Friday, October 30, 2015

7 Favorite Quotes About the Saints

I love the saints.  I know - shocker - right?  You have probably guessed as much already. The Solemnity of All Saints Day is one of my favorite celebrations of the Church's calendar - like a big party for all of my heavenly friends. I am so inspired by reading the lives of the saints, and find in each of them some unique expression of a lived-out holiness that leads me to desire ever more fervently to be like them. 

In celebration of All Saints Day, here are seven of my favorite quote about the saints - not about any one saint in particular, but about the saints in general.  Please feel free to download, pin, and share the quotes.  (please retain the Saints365 mark on the graphics).

-1-

This quote, from Father Lawrence Lovasik's book The Hidden Power of Kindness: A Practical Handbook for Souls Who Dare to Transform the World, One Deed at a Time, paints a striking picture of the perseverance demonstrated by the saints. The bottom line is this: holiness ain't easy, but it is possible with the help of the Lord's grace, to have the strength of will that Father Lovasik talks about in this quote.  


-2-

I can vividly remember the summer vacation to the beach when I read Father Thomas Dubay's life-changing book Deep Conversion, Deep Prayer for the first time. One of the things that struck me most about the message of the book was the sentiment expressed in this quote. The saints change things. The saints are the ones who draw people into the Church.  One single saint can be more influential than hosts of programs, events and  outreaches combined. If we want to be successful evangelists, we must first and foremost strive to be saints.  (This image is sized to be a FB cover - please feel free to use and share!)



-3-

 In the opening pages of his book, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Pope Benedict XVI, no stranger to the work of Biblical scholars, makes this bold statement about the saints being the "true interpreters of Holy Scripture."  The living word of God is not meant to be merely read or even vigorously studied, but lived, and it is the saints that our the model for kind of interpretation.   



-4-

Leave it St. Jose Marie Escriva with his trademark directness to tell it like it is.  This quote, from his classic, The Way: The Essential Classic to of Opus Dei's Founder removes all out excuses about striving for holiness.  The saints are not statues, unreal, and out of reach.  They are altogether human, and in this humanness of there have achieved the highest goal - the greatest "win" possible.  And they are rooting for us to do the same!



-5-
Another classic from St. Escriva.  Holiness makes us uncomfortable because it challenges us to get out of our own comfort zones and strive for more - more virtue, more love, more surrender....


-6-

This quote from St. Basil the Great is used by Father Raniero Cantalamessa in the opening pages of his magnificent book Come, Creator Spirit: Meditations on the Veni Creator.  The book takes each line of the ancient hymn "Veni Creator Spiritus" and both breaks it down and expands upon it.  Not an easy read, but a beautiful one. 

No one becomes a saint without the power of the Holy Spirit working in their lives and likewise, when we witness the lives of the saints, we witness the Holy Spirit working in the world!



-7-

One of my absolute favorites - and one that gives me great hope for my own spiritual journey.  How great is God's mercy and love to give the greatest of sinners the hope of the heights of heaven.  We don't have to look to far in the Communion of Saints to find some rather dismal "pasts" (think, St. Augustine).  Yet, God in his goodness, can heal the broken hearts among us and give us the brightest of futures. 




I'm linking up with Kelly over at This Ain't the Lyceum for Seven Quick Takes Friday. 
Head on over there for more great articles!   

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Thursday, October 15, 2015

St. Teresa of Avila and the Joy of the Lord

I have a love-hate relationship with holy cards.  You know what I am talking about - those laminated depictions of the saints with golden halo's and pious looks on their faces.  I have a ton of them and use them as bookmarks and small gifts in birthday cards.  The problem is, the saints' images often look like they have just sucked on a lemon.  Not a lot of "joy of the Lord" on display. 

St. Teresa of Avila is one of my favorite saints - I am in awe of her deep mystical life and her fearlessness in taking on the reform of the Carmelite order despite overwhelming obstacles.  She persevered in prayer despite trial and physical sufferings and was one of the great champions of the value of spiritual friendships as evidenced in her close relationship with St. John of the Cross.

In addition to one of the loftiest prayer lives the church has ever seen, St. Teresa of Avila also displayed a practicality and a sense of humor that is quite legendary. Even the Lord himself was not immune to her humorous jabs. After being thrown from the horse she was riding on and landing in a pile of mud and rain,  she quipped to the Lord: "If this is the way you treat your friends, it's no wonder you have so few."

Perhaps my favorite of all of St. Teresa of Avila's quotes is this one: "God save us from gloomy saints."  This mystic, contemplative Doctor of the Church deeply understood the need for the joy of the Lord to shine through the hearts and faces of his disciples. 


Pope Francis, in a homily given on May 23, 2014 echoes St. Teresa's sentiments saying:

"Joy, is like the sign of a Christian. A Christian without joy is either not a Christian or he is sick. There's no other type! He is not doing well health-wise. A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian. I once said that there are Christians with faces like pickled peppers (sour faced)... Always with these [long] faces! Some souls are also like this, this is bad! These are not Christians. A Christian without joy is not Christian. Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions.
Let's dispense with the notion that holiness looks like the stiff, waxed, artificial images of the saints depicted on the holy cards.  I feel confident in saying that St. Teresa of Avila would cringe at some of the gloomy portraits of herself.  Instead, I challenge you smile and let the joy of the Lord inform your face! The world surely needs to see the witness of joyful Christians.

St. Teresa of Avila, Pray for Us

Want to learn more about St. Teresa of Avila? - Check out the epic dramatic miniseries St. Teresa of Avila, which depicts her life. 

Feeling more ambitious?  Read her autobiography entitled: The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself

Ready to jump into her spiritual writings?  Check out the Interior Castle and The Way of Perfection

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Catholic Journal Prompts: Holy Family Edition

The Holy Family of Nazareth is the model par excellence of family life.  With so many questions about the true nature of family life running through the news and the culture, reflecting on God's design for family has never been more critical.

This edition of Catholic Journal Prompts features reflections on the Holy Family and how their example can serve as a guide for all families.  As always, each edition of Catholic Journal Prompts features journal starters based on the Scriptures, the writings and lives of the Saints, as well as other personal reflections and a list of resources for further study and meditation. 

Click here for other editions of Catholic Journal Prompts.



Journal Prompts From the Scriptures

Chapter 1 of Matthew's Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus - starting all the way back from Abraham and tracing Jesus' lineage down to Joseph, his foster-father. A careful reflection Jesus' family tree reveals some rather unseemly characters. Like the Lord, our family tree may be filled with the good and the bad.  Reflect on your own family lineage. List the good traits and qualities that have been passed down to you from your ancestors and thank the Lord for them.  Likewise, list the bad habits and sinful tendencies which you may have received from your family and repent of them. 

Jesus' birth story, recounted in Luke 2 was a mixture of great joy experienced under extreme duress. Reflect on your own birth story or that of your children. Thank and praise God for the joy of new life, given to us through Him. If there were moments of stress, struggle, or heartache during these births, journal the pain you felt and invite the Holy Family into these moments.  They understand, like no other, the pain of bringing a child into the world in less than ideal circumstances.  Ask the infant Jesus to heal your heart of any pain or guilt that you still carry.

Luke Chapter 2 tells us of the time when Jesus was lost in the temple and the anxiety Mary and Joseph felt in their frantic search for him. Journal the moments when, as a parent, you have felt anxiety over a child who has been lost, either physically, spiritually or emotionally. Ask the Holy Family for their intercession and guidance in helping you to "find" this lost child. 

"His mother kept all these things in her heart." (Luke 2:51) All parents hold their deepest hopes and dreams for their child's life inside their hearts. Use your journal as a private place to share these dreams for your children with the Lord Jesus. Ask him to reveal to you His will for your child's life.  Journal what you sense the Lord is saying and then pray that His will unfolds in their lives.

The flight to Egypt is one of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Mother. (Mt 2:13-15)  Think back to a time where your family had to move to a new location, take a new job, or experience financial uncertainty. Ask the Lord to show you how he was present in your life during these difficult moments.  If you are in the midst of troubling times, ask for the Holy Family to give you the gift of trust in the providence and goodness of God.

Mary immediately followed Joseph's lead, leaving the stability of the only home she had known and following him to the new land of Egypt. Journal about the times when you have found it difficult to be on the "same page" as your spouse, especially with regards to matters of faith. Ask the Lord for the grace to see eye to eye with your spouse.

Luke 2:51 tells us that Jesus was "obedient" to Mary and Joseph. Journal about any challenges you have in being obedient to the Lord or the teachings of the Church.  Pray for the grace of humble obedience for yourself and your family, even when that obedience involves sacrifice.

Journal Prompts From the Lives of the Saints

Even the saints were not immune from family difficulties. St. Francis of Assisi, for one, was disowned by his family for his radical following of the Lord. Journal about the times where following the Lord's will in your life has caused you grief within your own family. Ask for the intercession of the Holy Family to guide you and comfort you during these times.

St. Josemarie Escriva, in a reflection on family life, says "We should all learn to keep quiet, to wait and say things in a positive, optimistic way. When her husband loses his temper, the moment has arrived for the wife to be especially patient until he calms down, and vice versa." (Conversations #108) Reflect on the times when we have lost our tempers and ask the Lord for the grace of biting our tongues in future situations! 

Saint John Paul II once said in a famous quote: "The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish." Journal about any temptations you may be experiencing towards putting pleasure, comfort and independence ahead of authentic family life. Work on overcoming just one of these temptations, with the help of the Holy Family.

The relationship between St Monica and her son, St. Augustine, is legendary. St. Monica prayed for 30 years for the conversion of both her husband and her son, and in both cases, her prayers were answered. Use your journal to pour out your heart in intercession for family members who have wandered from the faith, knowing with confidence, that the Lord hears and answers your prayers.

Personal Reflections

Begin a journal entry for each member of your family. Write down all their good qualities, gifts and talents and thank the Lord for the them. Ask the Lord's blessings and protection on their life. In some cases, especially where there is discord between yourself and a family member, this can prove to be a difficult exercise.  Be persistent in prayer in those moments and ask the Lord to reveal to you his great love for that person.

At the start of each month, journal specific goals for your family - both temporal and spiritual. Share these goals with your family and help keep each other on track to achieve them. 

If you are holding on to areas of unforgiveness towards a family member, use your journal to write a letter to that person (you don't have to actually send it), expressing the hurt that they have inflicted upon you and asking for their forgiveness for those hearts.  Sometimes it is not possible to ask for forgiveness in person, and writing this letter that you will never send is a helpful step in healing your own heart. 

Reflect on the qualities of each member of the Holy Family.  Ask the Lord for the grace to grow in imitation of these qualities.

Resources for Further Meditation and Study

The following resources provide a wealth of additional food for meditation and journaling on both the Holy Family and Catholic family life:

Dr. Scott Hahn's book Joy to the World: How Christ's Coming Changed Everything (and Still Does) is far more than a Christmas book.  In it, he stresses the importance of the family, saying "The Christmas story has an unconventional hero - not a warrior, not a worldly conqueror, not an individual at all, but rather a family."

Meet Your Mother: A Brief Introduction to Mary and Meet Your Spiritual Father by Dr. Mark Miravalle are two of the most comprehensive resources available for information on the Church's teachings about the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph. Both readable, informative and informational these would make wonderful gifts for any married couple.

I am a huge fan of Father Lawrence Lovasik's writings.  Filled with practical suggestions based on timeless wisdom, the Catholic Family Handbook: Time-tested Techniques to Help You Strengthen Your Marriage and Raise Good Kids is an invaluable asset to any Catholic family desiring to grow in love for each other and the Lord.

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Monday, October 5, 2015

Teaching Your Children About Pope Francis


I was closing in on my 11th birthday when Pope Paul VI died. The subsequent election and death of Pope John Paul I followed by the election of the young, dynamic non-Italian Pope John Paul II fascinated me.  I scoured newspapers and magazines (the internet of the day) for articles about the Popes - and meticulously scrapbooked all my findings. These mysterious men in white mesmerized me and the Lord would eventually use my childhood devotion to the Holy Father to call me back to my faith after I wandered from it.

If your child is interested in learning about Pope Francis and the Papacy in general, here are a few resources to satisfy their curiosity. 

Books
  • Francis, the Pope for Kids is a great resource for kids ages 9-11. It is chock full of great Pope Francis facts, is cleverly illustrated and provides a glossary to explain the more complicated faith-based words. 
  • Praying with My Fingers: An Easy Way to Talk with God is an adorable rhyming book for that the youngest of children will enjoy as a read-aloud and is based on the Five Finger Prayer that Pope Francis is said to pray frequently.  This book would make a very special faith-filled gift for a baby shower or Baptism!
  • Lessons from Pope Francis for Children provides catechesis for kids on different areas of the faith - with each "lesson" interspersed with quotes from Pope Francis.  Beautifully illustrated, this book would be a great read-aloud for younger children or a read-alone for older ones.
Prayers

Pope Francis is associated with two prayers in particular - the Five-Finger Prayer and the devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots.
The Five Finger Prayer is a simple prayer of petition and intercession that can be said anywhere, Catholic Online for a detailed description of how to pray the Five Finger Prayer. 
anytime by anyone, including even the youngest of children. It is a great prayer for families to do together and seems so "Pope Francis-like" in its down to earth style and simplicity. Visit

The Devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots captured the attention of Pope Francis when he was a priest studying in German in the 1980's. He was captivated by the painting depicting Our Lady "undoing the knots" in a long rope. 

While the  Novena to Our Lady of Knots is a little complex for young children, the idea behind the concept is simple enough to grasp: we all have "knots" in are life that we cannot overcome on our own - they may be bad habits, patterns of sin, and other struggles. The devotion to Our Lady of knots invites the Blessed Mother to assist us in "undoing" those knots in our life - much in the same way a Mom is able to undo the knots on her child's sneakers.  Children can certainly appreciate the concept of asking Mary to help them undo the difficulties in their lives.

Videos

I love this animated video about Pope Francis (and the one like it about Pope John Paul II) - this is a fun teaching tool for younger children to watch at home or in the classroom. 





I showed the Apologetics class (ages 9-11) I teach at our homeschool co-op this video from Biography.com which was chock full of information about the Holy Father. 

Pope Francis Crossword Puzzle

Kids and adult alike will love this crossword puzzle - which is chock full of fun facts about Pope Francis.  Put on your researching hats and see how many of these you can figure out. 

Click here to download your FREE crossword puzzle and answer keys. 

Pope Francis Crossword Puzzle
Pope Francis Crossword Answer Key

  
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