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Which Saints Are Your Friends?

Which Saints Are Your Friends by @ACatholicNewbie

Do you have saints that you consider to be your friends? In reading the new book from Teresa Tomeo, “Girlfriends and Other Saints: Companions on my Journey of Faith,” where she shares her experiences of how the communion of saints is really communion of our friends, it got me thinking about which saints I consider to be friends.

St. Therese

Girlfriends and Other Saints - by Teresa-TomeoTops on my list is St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower. She is my confirmation saint and just as Teresa Tomeo shares amazing experiences she’s had with saints like St. Teresa of Avila and St. Catherine of Siena, St. Therese has made herself present to me in many ways. She has sent me “roses,” answered my most pressing novena prayers and just seems to pop up in the most surprising places.

When I stand at mass, I like to imagine St. Therese standing behind my right shoulder and my Guardian Angel standing behind my left with Mary behind and in between them both with loving arms outstretched guiding my way. I recently read a fascinating book by Father Michael Gaitley called “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told,” which discusses the role of Divine Mercy in our generation and how it has been revealed through a number of saints, including St. Therese, St. Faustina and St. John Paul II. I recommend this as a MUST READ, as it really helps tie the message of Divine Mercy all together.

I truly feel like St. Therese and I are friends, as she has seen me through my conversion to Catholicism and I call on her in many situations. I just feel her calming, sweet presence and turn to her so often.

St. Faustina

In the last year or so, I’ve felt a call toward St. Faustina and her message. I don’t quite feel like we are “friends” yet, but we are getting to know each other :). I have not read her Diary in full, though have read through many Divine Mercy Daily emails, which cover portions of her diary. I have read about her and I want to learn more about this humble Polish nun and the incredible messages she received from Jesus and Mary.

St. Benedict

Early on in my conversion, before actually joining the Church, I felt drawn to St. Benedict and his Rule for monks. While his rule of living was meant for the monastery, it really can be lived in our secular world, as well. I love his call to daily conversion — we must keep turning to God every single day — and how he places holiness on the most ordinary of things and activities from cooking utensils to manual labor. They are all gifts from God and we must treat them as such. I have a statue of him on my desk to remind me of the holiness of my day-to-day activities.

St. John Paul II

This year, I’ve felt a call to St. John Paul II. I realized I had a connection to him after a visit to a church on Gozo in Malta that he had visited years before. I feel like it may have played a role in my conversion. I was also drawn to read the new book “City of Saints: A Pilgrimage to John Paul II’s Krakow” by George Weigel about the many places he lived. It’s a wonderfully written read that combines travel, history, religion and biography. Poland is definitely on my list of places to visit!

Which saints do you consider to be friends? Please post in the comments below!

Meeting Mary in the Mediterranean

Our Lady of Ta Pinu | Gozo | Marian Shrine

Credit ViewingMalta.com

Before my Catholic conversion began, there were several stand-out moments where I felt drawn to the faith. There were other moments, which at the time I did not recognize, but in which I now see God’s providence working!

I had a light bulb moment yesterday when writing a travel article about a beautiful Mediterranean island called Gozo I was blessed enough to visit for my work back in 2006. I was not remotely interested in Catholicism at that time; however, this island, which is next to Malta in the Mediterranean, is very Catholic and filled from end to end with gorgeous Catholic churches.

We visited one in particular called Ta’ Pinu Basilica. At the time, I just remember going in the church and feeling an amazing sense of peace. I would describe it as the same peace I felt when I first went to mass of my own accord. I really have thought nothing of it since until I was writing this new article and went back to look at my notes.

Gozo Catholic Church, Basilica of Ta Pinu

Turns out, this church is a Shrine to Mary and is built where two villagers said they heard the voice of Our Lady. Many miracles are said to have happened to people who visited and prayed there. Here is the story, according to the shrine’s website:

On the 22nd June 1883, Karmela Grima a forty-five year-old spinster and great devotee of the Blessed Virgin, heard a call, while passing by the chapel on her return home from the fields which surrounded the chapel. “Come, come”, she heard a woman’s voice say. She was confused and frightened, and began to run away from the place. The voice called again, and this time Karmela realised that the voice was coming from within the chapel, she went inside and said her usual prayers. The voice which had come from the image of the Blessed Virgin asked her to recite three Ave Maria in honour of the three days Her body remained in the tomb before Assumption to Heaven.

Karmela did as the voice asked and went on her way. Shortly afterwards Karmela fell ill and remained confined to her bed for more than a year. After this time, Karmela revealed her secret to a friend, Francesco Portelli, who in turn told her that about the same time he also heard a woman’s voice asking him to pray from within the chapel. Shortly after this mysterious call Francesco’s mother was miraculously healed by the intercession of Our Lady of Ta` Pinu. The lonely chapel became a place of pilgrimage for many people on the island and beyond.

St. Pope John Paul II even visited the shrine in 1990, praying in the Chapel, celebrating mass and decorating an image of Our Lady with five golden stars. Pope Benedict XVI also mentioned Our Lady of Ta’ Pinu on a visit to Malta in 2010. I am convinced this is a VERY special place that I had no idea of at the time. I walked where St. Pope John Paul II prayed and celebrated mass!

Ta Pinu - Gozo Church

So it left me to wonder yesterday if perhaps some heavenly grace and prayers from our Mother Mary and St. Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, were granted me upon that visit. It truly was not long thereafter, perhaps not even a year, that I began to feel that calling to go to the Catholic Church.

Ta Pinu Church Gozo Basilica

Mother Mary, you are amazing and I thank you for your blessings! St. Pope John Paul II, pray for us!

Our Lady of Ta Pinu Gozo, Marian Shrine

The Perfect Book for July 4th: The American Catholic Almanac

American Catholic AlmanacWhen learning about Church history and the saints, sometimes we forget that our own country has its own lofty Catholic history. While it may not date back hundreds or thousands of years, there are some amazing people and events that have taken place right here in the United States.

This July 4th is a great time to pick up the American Catholic Almanac from Image Catholic Books, which provides 365 days of inspirational stories of Catholics who have shaped America. Brian Burch and Emily Stimpson have put together an interesting Almanac to educate you about the church in your own country. Their goals were to tell the stories of the men and women who built the Catholic Church in America and show how much America has benefited from their efforts.

As you read these great stories of miracles and unwavering perseverance, the authors suggest you consider how their evangelization techniques might be used today. How can we model what these American saints accomplished and the virtues they displayed in modern times?

They note, “Perhaps, because so few of America’s first Catholics have the title ‘Saint’ before their name, we often forget that clouds of witnesses have lived on our shores.”

Did you know:

  • Jack Kerouac died wanting to be known as a Catholic and not only as a beat poet?
  • Andrew Jackson credited America’s victory in the Battle of New Orleans to the prayers of the Virgin Mary and the Ursuline Sisters?
  • Al Capone’s tombstone reads “My Jesus Mercy”

Fascinating stuff! Plus, it’s an easy read, as the book is laid out by date from January 1-December 31. Simply start on the day you pick up the book (why not July 4!), and read a story each day.

Celebrate the efforts of these Catholics and honor our own amazing country this July 4th by learning how our country was formed in the faith with The American Catholic Almanac.

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Don’t Panic! Follow the Lead of Saints Athanasius, Augustine & Catherine

“God does not require that we be successful, only that we be faithful.” — Mother Teresa

St Augustine of Hippo

Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE) as painted by Botticelli (c.1445–1510) Credit WikiImages

Many people are so very upset — and rightfully so — by the recent Supreme Court rulings upholding the Affordable Care Act and making it legal for individuals of the same sex to marry around the country. No doubt about it, this is a blow for Christians and Catholics in the United States. It’s disappointing to see the leaders of our country, which was founded on God, make laws against the fundamental truths of God, including the right to life for all and marriage as defined as between a man and a women.

After attending mass on Tuesday, the feast of the first martyrs of Rome, and reading the 2014 book called “Renewed: Ten Ways to Rediscover the Saints, Embrace Your Gifts, and Revive Your Catholic Faith” by Robert Reed (Ave Maria Press), I was reminded of how much the Church has been through since its founding. Certainly, the Catholic Church has been through WAY worse than this; in fact, this is barely a blip on the screen of persecution the Church has faced over time.

Can you imagine being one of the Roman martyrs, who lived in the time of the Emperor Nero when Christians were put to death in the most cruel manner possible for the entertainment of others? They lived in a society with a rule of law where Christians had NO rights and were killed for fun! But many persevered in their faith, going to their death as believers in Christ.

While I am not saying we shouldn’t be alarmed or stop encouragin our government to uphold the fundamental truths of God, I am saying we need not panic. We WILL get through this, even if it gets much worse — and it probably will. We need simply follow the model of many of our saints and martyrs who also lived through even worse persecution. As Blessed Mother Teresa’s quote so perfectly explains, sometimes God asks us to simply “work,” not be successful. It’s in the “doing” where we will find grace.

St. Athanasius

Take the example of St. Athanasius, featured in the book “Renewed,” as an example of remaining “steadfast in the truth.” Named the Bishop of Alexandria, he was exiled five times from his OWN diocese for defending the truth that Jesus Christ is of “one substance” with God the Father. No matter what happened to him — or in the society around him — he kept proclaiming the truth over and over and over again, just as we should do. Says Reed:

“Athanasius worked and taught in a time of tumult, radical change, and uncertainty about the future of both Church and society. In other words, his time has a lot in common with our own. And it is a wonderful thing that lives of courageous faith like that of Athanasius are still being lived today.” 

St. Augustine

Another example in Reed’s book, in which he pairs two saints together based on a virtue they displayed, usually one who lived long ago and another more modern saint, is St. Augustine. We all know the story of his dramatic conversion after his mother, St. Monica, prayed for so many years.

But did you know that as he lay dying, St. Augustine watched as the city from which he had preached the faith fell to vandals who had converted to Arianism (a heresy against Christ)? He had also earlier in his life witnessed the sacking of Rome. But did St. Augustine fall prey to despair and give up on the world or his country after all the work he had done? No, he fought the good fight, and in the words of St. Paul, “I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!”

St. Catherine of Siena

St. Catherine worked tirelessly until the age of 33 to advocate reform of the clergy, the return of the papacy from Avignon to Rome, to heal the great Western schism and persuade others of the legitimacy of a new pope, Urban VI. This young woman, the daughter of a cloth dyer, dared to write letters to and visit popes to follow the path she was being led by Christ. Despite the constant conflict around her, she pressed on boldly.

These are just a tiny portion of the multitude of saints who have set such an example for us. The world might be falling apart around us, but remember all the persecution and trials that have passed before us. We need to keep the faith and keep on keeping on with the truth as we know it, and give the rest to God, knowing that His will be done.

Just as so many Christians before us have endured great torment, mockery and attempted destruction of their faith, so we may, too. But Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church. So let’s show the world what it means to be a Christian and put on the full armor of God, living our faith to its fullest completion, knowing that Christ wins in the end. Let us be faithful, even if we are not successful.

Note: Renewed was provided to me at no cost in exchange for a complete and honest review.

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