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 Teresa of Avila Pray for Us!

Saint Teresa of Avila

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Among my favorite saints is the Spanish Carmelite nun Teresa of Avila. Her spirituals works bring peace and comfort to my life. I discovered a simple, but powerful prayer, a poem Saint Teresa wrote, that brings comfort in distressing times.


Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.


We thank God for the wonder witness of the life of Saint Teresa of Avila. May we look to her as a faithful spiritual toward Jesus Christ. St. Teresa pray for us!

Related Links

How Saint Teresa of Avila Cut Through My Exterior with Her Interior Castle

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

St. Teresa of Avila: Catholic Miracles

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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.

spiritual surgeons

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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5 Reasons Why October is an Extra Holy Time

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“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:

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Guardian Angels

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.

St. Therese of Liseux quote

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!

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Maria Faustina

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.”

Saint Teresa of Avila

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.

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Related Links

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

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

5 Astonishing Facts about Your Guardian Angel

St. Francis of Assisi: Lover of the Eucharist

Why I Absolutely Love Saint Therese Of Lisieux


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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.

Catherine of Siena quote

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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6 Cool Facts about Saint Joan of Arc

Over the course of the past 500 years, Saint Joan of Arc has experienced arguably more variance of opinion than any other figure in the Catholic Church. Born in 1412 the French saint grew up during the Hundred Years War—the most turbulent time in the history of England and France. She led a siege on the English which proving instrumental, and as a turning point toward France’s ultimate victory. Vilified by a pro-English bishop, Joan was burned at the stake in 1431 as a heretic.

Although cleared of charges by Pope Callixtus III in in 1456, Joan was not officially canonized a saint until 1920—by Pope Benedict XV. Patron saint of soldiers and France, Joan also serves as a solid role model for women and for those facing corruption. Along with her being an epic national heroine for France, here are six other amazing facts you should know about St. Joan of Arc.

Saint Joan of Arc

She was a tenacious teenager

Parents of children currently in middle and high school are quite aware of the fieriness of teenagers. Joan was no example. Dying at the mere age of 19, she accomplished more than the average adolescent. Aided by the Holy Spirit, Joan withstood the intense scrutiny of the ecclesial court trial. Listen to this portion of her 8th Privation Examination to get a sense of the hard-lined questioning she faced:

Examiner: “Do you know if Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret hate the English?”

Joan: “They love what God loves: they hate what God hates.”

Examiner: “Does God hate the English?”

Joan: “Of the love or hate God may have for the English, or of what He will do for their souls, I know nothing; but I know quite well that they will be put out of France, except those who shall die there, and that God will send victory to the French against the English.”

Examiner: “Was God for the English when they were prospering in France?”

Joan: “I do not know if God hated the French; but I believe that He wished them to be defeated for their sins, if they were in sin.”

Sounding like a typically obstinate teen, at least to prideful clergy, Joan quipped back without being baited into judging the English. She was simply carrying out the will of God!

She experienced victory through her visions

A second amazing fact about the life of Joan of Arc is that she received visions and guidance from God, angels, and saints. The most common “Voices” as she initially called them included a star-studded crew: St. Michael the Archangel, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Margaret of Antioch. The French saint achieved hope and strength in the face of adversity because of her devotion to the saints. In the Second Private Examination, Joan was questioned about the role of her visions. Here is a sample of that exchange:

Examiner: “Has not the Angel, then, failed you with regard to the good things of this life, in that you have been taken prisoner?”

Joan: “I think, as it has pleased Our Lord, that it is for my well-being that I was taken prisoner.”

Examiner: “Has your Angel never failed you in the good things of grace ?”

Joan: “How can he fail me, when he comforts me every day? My comfort comes from Saint Catherine and Saint Margaret.”

Examiner: “Do you call them, or do they come without being called?”

Joan: “They often come without being called; and other times, if they do not come soon, I pray Our Lord to send them.”

She had complete trust in her convictions

Saint Joan of Arc quote

Another interesting thing about Joan was her complete and utter trust. Her convictions were so strong that she even ran away from home to join the army. This left her parents distraught! Certainly, if my children suddenly disappeared without my knowledge I would be full of worry. God does work in mysterious ways. Seriously though, he guided a young girl to join the ranks of the military! Not sure if I would possess that much trust.

As crazy and reckless Joan’s decision was she trusted in a greater Divine Plan. If you ever get told to trust in God’s will plan for the unexpected
— Joan definitely did!

She wore antagonistic apparel

While Joan’s expeditious enrollment into the French army seems odd enough, her refusal to don women’s clothing throughout her trial is even more interesting. As I read over a hundred pages of trial documents including both public and private cross examinations, a common theme persisted: her insistence to wear her military uniform. Maybe it was to gain influence in a male-dominated society. Perhaps Joan genuinely hated dresses. Regardless, she definitely would be considered a “tomboy” by today’s standards.

Her fashion idiosyncrasies together with her persistent temper certainly surprised the prosecution. So much that Joan was given at least 5 times to switch her garb. The next time a Catholic student complains about the uniform advise them at least it is not a life or death matter!

She was also intellectually brilliant

A fifth fact about St. Joan that I found truly amazing was her theological acumen. Along with being a courageous solider, she has great insight to offer the faithful. The Catechism of the Catholic Church directly references Joan four times: CCC 223, 435, 795, and 2005. When Joan’s judges attempted to create a false dichotomy and trap her into siding with God or the Church, she quipped, “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they’re just one thing, and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.” The wisdom and simplicity of her response reminds me of Jesus’ interrogation by Pilate.

She was likely a Southpaw

The sixth fact about St. Joan of Arc that I found fascinating relates to penmanship. According to modern handwriting experts, the French saint may have actually been left-handed. They determined this by looking at the stroke angles of the surviving manuscripts with her signature (https://www.jeanne-darc.info/biography/letters/ ) As a fellow southpaw, this is a cool connection I have with Joan. If you have a left-handed family member or friend please share this neat fact with them!

Joan of Arc exhibited high moral character in spite of a hostile secular and religious climate. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI spoke exceptionally of her in his January 26th, 2011 General Audience:

Dear brothers and sisters, with her luminous witness St Joan of Arc invites us to a high standard of Christian living: to make prayer the guiding motive of our days; to have full trust in doing God’s will, whatever it may be; to live charity without favouritism, without limits and drawing, like her, from the Love of Jesus a profound love for the Church. 

Let us also trust in God with the same fervor and consistently as St. Joan of Arc. Lead us in the battle of sin and into communion with our Savior Jesus Christ!

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How Saint Rita of Cascia’s Story is Impossibly Beautiful

The process pearls are created is a wonder of wonder. A speck of sand or small piece of a shell finds it’s way inside an oyster. Due to the irritant, the oyster secretes a substance called nacre. It covers the irritant and over time (on average seven years) the nacre builds up to form a beautiful pearl.

Rita of Cascia— Beautifully Holy Saint

God often works in a person’s spiritual life like a grain of sand provokes the oyster. Over the course of time, God allows individuals to suffer, participate in the Passion of His Son Jesus Christ, as a means to grow in holiness. One of the greatest saints whose life mirrored the beauty of a pearl is Saint Rita of Cascia.

Rita of Cascia

Rita was born in 1381 in the republic of Cascia. In the local dialect her name meant “pearl” (what a coincidence!). Growing up, Rita became acquainted with the Augustinian nuns of St. Mary Magdalene Monastery. Their lifestyle attracted Rita but her parents wanted her to marry. Rita had an arranged marriage to Paolo Mancini and had two sons.

The political climate of her time was volatile (not unlike today). Fighting between families broke out often.  Rita’s husband was murdered as a result of this violence. She already was following the will of God when she gave forgiveness to her husband’s murderers. Shortly after, both of her sons fell seriously ill and died. Instead of allowing the loss of her entire family cripple her spiritually, Rita plunged further into trusting God’s Providence.

Rita sought to join the religious life after 18 years of marriage. Initially, the Augustinian nuns rejected her requests because Rita’s extended family still refused to forgive her husband’s killers. Her peacekeeping and persistence finally helped her family (and others in the region) reconcile and give up hatred.

At the age of 36, Rita was accepted into the religious life under the Rule of Saint Augustine. She lived out this vocation for forty years. Shortly before dying, Rita received one of the wounds of Christ— the crown of thorns.

Patron Saint of Impossible Causes

One of the things Rita of Cascia is most known for is her patronage of impossible causes. God works in mysterious and wonderful ways. He allowed Rita to experience the full gamut of life: daughter, wife, mother, widow, and religious nun. Seemingly ordinary vocations, the process by which God allowed Rita to follow those paths was anything but ordinary.

Rita of Cascia crown of thorns

Forgiving those who have hurt you may seem like an impossible task sometimes. How can you find it in your heart to show mercy to those who bitterly rejected or hated you? Rejection is a natural part of life. But continual rejection? It can make even the most ardent wills downcast and doubt God’s plan.

Three years ago, my wife and I thought she was going to miscarry our youngest daughter. She had some bleeding and other same signs as our previous miscarriages. We implored the intercession of many saints—Rita of Cascia was one of them. Since Mother’s Day 2017, my wife and I had never forgotten to include Saint Rita in our nightly litany.

Rita is an excellent saint to petition for help. We all experienced chaos, tumult, and confusion the past year. No matter your circumstance please take refuge in the fact God uses all things for good (Romans 8:28).


Dear St. Rita,
during your entire life on earth
you found your happiness by following the will of our heavenly Father.

Help me to be as trusting of God in all His plans for me.
Help me this day to give myself to Him as you did,
without limit, without fear, without counting the cost.

Help me to be generous in serving the needs of others,
patient in all difficulties,
forgiving toward all who injure me.

Help me to learn more deeply the great mystery of the Cross of Jesus,
so that by embracing it as you did,
I may come to experience its power to heal and to save. Amen.

Related Links

St. Rita of Cascia: Hope for the Impossible!

Rita of Cascia: Catholic Answers

Prayers to St. Rita

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