Catholic Girl Journey

From ordinary to extraordinary

Name three saints that first come to mind.

Which ones did you choose?

Perhaps some were apostles of Jesus, like Peter or John. Perhaps one was your patron saint. Another may have been a more recently canonized saint, like Pope John Paul II or Mother Theresa. Do your three saints all come from among the religious elite?  It can seem sometimes that all the saints were called to religious life of some sort. Does this mean only people who have a religious vocation are eligible for sainthood? For those in the laity, like myself, it can be a daunting thought. I was paging through a book of saints recently, and when I tried to find one that did not belong to a religious order, it was a bit difficult! Joan of Arc was one that surfaced. To my surprise, there were also a few royals listed, like Edward the Confessor of England and Elizabeth of Hungary. So it is possible for extraordinary leaders to reach heaven. But what about the ordinary folk?

Pope Francis did just canonize two such individuals: Louis and Zelie Martin. I found it rather interesting that both considered the religious life, but realized that was not what God called them to do. Louis & Zelie were called to more than just religious life, namely to bring into the world a little girl who would one day become a doctor of the Church, St. Therese of Lisieux. In living their lives focusing on God and their children, they demonstrated the love of the Trinity within their family.

God creates such variety in life, it seems logical that the diversity in His people is a part of His plan. If our daily activities can be done with care and love as an offering up to God, we can use the ordinary things of life to come closer to God. And by coming closer to God here on earth, we will be more prepared for heaven. Once on heaven, we will realize our day to day actions helped us become saints. That is extraordinary, indeed.

Catholic Girl Journey

Here today, saint tomorrow

November starts with the feast of All Saints Day, which in the Church calendar is a great time to reflect on the lives of the saints. We are counting down on the liturgical year, since a new year starts on the first Sunday in Advent. During this year end, we pause to contemplate the lives of those who have gone before us.

One year when I was  a student in a Catholic grade school, we were asked to dress up as our patron saint for Halloween to commemorate an ancient custom of “All Hallow’s Eve” as it was originally called. This was a great exercise for kids, since we had to learn more of about the saint for whom we are named. My name, Karen, is actually a derivative of the name Catherine. In the little book of saints that I had as a child, there was one listing for that name: Catherine of Alexandria. I remember being aghast reading that she had been scheduled for torture by a spiked wheel, only it fell apart instead of hurting her, so she was beheaded instead. As a youngster, that sounded terrible to me, especially since I had to dress up like her.

Now I realize there are many saints named Catherine, and it’s up to me to find the one that I can truly call my patron, someone that I can look up to and learn from. As a subscriber to Magnificat, a monthly devotional that includes snippets of writings from various saints and holy people, I have come to admire St. Catherine of Siena and consider her my patron. Her letters helped to bring the papacy back to Rome from France. She was an incredible writer and leader and was named a doctor of the Church.

There are so many amazing saints, and even if we don’t share their name, we can still consider them our patrons and ask them to intercede for us. Learning about men and women who faced hardship and worldly problems yet succeeded in living holy lives helps us to connect with them. We can learn from them how to trust in God and how we can let God lead us to heaven. We are all on the journey during this life to the next. Will we be the saints of tomorrow?

Catholic Girl Journey

Practice Makes a Saint

We’ve all heard the saying, “Practice make perfect.” So what does that mean in the life of faith?

When you think of practice, what comes to mind? Is it sitting at the piano, playing the various scales to the beat of a metronome? Or is it throwing a ball through a hoop again and again, making small changes to hand placement, balance, and body movement? Maybe it’s drawing a circle over, and over, and over again until it is perfect.

Just like any activity at which you want to become better, faith is all about practice. It’s not about doing things correctly all the time, it’s about practicing so as to continuously improve, coming closer to perfection. And just like with any other activity, you don’t tackle all the skills needed at once, but rather concentrate on perfecting one and slowly applying what has been learned to more advanced skills.

Since faith is a relationship with God, how can one “practice” a relationship? By getting to know him, by seeing God in every person, by recognizing his handiwork in all of creation. That’s why a life of faith is more than just following rules, treating people nicely or going to Church on Sundays.  It’s important to be at Mass on Sunday, not just to cross it off the list, but to be filled with God’s message, to help you hone the skill you are perfecting and to encourage you as you practice throughout the week.

Often in our culture, people who claim to be of a particular religious affiliation are held to a different standard. Part of that is understandable; it is good that a person can be known by their faith. Other times, it’s an expectation of perfection, forgetting that faith is  a journey and people can have good days and less than ideal days as they practice. It’s not an excuse to do whatever, but a call for mercy towards those that do not meet to the standards yet.

We are all on this faith journey, so it’s okay if you’re not perfect. It will take a lifetime to get to your goal. Practicing faith is continuing to deepen that relationship with God.  One day you may join Him in heaven. Since all who reach heaven are saints, then practice helps make a saint!