basis. I found this concise prayer [see below] that I printed off and taped to my car dashboard to prayer on my morning commute to work. I am grateful for the witness of St. Thorlak and I hope his life gives insight, joy, and relief to individuals and families of those with autism spectrum disorder!
November 1st—the Celebration of the Feast of All Saints—among my favorite feasts in the Church’s liturgical calendar. Only the Feast of the Holy Trinity and the Most Precious Body and Blood eclipses All Saints Day in significance for me personally.
Who are the Saints?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “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” (CCC 956).
In other words, the reason we honor the holy men and women in union in Heaven with God is because they draw of closer to unity with God. November 1st is not meant to be a Holy Oscars or a rolling out of a theological red carpet.
The Saints Point Us to God
Saints are witnesses to the faith and reflect the light Holy Trinity. I am reminded St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney when he said, “We are all like little mirrors, in which God contemplates Himself. How can you expect that God should recognize His likeness in an impure soul?” This likening of the human soul as a reflection, a mirror of God’s love can be found even earlier in Church tradition. St. Theophilus of Antioch [circa 2nd century A.D.] declared,
A person’s soul should be clean, like a mirror reflecting light. If there is rust on the mirror his face cannot be seen in it. In the same way, no one who has sin within him can see God.
Below I formed a list, a sort of personal litany of saints, and applicable holy writings that have helped me grow in holiness and polish my soul to better reflect the love of the Holy Trinity.
Along with the names of canonized saints who personally influenced me, I outlined several Christian writers who lived fairly recently or are currently alive and are not officially canonized. Nevertheless, the books from the suggested reading still helped me grow in my Catholic faith.
***Note: I added the book(s) that I have actually read that have impacted me and deepened my relationship with God through the saint. This is in no way an exhaustive list –it is merely a list of saints whose writings and/or witness influenced me positively***
November Nourishment for the Soul
Mary- The World’s First Love: Mary, Mother of God by Venerable Fulton Sheen
Athanansius: On the Incarnation; Life of St. Antony
Pope John Paul II: Fides Et Ratio; Redemptoris Misso; Veritatis Splendor
Maria Faustina: Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul
Francis de Sales: Introduction to the Devout Life
Louis de Montfort: True Devotion to Mary
Terersa of Avila: Interior Castle
John of the Cross: Dark Night of the Soul
Therese of Lisieux: The Autobiography of Saint Therese of Lisieux: The Story of a Soul
Luke: Acts of the Apostle; Gospel According to Luke
Josemaria Escriva: The Way
Pope Pius XII: Humani Generis
James: The Letter of St. James
Pope Pius IX
Pope Leo XIII
Francis of Assisi
Ignatius of Loyala
Ambrose: De Incarnationis Dominicæ Sacramento [on the Incarnation and Sacraments]
Thomas Aquinas: The Summa Theologica
G.K. Chesterton: Orthodoxy
S. Lewis: Mere Christianity; Screwtape Letters; Space Trilogy
Bishop Robert Barron: Catholicism
Peter Kreeft, P.H.D.: Socrates Meets Jesus: History’s Greatest Questioner Confronts the Claims of Christ; Prayer for Beginners; Between Heaven and Hell
J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings
Now these readings aren’t replacement for the Mass. Hopefully you find this list helpful in your spiritual journey!
“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.
💡💡💡If you are unhappy with the state of things you can do two things:
1️⃣ Do nothing except complain
2️⃣ Be an agent of change yourself
I used to simply lament about my situation. Vent. Vent. More venting. Some days I took up so much hot air I could have probably filled a hot-air balloon!
Taking perspective and focusing on being more self-aware. According to 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.” Trusting in Jesus has helped to energize me and in turn motivate me to act toward bettering me life.
Saintly Agents in the War on Evil
Athanasius of Alexandria, Catherine of Siena, Francis of Assisi, John Paul II all saw lived during transitory and tumultuous times. Times when it appeared truth would lose. Cooperating with the Holy Spirit, these saints were granted a tremendous ability to push for change.
More Examples of Change Agents
My literary heroes C. S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien both lamented about the lack of quality content in their niche. What did they do? They become the leading experts and content creators in the fantasy genre. Without their initiative we would not know about hobbits or the magical world of Narnia 🦁.
Today, I am seeing the Catholic Church in a dismal state. Theological confusion from leadership and abuses scandals test the laity’s faith. This leaves many disengaged & disheartened by the current states of affairs.
Fight or Flight in the Face of Flames?
🔥It is easy to leave a burning building when it is going up in flames. But what if that building contains the very thing that gives you life, excitement, tenacity, peace, joy, courage, & wonder? Would it be so easy to leave?
🔥Our life is not our own. We were created to love God first, others second, & ourselves third.
🔥Do you abandon the ark away from the flames into the watery chaos of the secular world?
🔥Or do you plunge further into the flames of suffering as a means to meet the true fire of God’s love?
🔥Will you be an agent of change or simply complain, do nothing, & eventually leave?
🔥The choice is yours. Be Change Agent 007 and help cleanse the Church!
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 timing of Cardinal Newman’s canonization is definitely providential. God is reminding us, and hopeful more Catholics will learn, of the wonderful, keen, and common sense approach to holiness of the English priest.
I am excited for his official sainthood. I hope you are as well. Please check out a sermon or writing of John Henry Newman this summer. I guarantee your fervor for the faith will ignite 🔥 🔥!
Check out more content on Cardinal Newman from my latest article for EpicPew at the link 👇