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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.

What to do When you Disagree with a Catholic Teaching

As a newbie to Catholicism or as someone exploring the faith, you will likely find one or more teachings that you just can’t get your head around — or flat out disagree with. Oftentimes, these are teachings like the saints, Mary, purgatory or contraception. Don’t worry about this; you are not alone! Most of us struggle with multiple teachings as we learn more about the faith.

Here are some suggestions to help you if you find yourself stuck in this situation:

1) Keep searching – Read, read and read some more. Listen to Catholic radio and watch EWTN. Look it up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Find Bible verses about the issue. Ask your RCIA leader or another Catholic well educated in the faith. Keep reading different explanations and really delve deeply into the whys of the teaching, and I promise, you will find one an explanation eventually that makes sense to you. I found that every issue I did not understand I eventually came to terms with. Several issues for me included contraception and purgatory.

Gifts of the Visitation, Ave Maria Press, Denise Bossert2) Write a petition – I just finished reading “Gifts of the Visitation” by Denise Bossert (Ave Maria Press, 2015), a convert to Catholicism, who explores the Visitation (when Mary and Elizabeth meet and John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb) in detail and shares along the way her conversion to the faith. The daughter of a Protestant minister, she felt called to Catholicism after her father’s death, but especially struggled with the Church’s teaching on Mary’s Immaculate Conception. This teaching is that Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb free from original sin.

After many attempts to understand this teaching, her RCIA leader advised her to write a petition to Mary, asking her to show Denise the truth. What a wonderful idea! Here’s what she wrote:

Mary, if you are as the Catholic Church says, and if you love me, please answer this petition. I want someone to communicate with me by your inspiration. Mary, I want the message to come from you to the ears of one who could know no other way. Please choose someone who, for me, would represent the universal Catholic Church. Then I will know I am right where I am supposed to be and that the Church’s teachings are all correct, terra firma, especially the teachings about you. Please answer my petition before the end of the year–I know, that’s just two weeks.

Thinking it unlikely she would receive a response, she was surprised that the day after she wrote the petition, she received a letter from a woman she had written to after seeing her on EWTN’s The Journey Home. The letter, dated Dec. 8 had hand written beside it “The Feast of the Immaculate Conception.” That was her answer.

While God sends me these types of messages and reassurances quite often — now that I’m looking for them! — I too had a WOW moment after praying to my confirmation saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, for a specific intention. Known for sending roses as signs, as soon as I woke up the next morning and stumbled outside to pick up my paper, I opened it to find giant picture of a rose across the whole paper and a story about decorating your home with roses. Thanks St. Therese!

How did you come to terms with a Catholic teaching you were struggling with?


Quote for Thought: Blessed Anna Rosa Gattorno

Yesterday, Blessed Anna Rosa Gattorno of Italy (born 1831) was the Saint of the Day on my Laudate App. The description of her life started with this quote from her:

“My love, what can I do to make the whole world love you? … Make use once again of this wretched instrument to renew the faith and the conversion of sinners.”

Such devotion always amazes and inspires me. Blessed Anna Rosa was also a mother, so that amazes me even more :), that she could focus so fully on her love despite the hectic pace of life as a mom. Her dedication also reminds me of my patron saint St. Therese of Lisieux. I can only aspire to such complete and utter devotion.