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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!

Embracing Humility

HumilityAs I reorder my life to be more in line with the Catholic church and what God asks of us to become more holy and more saintly, humility is a quality I come upon again and again. All through my life, it has been incredibly important to me for others to approve of what I have done – in work, in life, as a mom, as a wife. I thrive on compliments and am dismayed when someone doesn’t like work that I’ve done.

I think this speaks to the true essence of humility. Because I am concerned what others think, that is demonstrating too much pride. If I were humble, I would not care what others think. I would be doing the work for the work’s sake, to please God in that moment.

In the “Rule of St. Benedict,” the saint who developed a guide for the operation of monastaries, Benedict says we must remember that everything good we do comes from God, not us; that’s a lesson in humility. And one that I take to heart and remember in moments of pride. In fact, he lists 7 steps to humility that may not apply completely in today’s world, but which the essence of which certainly does. It’s a great, simple read and a wonderful guide to life.

I’ve also been reading some of the writings of Mother Teresa and I felt like she really explained humility well in the book “No Greater Love” (put that on your book list to read!). She says “Do not pursue spectacular deeds. We must deliberately renounce all desires to see the fruit of our labor, doing all we can as best we can, leaving the rest in the hands of God.” Also, “Never bother about people’s opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. The Lord has willed me here where I am. He will offer a solution.” Beautiful…

And more recently I came across a Biblical passage noting, “God is the only judge.” Also, a great nugget to keep in mind when worry or sadness affects you based on someone else’s opinion.

Are others out there struggling with pride? Join me on this journey to become more humble and fully embrace humility. Let’s find joy in our daily work – from sweeping and laundry, to the office and our family – and do it not so someone will comment on a job well done, but because it will please God and is good for our family, ourselves and the world.

Humility at the Grocery Store

Humility is a big area that I feel I need to work on as a future Catholic and an admirer of Benedict’s Rule (a book written hundreds of years ago as a guide for monasteries). St. Benedict even outlines something like seven steps to humility!

I feel myself too wrapped up in self, focused on what do I need/want/feel like at any given moment. It is Christ’s and Catholic teaching to shift the focus to others. Christ was the original “servant leader,” washing the feet of his apostles. Benedict, in fact, instructs monks to welcome all visitors as Christ, washing their feet in a sign of humility.

So, while pondering all this one day, I found a perfect place to put it into practice: the grocery store! It was a busy day, and time and again I started to hurry past someone, only to stop and realize I need not be in such a hurry. Let this other person finish their task and THEN I can go.

How many times did I almost bump into someone going around a corner only to end up in the inevitable “dance” of who goes first? In a practice of humility, I determined to let whomever I bumped into go first. I am not the most important person; let them go.

I also found the opportunity to shine the light of Christ within me to all I saw. Why not smile at your fellow man and share a bit joy? You see so many people in the grocery store; that’s the chance to make everyone’s day just a bit brighter.

And in the parking lot, I determined to be patient, unhurried and defer to others.

Who knew one could learn a lesson in humility at the grocery? But as Benedict teaches, it’s in the little moments that make for a joyful life.

Where have you/can you practice humility?


For Something So Complicated (Catholicism), It’s So Simple

New to CatholicismYesterday I started reading the book “The Cloister Walk” by Kathleen Norris after being referred to it by many different books I’ve been reading on Benedictines (an order of monks) and the Rule of Benedict. The Rule is a guidebook for the operation of monasteries written by St. Benedict in the sixth century. It’s a simple rule of moderation and taking joy in everyday life that has endured to this day as a guide for living – monastery or not.

Norris wrote the book to share her experience in spending time at a Benedictine monastery and the transformative effect it had on her life.

While I’ll share more about my fascination with Benedictines and the Rule of St. Benedict later, today I wanted to share with you something that stood out to me in the introduction to her book. She notes that for most of her life she was leery of the Christian religion, which I could immediately relate to. I’ve continued in my mind to try to explore what it was that didn’t appeal to me for so many years that appeals incredibly to me now. In her explanation, I found my reason.

She said she has a skewed vision of Christianity and had been put off by religious evangelists who manipulate religious language, preaching of “the saved” and “the kind of holy talk that can make me feel like a lower life form…” (7). That is precisely how I felt. I did not want to be saved, never appreciated anyone trying to “save” me and felt all religious talk had this aim. And if I wasn’t “saved” I was no good. Don’t judge me please 🙂 was how I felt.

And so I never gave Catholicism a chance. I thought it likely even one-upped all the other religions I’d tried over the years – Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian and Disciples of Christ. None of these was a fit for me.

But, when I felt the internal longing (more to come later :)) at the age of 36 to return to a Catholic retreat I’d once attended for my marriage, and felt a deep stirring when visiting the beautiful campus of Notre Dame, I began to listen. And I finally gave Catholicism a chance after 16 years of being with my Catholic husband.

And what do you know, but the religion I thought would top all religions in judging and looking down on others who were foreign to its ways, who had more jargon than I could learn in a lifetime, who  has more traditions and sacraments than I could ever get my arms around, would be the one that stuck. Why? Because of its plainness, its simplicity, its clarity.

Catholicism at its heart, once you get past all the Biblical and Latin words, is the language of Benedict: do good and you will life a joyful life. Love others; make time for prayer, work, rest and community. All things in moderation. Help those who need help without complaint. Follow a routine and find joy in the littlest of chores. Indeed. Nothing fluffy about it to me.

So amidst the complication of Catholicism live the simplest messages of all, at least to me.