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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.

Struggling to Get a Loved One to Convert to Catholicism

Fr. Mitch PacwaI recently had the privilege of interviewing Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J., about his new book “The Holy Land: An Armchair Pilgrimage” and to get his take on traveling to the Holy Land. But in the course of the interview, he said something that really struck me. I find the way he words things often makes something that, to me, is difficult or complicated, as plain as day :).

In this case he spoke about people who bring along a family member on one of his Holy Land pilgrimages that he leads each year in the hopes of their conversion to Catholicism. I think every true Catholic has someone in their lives they desire to know the joy they have found within the Church and for whom they have cajoled, prayed and done everything they know to do. Father’s take?

“I cannot engineer anybody’s conversion. Conversion is always a management issue. God is the manager. God invokes the grace of conversion. I’m simply in sales.” — Father Mitch Pacwa, S.J.

What a great quote! Funny AND it gets the point across very clearly. It’s not up to us if someone converts; it’s really not up to them either. It’s up to God alone. Pray and then trust that God has the perfect timing. And remember if St. Monica can wait patiently for 30 years for the conversion of her son St. Augustine and be rewarded, so might our patience and trust be rewarded, too.

Saints: A Standout of Catholicism

Catholic SaintsHaving been exposed to many other religions growing up, I was very familiar with Christianity. But one thing (among many) that Catholicism offers unique of all Christian religions is the saints. We’ve all heard of saints like St. Patrick or St. Francis, but I suppose I never gave much thought about what the term “saint” meant until now.

Many people give Catholicism much flack over the saints, saying they are given too much emphasis when the focus should be solely on the Holy Trinity. But, I love the concept of saints. It gives me something to relate to and a model to strive toward. These were real people, with sin, who made the absolute best of their lives. Yes, I want to follow Jesus, but he was God and I am not. Following the path of an everyday person gives me so much hope for what we can all accomplish. I am so intrigued by this and wonder how, and why, they became saints. What was their path to Catholicism, how did they overcome obstacles, what enabled them to utterly and completely give their live up to God?

Studying these fascinating people helps me grow on my own spiritual path. It’s so inspiring to read about some saints like St. Augustine, who didn’t start out on the holiest of paths. If such sinners can become such saints, there is hope for me indeed!

When you learn about the Catholic church, you understand that the saints are never given precedence over the Holy Trinity. But rather they have been deemed as already in heaven at God’s throne and able to pray for you to God, on your behalf, if you ask.  They are not themselves able to grant requests or miracles, but rather by praying to God, who makes it happen. It’s explained that just as if you would ask a friend or a parent to pray for you or your family, so can you ask a saint to pray for you or your family. They’re just that much closer to God than those of us here on earth.

I find it impossible to ignore the sheer numbers of miracles brought about from those who’ve prayed to a saint. Even if you don’t believe in miracles, isn’t there something to be said that this many people over this long period of time have claimed such occurrences? There must be something to it. For my part, I even see small everyday miracles in my own life that give me faith.

Many people feel connected to or are drawn to a certain saint, whom they devote themselves to. I, thus far, have been drawn to St. Benedict. Though not much is known about him, except through one slightly over the top biography that’s hard to separate fact from dramatic fiction, I am fascinated by his Rule of St. Benedict for monasteries, something that many lay people have taken as a guide to joyful living and moderation in their own lives.

What do you think of the saints? Which saints speak to you and why? I’d love to hear stories of others’ connections to saints. Please share!

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