A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Posts Tagged ‘saints

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, so as a child, I looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day for the Shamrock Shakes. Until I was an adult, I never heard about the legend that St. Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland—or, more importantly, about his work to establish the church in Ireland.

And so I wonder how many of the saints and blesseds we know only by name and not for their good works or the sacrifices they made for their faith—think St. Patrick, St. Nicholas, St. Christopher and St. Valentine, to name just a few—and how many we know nothing about.

The Catechism tells us that the Church “is the place where we know the Holy Spirit (…) in the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation” (s. 688). That the saints “share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings and their prayer today” and that we “can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world” (s. 2683).

The media have made us more aware of the life and work of blesseds and saints such as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and St. André Bessette, as well as of beatifications and canonizations, such as the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014. But what do we know about the saints and blesseds who lived before the 19th and 20th centuries?

We all need positive role models in the faith, especially if our circle of family, friends and acquaintances doesn’t include many believers. Learning about the efforts of saints and blesseds to hold onto their faith and reading the writings and prayers they have left for us can encourage us in our own faith journey.

When the youth in my son’s confirmation class were asked to choose the name of a saint as their confirmation name, many of them, through their research, “discovered” saints who could serve as role models for them and intercede for them. For example, in searching for a patron saint of athletes, my son learned about St. Sebastian, whose biography on Catholic Online points to “his energetic way of spreading and defending the Faith.”

To learn more about the saints, including St. Patrick, visit Catholic Online, which offers biographies of many blesseds and saints on its “Saints & Angels” page, or pick up a copy of Bert Ghezzi’s Voices of the Saints: A 365-Day Journey With Our Spiritual Companions for a look at 365 well-known and lesser-known saints and blesseds.

May we be inspired by the example of the blesseds and saints and ask their prayers for us and for our world.

Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.

~ St. Dominic, quoted in s. 956 of the Catechism

I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.

~ St. Thérèse of Lisieux, quoted in s. 956 of the Catechism

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I’ve said before that I’m an avid reader. Reading is probably my favourite leisure activity, and I’ve generally got a book, newspaper or magazine on the go (sometimes all three, and sometimes more than one book).

I love wandering my local bookstore, the more so since I downloaded an app that lets me scan bar codes of books and add the titles to my wish list. And I have a long wish list of books to read on my library account.

Today being Family Literacy Day, we’re encouraged to spend 15 minutes a day reading. True, some of us may already have to spend a lot of time reading for work or school. And sometimes, given the books promoted by the media, it may seem there aren’t many choices for Christian readers. But why not take those 15 minutes to improve our spiritual literacy? Why not set a great example for our children by choosing some Christian reading materials on our next library or bookstore visit? And if the selection of Christian works in libraries and bricks-and-mortar bookstores proves to be limited, we can find a wide range of Christian books online.

In just 15 minutes, we could read one of the following:

But why limit our reading to non-fiction? Christian fiction ranges from mystery to science fiction to graphic novels and so on. Not sure where to start? Goodreads.com allows readers to search for books by genre, and a quick glance at the results for the Christian genre shows new releases, the most popular books, and reader lists of recommended works. And finding books similar to ones we’ve enjoyed is as simple as entering a title or an author at WhatShouldIReadNext.com.

I pray that we can find 15 minutes—or even just 10—on a regular basis to invest in reading materials that build us up spiritually.

Maybe it was because he worked in search and rescue and had seen some terrible sights, but when I was growing up, my father sometimes made dinner conversation about death—specifically his own, and how he would (and would not) like us to mark his eventual passing.

Some people might find this grim. I think it shows my father’s acceptance of the undeniable fact that we’re mortal—a fact worth considering in a month where we think of the saints who have gone before us.

I recently downloaded the MP3 of “Live Like You Were Dying,” performed by Tim McGraw. The song talks about a man with a life-threatening illness who not only tries things he’d always wanted to but also becomes a better husband and friend. He says, “Someday I hope you get the chance / To live like you were dying.”

Living like that is easier said than done, I know. I regret things I’ve said and done or failed to say or do. Those times I should have extended forgiveness to someone, been kinder or more helpful, or pursued an opportunity but held back because I was afraid to get hurt or be wrong or fail, and times when I stood still rather than really lived.

But I believe that, as Christians, we should live as though our time were short. Because we know that this life will end. We just don’t know how short or long it might be.

We need to make sure our loved ones know they are loved and to share our time, talents and treasure while we have the opportunity to do good rather than make our faith and feelings known by the way we dispose of our assets in a will. We need to discover and live out the vocation we’re called to and fulfill our part of God’s plan, remembering that Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10*).

I pray that we would be inspired by Jesus’ example and that of the faithful people who have gone before us, such as those described in Hebrews 11. And I pray that we would be encouraged by the words of Hebrews 12:1-2:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…

(*Scripture quotes taken from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

At Mass this past weekend, the reading from Philippians 4:4-7 began, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”

That’s a tall order for some people this holiday season: those who are ill, lonely or alone for Christmas; those who are unemployed, homeless or otherwise in need; and those who mourn.

These days, 24/7 media coverage keeps us hyper-aware of all the needs, sorrows and tragedies in our community and beyond. It’s hard not to wonder, “What can I do? I’m only one person.”

I think there are two things we can do: pray and act. You may wonder why I put prayer first. Since I tend to be a Martha (see Luke 10:38-42), my first instinct is to do something, but deep down I know prayer should be my first resort. Read the rest of this entry »


Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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