Tag Archives: Communion of Saints

On the Calendar: The Solemnity of All Saints

John Nava, The Communion of Saints (www.johnnava.com)

John Nava, The Communion of Saints (detail) – Sts. Paul, Peter, Charles Lwanga, Maria Goretti, and Agatha (www.johnnava.com)

“Very often, without our knowing it, the graces and lights that we receive are due to [the prayer of] some hidden soul, for God wills that the saints communicate grace to each other through prayer, with great love – a love much greater than that of a family, even the most perfect family on earth. How often have I thought that I may owe all the graces I’ve received to the prayers of a person who begged them from God for me, whom I shall know only in Heaven… In Heaven, we shall not meet with indifferent glances, because all the elect will discover that they owe to each other the graces that merited the crown for them.”

– St. Therese of Lisieux

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JPII, I miss you.

Karol Woytyla, Marek Skorupski/Agencja FORUM

Photo credit: Marek Skorupski/Agencja FORUM

This morning I woke up with a pang in my heart, thinking about grief. Not my own grieving for any particular person (though I have been doing a great deal of that lately), just about grief itself: how it weakens us, overwhelms us, humbles us. (I am beginning to think that that is one of the goods God brings out of grief: the grace of humility.)

Then, around lunchtime, I was reminded that today (April 2) is the seventh anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul the Great – and it struck me that my heart might have remembered this, even if my brain hadn’t. His death had affected me profoundly. I didn’t expect to grieve the way I did then, but the emotions were there – and perhaps they were so overwhelming because, while sitting there weepy and sniffling at my desk in the Business College that afternoon, I had my first real experience of the Communion of Saints. I just knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that I’d gained a friend in heaven.

JPII was the first person to convince me that the saints really are present to us, that they love us deeply and are rooting for us every step of the way, particularly when we feel friendless or alone. I owe him a great debt of gratitude for that. Whenever I am feeling really burdened or discouraged, I think of him repeating the words he loved to quote from the French poet Leon Bloy:

“The only tragedy in life, dear one, is not to be a saint.”

Blessed John Paul II, we love you. Pray for us!

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Potpourri: The world needs heroes!

Inspired by my incredibly creative friend Maggie and her beloved “Clippings” posts over at Ten Thousand Places, I thought I’d try out a similar series of posts on this blog. Each Potpourri post will consist of a list of miscellaneous links, photos, videos, quotes, and/or other tidbits I came across during the week that I thought might interest you all. Let me know what you think!


March for Life 2011

March for Life 2011: Mary marching toward the Capitol.

First things first: everyone ought to pray in a special way this weekend for all those who will be standing up for LIFE at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., as well as at local marches around the country. (For readers outside the U.S., January 22 is the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in the United States in 1973. Current estimates say that hundreds of thousands of pro-life marchers take to the streets of our capital each year to be witnesses for LIFE.) The world needs heroes who will be a voice for the voiceless!

Speaking of heroes, I was inspired and touched by two articles that came in one of my “Daily Dispatches” from Zenit this week: one about persecuted clergy being unjustly detained by the Chinese government, and another about the ministry of maritime chaplains in Italy following the Costa Concordia cruise ship tragedy. The life of the priest is, by nature, a heroic life – not because it wins the priest acclaim and earthly glory (quite the contrary, actually). No, the life of the priest is heroic because of what it requires: a total death to self for his beloved, the Church.

Of course, all of the faithful are called to be heroic in their own way. I have always taken great delight in the Church teaching which affirms that heroic sanctity can be achieved in every state of life, in every situation, in every vocation (cf. Lumen Gentium 39). Catholic blogger Simcha Fisher has posted a beautifully-written reflection on the sufferings and joys of being a mother of many (nine!) children: To the Mother With Only One Child.

And now for the most pressing issue of the day: by now I’m sure you’ve all heard (at least, readers residing in the U.S. will have heard) about the deeply disturbing statement put forth by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday. You can find a few worthwhile Catholic commentaries about this serious (albeit not unforeseen) threat to religious liberty here, here and here. While I am indeed disturbed by this turn of events, I take great comfort in two things.

First, Church leadership is on alert and fully aware of the gravity of the situation. Just days ago (incidentally, the day before HHS published their statement) Pope Benedict addressed a group of bishops from the United States with these words:

“The Church’s witness, then, is of its nature public: she seeks to convince by proposing rational arguments in the public square. The legitimate separation of Church and State cannot be taken to mean that the Church must be silent on certain issues, nor that the State may choose not to engage, or be engaged by, the voices of committed believers in determining the values which will shape the future of the nation.

“In the light of these considerations, it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life.”

(You can read the Holy Father’s entire address on Zenit.org.) Cardinal-elect Archbishop Timothy Dolan, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is also taking a public stand against this outrage. Check it out:

According to this article from the National Catholic Reporter (HT to American Papist), President Obama had the audacity to call Archbp. Dolan to “tell him the news” when the HHS statement went out:

“NCR has learned that the President called Cardinal-designate Timothy Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, this morning to tell him the news. Wouldn’t you have liked to be on an extension to listen in on that conversation. The president looked Dolan in the eye in November and said he would be pleased with his decision [regarding conscience protection legislation]. I am guessing that Dolan is not pleased.”

Well, if that isn’t the understatement of the century! (NB: I do not look to the National Catholic Reporter for authentically Catholic news and commentary – though I did find the aforementioned article helpful. You’d be better off getting your Catholic news from the National Catholic Register.)

I also find a great deal of consolation (as I always do) in remembering that no matter what happens in our country and in our world, we always have Our Lord and our Blessed Mother, we always have the Church, we always have the Communion of Saints. The world needs heroes – and thank goodness, we have them: we have the saints!

On that note, I wanted to share this fantastic quote by St. Augustine (HT to Ten Thousand Places and Happy Catholic). Let it be a reminder to us all, especially as we enter into the thick of what my be the United States’ most divisive, most frightening, most crucial election season yet:

Saint Augustine - Botticelli (detail)

Botticelli, St. Augustine (detail)

“Bad times, hard times – this what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times. Such as we are, such are the times.”

– St. Augustine of Hippo

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Away on Pilgrimage… Again!

In just a few hours, I’ll be en route to Italy with Peter-George, Pius, and Etsy to visit our friend Mario, who’s a seminarian at the NAC. I’ve known these four friends for ten years, and since high school we’ve had a tradition of celebrating New Year’s together. Since Mario missed last year’s festivities and can’t make it home for the party this year either, we’re taking the party to him! We’ve been calling this trip a vacation – which it is, of course – but I can’t visit all those holy places without feeling like it’s something of a pilgrimage as well.

Our Lady of Grace street altar

Our Lady of Grace – one of my favorite photos from my last trip to Rome

I saw Rome and Assisi for the first time on a school trip with Mom when I was sixteen. All in all, we had a lovely time – but at that point in my life, I wasn’t prepared to take in the full spiritual significance of what I was seeing. There were a few meaningful moments – like the time I took to sit and pray before the tomb of St. Clare (my first real experience of the Communion of Saints!) – but the whole trip felt so rushed that I just kept thinking: “I have to come back; I have to come back and give myself time to soak it all in!”

Several years ago, I began praying for the opportunity to return to Assisi before my consecration to thank Clare and Francis for all they’ve done for me as my patron saints (my middle name’s Claire – spelled as the French variant to honor my heritage), particularly in regard to helping me discover my vocation. Our World Youth Day pilgrimage this August was originally supposed to include a day trip to Assisi, which got my hopes up – but then plans changed, and needless to say, I was a bit disappointed. It was wonderful to spend those few days in Rome, but I still wished I could have paid a visit to Clare and Francis.

Still of Mary Petruolo (Clare) and Ettore Bassi (Francis) from the film "Clare and Francis" by Lux Vide/Ignatius Press

Still of Mary Petruolo (St. Clare) and Ettore Bassi (St. Francis) from the film "Clare and Francis" by Lux Vide and Ignatius Press (www.ignatius.com/promotions/clare-and-francis-movie/)

Then Peter-George decided to make this trip a reality (we’d been daydreaming about it for a year!), and the good Lord arranged not only for me to make the trip, but to travel with four of my dearest friends and make an overnight visit to Assisi. What a beautiful Christmas gift! Our good God is never outdone in generosity.

Please say a prayer for Peter-George, Pius, Etsy, Mario and me – that this time spent together would be blessed and fruitful, that in our prayer we could each gain a greater clarity regarding God’s will for our lives, and that this Christmas season would refresh our souls and draw us all closer to the loving Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

A presto!

Charity

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On the Calendar: St. Therese of Lisieux

Leonard Porter, St. Thérèse

Leonard Porter, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the Little Flower of Jesus (detail) – leonardporter.com

Have any of you seen the movie Julie & Julia? It tells the story of a young writer named Julie who develops an odd sort of “friendship” with the famous cook Julia Child by cooking her way through Child’s iconic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Throughout the film, Julie talks incessantly about this woman whom she has never met as though she is her dearest friend. She praises Julia’s confidence and spirit, expresses gratitude for her guidance and “company” in the kitchen, and wishes she could be exactly like her.

I recently watched the film again, and this time I realized why I felt so much pity for Julie: her “friendship” with Julia Child isn’t real. No matter how much she imagines that the legendary cook is present in her life to impart wisdom and assistance, this is only true in the sense that she has imagined it to be so. That would be enough reason to pity her, but the real reason I felt so sorry for her was that it is, in fact, possible to have a close friendship with a person whom you’ve never met — someone who embodies qualities you admire, who is present to guide and assist you, who serves as an example for you to imitate — if that person happens to be a saint in heaven!

I talk a great deal about St. Thérèse of Lisieux because she really has become as dear to me as any one of my closest friends. The Mother Superior at the local Carmel once told me that she was placing my vocation in the hands of St. Thérèse, and she promised me (with a great deal of audacity, I thought) that the Little Flower would not fail to help me to find my vocation. Not surprisingly (Reverend Mother is a very holy woman, and Thérèse a very eager intercessor!) her words turned out to be prophetic.

About two years after that conversation, my godfather surprised me with a precious gift: he took me to visit the Basilica of the Little Flower in San Antonio, TX. (That day I learned that my great-grandmother was also devoted to St. Thérèse and had donated towards the construction of the Basilica!) Since we happened to be the only people there that morning, we were given a private tour and the chance to venerate a first-class relic of the Little Flower. I remember those moments vividly – I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was meant to be in that church at that very moment because Thérèse wanted to tell me something: I had no reason to be anxious; she really was leading me to my vocation.

Only one other time in my life (after the death of Pope John Paul II) had I ever been so convinced of a saint’s intercession for me. After those moments with Thérèse, I knew that never again could I allow myself to doubt that she was with me on my journey.

What a friend I have found in the Little Flower! How eager she has been to help me by her prayers in my most desperate moments! How perfectly she has kept her promise, to “spend [her] Heaven doing good on earth!” St. Thérèse, pray for us!

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