Saints: The All-Star Team

Saints: The All-Star Team

This past weekend, we celebrated All Saints’ Day, commemorating people who tried their best to live a life oriented toward Christ—and succeeded eternally! In thinking about saints and how central they are to our growth in holiness, I’m reminded of when my boyfriend Paul was in RCIA. He didn’t understand why we put such emphasis on the saints. After listening to a great RCIA presentation on the subject, he said to me thoughtfully, “So… it’s kind of like the all-star team.” And it totally is! In the same way that celebrating particular baseball players, for instance, isn’t competitive with loving the game of baseball itself, we can have our own favorite saints whose example we admire, and whose intercession we seek with God in Heaven. The coolest thing about the Communion of Saints, I think, is that there is really something for everyone—contemplatives, warriors, scientists, artists, popes, scholars, rulers, beggars, and everyone in between. Here are a few members of my All-Star team, in no particular order: Bl. Nicolas Steno It’s essential to show that sincere faith is consistent with robust scientific knowledge, as Camille M. Carlisle recently demonstrated in these pages. I first learned about Bl. Nicolas Steno (1638-1686) in a college geology class. “Steno’s laws,” a series of rules for interpreting stratigraphy, are the foundation of modern geology. However, the textbook left out the part about how Nicholas Steno was not only a first-rate anatomist, chemist, and geologist, but he also was a Catholic convert during the Counterreformation, a priest, and eventual bishop who was beatified by St. John Paul II! This is a dude we need...
St. Thérèse, Jane Austen, and Raising Saints

St. Thérèse, Jane Austen, and Raising Saints

I have been thinking a lot lately about raising a holy family and what it takes to do so, especially when there are so many negative influences in our society. I want to keep my little girls safe in their Catholic world forever, though I know that I cannot. I want to preserve the innocence of their minds and hearts, so that they do not know about great evils committed by others. I don’t want anyone to tell them that things that are wrong are perfectly normal. Most of all, I just want them to love God, to grow up loving Him, and to continue to love Him always as faithful Catholics. Since I was pregnant with my first daughter, there have been many things that have made me worried about the way society is tending. The current extremely liberal and anti-Christian value regime is the first of my concerns, and then the “normalizing” of non-traditional “marriages.” Everyday there is an extreme amount of hate towards those who stand up for the truths of the Catholic Church, and my children are going to experience it more than I am. I wonder, what is the secret to raising my sweet girls into faith-filled, loving women? The answer seems to be to have a tight-knit, loving family with a solid prayer life. When one has a close family life, where everyone is on the same page, one has an irreplaceable foundation. I have two examples of family life among sisters. My first example is the Bennet family in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  And the second is the really existing family...
When Catholicism is in Your Bones

When Catholicism is in Your Bones

Since we moved to Minnesota, my family and I have been meeting a lot of converts, many of them my husband’s colleague at the Catholic university where he is a professor. It seems that more of them than not are converts. The other day a distinguished colleague asked my husband, “You are a cradle Catholic, aren’t you?” After my husband assured him that he was, his friend said decidedly, “Then it is in your bones.” Every year I live, I realize more and more how Catholicism really is “in my bones.” There is something about being Catholic from infancy that takes over one’s whole life, and the further one is from one’s conversion to the faith the more time the Catholic sense has had to set in. One of our convert friends, Brantley Milligan, wrote a piece for Alethia about 4 Things that Catholics do that Rightly Scandalize non-Catholics. It seemed to me that his first point on how Catholics don’t talk enough about Jesus missed something genuine about Catholicism. Mr. Milligan says that, “Even among otherwise faithful Catholics, it sometimes seems we can spend a lot of time talking about the Church, the clergy, the Pope, the Mass, moral teachings, the Sacraments, and yes, Mary and the saints – all important things – but hardly ever mention Jesus.” I would disagree and say that by talking about these things, Catholics really are talking about Jesus. At a recent play date with other Catholic moms, they singled me out as the only non-convert in the group. For a moment I agreed and then I looked at the eight children...
Picking a Saint

Picking a Saint

My current RCIA sponsee (I’m the sponsor; ergo, he is the sponsee) asked about choosing a patron saint, since most candidates/catechumens do so before entering the Church. So, at the risk of making public his request, here are a few thoughts: Names: I’m lucky enough to have the same name as two saints, Timothy and Michael the Archangel. If you’re like Milhouse van Houten, though, you may not be so lucky. In which case, you can try… Dates/Feast Days: I can’t say that I feel especially close to St. Timothy (I don’t think anyone would call me the “angel of the church” in any town, let alone Ephesus) or St. Michael (I’m probably not as tough), but I do have a bond with St. Ambrose, whose feast day is on my birthday. I certainly don’t have much in common with him per se, but his preaching converted St. Augustine, whose pre-convert days I can sadly relate to. Besides birthdays, you can look for saints whose feast day falls on your anniversary, date of reception into the Church, a special date where you decided to enter or consider entering the Church, etc. Vocation: I’ll use that in the Catholic sense and in the more common sense. For Catholics, vocation refers to a particular religious calling, be it to consecrated life as a priest or religious, to married life, or to the single life. There are countless patron saints for each of those vocations. More commonly, people use “vocation” and “occupation” synonymously: while there is no patron saint of economists yet, perhaps your chosen profession is better populated by people pursuing...
SBFFs

SBFFs

I have an interesting relationship with several saints.  I talk to them, often out loud, in the same terms and tone I use with my siblings and close friends.  (Go read about it on my blog if you don’t believe me.)  I see no distinction, in fact, between them.  These saints, are, in essence, my SBFFs: Saint Best Friends Forever.  And I’m hoping that I pass this odd little quirk of mine on to my children. We are told in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) that, “Our communion with the saints joins us to Christ” (957).  So basically, by being close to the saints we can become close to Christ.  It makes sense, right?  I mean, they are His “BFFs” so if we get close to them, we could eventually be asked to sit at the cool table, and by that I mean heaven. 957   Communion with the saints. “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.” Not only should we seek to imitate their behavior, their holiness, their blessed love of Christ, but we should also seek out their friendship.  Most of us don’t simply try to imitate our friends....