lives of saints

My friend, the martyr Father Stanley Rother

Last blog, I  name dropped.

Did you catch it?  I said my friend, Father Stanley Rother helps me walk the path to Heaven.

Actually, that’s Blessed Father Stanley Rother to you.

Allow me to introduce you.

Father Rother isn’t a saint–yet. But he is a martyr, which gives you a big boost on your road to sainthood. In fact, he was just beatified on September 23rd and my daughter and I were there.

He’s the first american born martyr. And while he was growing up, no one ever thought he’d be a saint one day.

See, he was a simple man, an unassuming man, an Oklahoma farm boy who failed Latin in seminary, who had to have the bishop intervene so that he could finish seminary.

Who had a heart for missions and joined his diocesan mission to Guatemala.

And it was there that he found his true calling and his true heart. He became immersed in the life of the people. He learned two languages, the native dialect (Tz’utujil) and Spanish. In fact, he translated the new Testament and learned to say Mass in the native dialect. This from the boy who failed Latin.

He helped start a radio station and a hospital, and he just served. He did whatever needed to be done. He farmed and fixed things. He visited the people in his home and ate whatever they ate. He let poor people eat at his table everyday. The people loved him.

But civil war was raging. The Church was serving the poor, oppressed people and so made enemies with the government and so priests, catechists and the like were all in danger.

Father Rother knew it. He knew members of his congregation had been murdered. He buried bodies.

Then his name appeared on a death list.

At this point, he returned to Oklahoma but his heart remained in Guatemala. He begged the bishop to allow him to return even though he knew there was great risk to him.  He didn’t care. He was their shepherd and he could not abandon him. He went back in time to celebrate Holy Week with the people.

As he said in one of his letters:

[I]f it is my destiny that I should give my life here, then so be it.  . . .I don’t want to desert these people, and that is what will be said, even after all these years. There is still a lot of good than can be done under these circumstances.

Within a few months of his return, the rectory was broken into in the dead of night and Father Rother was shot in the head.

His body was flown back to Oklahoma but his heart was left in Guatemala where it is enshrined today.

So what is about him?

It’s his kind smile; his kind eyes, his kind face. It’s the way he worked and lived among the people. It’s that he didn’t run.

It’s that he was just an average, ordinary man.

Whatever it is, he inspires me. He encourages me. He shines a light on the path to Heaven and makes it a little easier to follow.

When I heard he would be beatified in Oklahoma, my daughter and I decided to go. I’ve never been to a beatification. It was an amazing trip.

On the plane, we met two priests who had been in seminary with him. At the diocese, I was able to get the book of his letters for $5 that is selling for $80 on Amazon.  We met the man who put his cause for canonization together. We met a Guatemalan priest who had lived and served with him. And, because I complimented someone’s shirt, we ended up eating dinner with his second cousins. It was an amazing experience, to say nothing of the beautiful beatification ceremony itself.

So yes, Father Stanley has been a good friend to me. And he helps me walk the path God has for me.

Father Stanley Rother, pray for us.

To learn more about his life, check out this link:


To purchase his story on DVD or book form visit:


The Ascension

Sometimes when I meditate on the Ascension, it crosses my mind that this glorious mystery could have been less than glorious at the time To my mind of weak faith, if I imagine walking and talking everyday with Jesus, if I imagine Him being returned to my presence after I thought I had lost Him, and then Him going away again . . I think confusion, sadness. Even though there was the promise of the Holy Spirit, I doubt the apostles fully grasped what that meant. How could they see that as comparable to having Jesus before their very eyes?

But is that how the apostles viewed it? No. The last chapter of Luke tells us that after they witnessed the Ascension, “And they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And were continually in the temple blessing God.”

That is pure faith. They had no idea what was going to happen next. They didn’t know what it would be like when the spirit Jesus promised came. They didn’t know what they would be like. But the trusted Him completely They trusted that what He said would happen would actually happen, and they trusted that it was for the best.

That’s a lot of trust. A lot of faith. And it’s beautiful.

Certainly they must have felt some pain–the pain of loss, the pain of separation. But their faith was so strong, so real that they went forth with joy. Great joy.

Because they were so close to Jesus that they really got it!  What does that tell us? The key to joy? Jesus.

Cultivating that close relationship with Jesus.

Over and over again in my suffering I come back to my very own weak faith. When I’m willing to just trust Him, to be brave and accept whatever He has for me, then peace comes, when I can willingly accept that He can–and will–bring good from anything that happens.

Okay so that doesn’t happen much. But its there once in a while. Its possible if we can get to that trust. It always comes back to trust–and faith.

And the disciples got that and lived it.

St. Francis Borgia and Humility

Francis lived a happy life as a Duke with his eight children and his wife. It was said that although he was poweful,he was devout and a good man of God. This happy life ended when his beloved wife died. And that’s when he decided to become a Jesuit priest. His Superior tested him by treating him in exactly the opposite way he had been used to being treated as a duke. He had  to help cook, carry wood, sweep the kitchen and serve food to the other priest–on his knees, begging them to forgive him for being so clumsy.

Yet he never complained. In fact, the only time he became angry was when anyone treated him with respect as if he was still a Duke. Once a doctor who had to take care of a painful wound Francis had gotten said to him: “I am afraid, my lord, that I have to hurt your grace.” The saint answered that he would not hurt him more than then by calling him “my lord” and “your grace.”He was able to accomplish wonderful works for God’s glory as he preached everywhere and advised many important people.  Under his guidance, the Jesuits grew to be a very great help to the Church in many lands.  But, through all such success,  he remained completely humble.

Humility means emptying all of our selves out–and letting God fill it. it means not esteeming ourselves, having no desire to esteem ourselves and having no desire to be esteemed by others.

When we are truly humble it becomes much easier to do and be what God wants because you have no attachment to yourself or your own wants.

Francis didn’t run from his sufferings. He took it on and found the best way to serve God. He gave up the life that would be easiest, give him the most esteem and give him the most comfort. He willing suffered, you might say, to find the best way to do God’s will.

Me-I’m just running from pain in order to find the most comfort. Humility? Not so much.

But suffering teaches us that quick. When your stripped down to your basics, to survival mode, well, yes, you learn to be humble.

You learn not to presume that even the good things you have going for you are going to stay. You learn that your plans don’t necessarily matter. You learn to serve God through the suffering. If your plan for life falls through, what’s left? You might as well turn your attention (finally!) to what He wants. Yes, in suffering, now we know we don’t matter. But He does. He is all that matters because He and His plan, is the only thing that can make sense out of this mess.


What if we were so humble that doing the will of God was all that mattered?


Monica/Quiet Example

Of course we all know of St. Monica’s enduring patience and she waited and prayed for her husband and son to convert . . .and that she worried for them.

And we know that she suffered–just look at what she is the patron saint of: difficult marriages, disappointing children, victims of adultery or unfaithfulness, victims of (verbal) abuse, and conversion of relatives.

But what she did well was be that good example. It was said that her husband, though annoyed by her piety, had a deep reverence for her,  no doubt because she lived her faith so consistently, And that faith made her a beautiful, respectable person and wife.

Further, she was not the only wife in an unhappy marriage in her area. But her words and her sweetness served as an example to the other wives.

And eventually, she saw the conversion of both her husband and her son. Would St. Augustine be a saint today without the example and prayers of his mother?

It has to do with constancy too, it has to do with wanting what God wants for us above all else. That’s what Monica did–she kept her eyes on God and did what He wanted, acted the way He wanted despite her pain, despite her circumstance, despite how much other people disappointed and even betrayed her.

And that example definitely helped with the conversion of those she loved, but probably countless others too as the other wives probably learned from her as well.

Pain, tiredness, yes, even, horrible suffering, doesn’t change who we are, who we are called to be. We are called to be holy, to act holy, to grow in holiness. This is a lesson Monica well understood. Yes, it’s not easy for everyone. It takes practice (and hey, our suffering gives us lots of practice!!) and it takes growing in our relationship with the Lord, staying close to Him. No, clinging to Him.

I guess to me, Monica is  a good reminder. She wasn’t exempt from pain–and her piety did not earn her exemption. She suffered much and for a long time. But she chose to suffer well and to act the way God wanted her to–to the very people who were causing her suffering. That is hard to do.

But this is where our faith is called to action. Are we all talk?  My prayer is to be that beautiful example to all those around me who see me go through this suffering. It is definitely a daily struggle . . . .


Sebastian and Courage

Sebastian is the patron saint of the newest member of our family–and I named him after Sebastian because during my pregnancy, when my intense suffering began, a priest told me about this saint. He told me that Sebastian was shot with arrows–and recovered. And I liked the symbolism.

I liked the idea of undergoing this intense suffering and surviving–the idea that I could get up on my feet again. That’s what I needed to hear. That’s the vision I wanted to have.

But Sebastian’s story goes on from there. After he was nursed back to health from this first attempt at taking his life because he was a Christian, he then stood on a step as the Emperor passed by and denounced the emperor’s cruelty. And then he was beaten to death.

I don’t know about you, but I think if my life had been threatened once–if I had been brought to the point of death, and then lived–I don’t think I would go back out into the public. I mean he had done his work–he had shown himself to be Christian, and not given that  up, been willing to die and then lived! I think he deserved to serve the Church in a more quiet, underground way. I have never been shot with an arrow (let alone several), but I am guessing that it is probably is quite painful–and he was assumed to be dead so he must have been in pretty bad shape. He endured an incredible amount of pain, of suffering.

But he wasn’t afraid. Or if he was, he didn’t let that stop him. He went right back and did what he thought was right–knowing from experience what the consequences would be.

That’s courage. Suffering, or the fear of suffering, didn’t stop him. Suffering didn’t stand in his way. He seemed to not even think twice about doing whatever God asked. He said, “bring it on!”

My guess is that he had a pretty good grasp on the idea that this life is not our permanent home, that Heaven is what really matters. To him death was gain as St. Paul expressed as well.

I think courage is the virtue that has given me the ability to stand–yes, on wobbly legs–in the midst of the trial. Courage is what has given me the ability to stare in the face of this life I didn’t choose or want and to  go on.  Okay, so its not putting my life on the line. Okay, so I’m not even choosing to put myself out the way Sebastian did. I am not that brave. But I am brave enough to say, “OK.’

OK, God. Whatever you have for me.

My strength and my courage is the Lord . . . .Isaiah 12:2

Sebastian virtuesThis photo was taken from “Summer Saint Days” where a group of friends get together to teach our kids about different saints. After the lesson on Saint Sebastian, I asked the kids to write down what virtues they saw in him.

Helen and New Discoveries

So here was Helen (or Helena)–left alone with her son–abandoned so her husband 1290617_cross_of_believecould marry someone else in order to increase his social status.

But Helen took care of her son and he had a great affection for her. And when her son became Emperor Constantine the Great, he supported her in her work to serve the Lord.

Helen didn’t curl up and disappear into nothingness. She continued to serve God however she could, including serving the poor, rebuilding churches and finding relics.

What I love about St. Helen is that, because of her journey to Jerusalem where she found the True Cross, she is the patron saint of new discoveries.

And what a perfect motto for those of us suffering.  I’ve mentioned it a few times that this suffering is changing  the course of my life. And I don’t like that course. And I’m sure Helen didn’t either. But what a comforting, even amazing thought, to think that my “new” life could have a new discovery waiting for me. Something amazing. Something I don’t expect; something I can’t predict. And why shouldn’t I believe that? Does God not promise to make all things new?

Yes, it’s not what I wanted, not what I envisioned but there is something to be discovered here. And if we can lift our head up and just trust God through the pain, I think we could be amazed when it is all said and done. God does not abandon us. He guides us through it–and into something new. Yes, God’s timing is all His own. Yes, it doesn’t happen the way or the time we think. Maybe it will be a very long time before I see this new discovery. But someday, I think I will be able to look back and see at least that tiny corner of the picture . . . .that God didn’t abandon me–that God had something new for me.

It’s a beautiful, comforting thought, as is the story of this saint who suffered, picked herself up and pursued what God had for her now!


Rita–Patient and Steadfast

 Be sincere of heart and  steadfast, incline your ear and receive the word of understanding, undisturbed in time of  adversity. Wait on God, with patience, cling to him, forsake him not; thus will you be  wise in all your ways. Accept whatever befalls you, when sorrowful, be steadfast, and  in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold and silver are tested, and worthy  people in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and God will help you; trust in him, and  he will direct your way; keep his fear and grow old therein.  Sirach 2:2-6

St. Rita had a lot to endure. Her real desire was to enter a convent but her parents arranged a marriage for her instead.  Although this wasn’t her desire, she worked to become a good wife and mother . . . .which actually was a pretty difficult task, given that her husband was abusive, unfaithful and who knows what else.

She prayed for him. And prayed for him. And prayed for him. It was said he actually did mellow . . and then was murdered. Her sons wanted revenge. She prayed for them. They died of dysentery. Some say it was because of her prayers–that they died before they would commit mortal sin.

She then wanted to join a convent . . .but they didn’t want her because of the fueding that had gone on with her family and the one who murdered her husband.

so she prayed.  Eventually the head of the other family got sick . . .and was no longer interested in revenge.  She was then allowed to enter the convent.

It’s a high level look at the life of this saint, patron of the impossible.

Rita knew suffering . . . .left completely alone by the time she was in her 30s. But she also knew how to suffer well. When faced with suffering after suffering, she prayed. And then she went about working hard and doing the best she could with whatever she’d been given. The secular saying would be, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Rita had a great recipe for lemonade . . . it was to mix prayer with a little patience and steadfastness.

Another word for steadfast is constant. When I was on retreat a few months ago, the priest talked a lot about constancy. It really stood out to me–I guess because I feel like everything around me has just gone crazy. Sometimes going crazy seems like the more appealing option.

But what is God asking of me? Constancy. Constant in my love and faith. Constant in my awareness of God’s love. And then, as the priest said these problems don’t crush us.

And what a beautiful testimony we give.

This beautiful testimony is why I am writing about Saint Rita today–why we know her at all.

The other part of Rita’s testimony is how she “bloomed where she was planted.” She never wanted to be a wife at all! And then to have such a bad husband! But she didn’t pout, cry, complain, feel sorry for herself or give herself excuses for not being patient and constant. She strove to be a good wife.  And then she was a widow. Still she just went ahead to do her best to continue to mother her children.

She served the Lord with whatever He gave her, wherever she was. Every time her life turned unexpectedly and usually tragically, she just became the best she could possibly be in the circumstances.

And there is the other lesson for me. My life completely turned, yes tragically.   But the question is still the same. What does God want from in this new life?

You know what else the priest said on retreat: “Be thankful. Don’t let the problems taint you. Trials come up and there are consequences . . .Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Can you pray with Pope Clement X, “Lord, I want whatever you want, because you want it, the way you want it, as long as you want it”?

Therese and Joy

Today I am thinking about Saint Therese, the Little Flower. Therese is very special to me as my patron saint, the patron saint of one of my children, and of my grandmother whom I never got the privilege of meeting. Therese may be one of the most marked examples of accepting suffering and using it well. Indeed by the end of her life, she was happy in her suffering. It seems to me if we can reach that place, there is no need for our suffering and yet at the same time, it doesn’t bother us if it continues.

Therese’s pain was so great that she said if it wasn’t for her faith she would have taken her own life. Yet, many thought she was faking her sickness because she was so cheerful. I think Therese was making a choice that although the pain was unspeakable, she was not going to be controlled by it–she was not going to despair, not going to wallow in self-pity. She was going to use it.

Isn’t that amazing?

Can you imagine walking around In this kind of intense physical pain and no one even being able to tell? When I’m in pain, I want people to know! I want sympathy. I want the excuse, especially when I do let my pain (physical or emotional) get control of me. But Therese only wanted to deflect attention away from herself.

It was said that the physical ordeal which she felt more than  any other was the cold of the convent buildings in winter, but no one even suspected this until she confessed it on her death-bed. It’s the not complaining in any way that impresses me. Some complaints are justified or even, you could say, you’re entitled to. But Therese didn’t say a word–and not only that, but she didn’t even act the part. If no one knew, that means no one ever saw her blowing on her hands or rubbing them together or crossing her arms across her chest or pulling a sweater tighter around her. She just endured it . . . with a smile.

I think you really have to understand God’s design for suffering to act like this. You would have to believe that it serves a purpose. You would also have to be much more concerned with something else–namely God and others. To me, its that being concerned about others part, that’s really hard to do. Sometimes suffering makes us even more internal, more focused on us. It looms so large in our mind that we can scarcely think of anything else. And sometimes we are just trying so hard to endure it that we can’t imagine having the ability to reach out to others. I’m not totally sure how you overcome that. I think there is a fine line between accepting that you may not be able to do everything you would like for everyone in the middle of your own crisis and not letting yourself become so focused on yourself that you don’t see the needs around you.

By the time of her death, Therese was able to say, “I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me.”

So first,  we learn to be joyous while we are suffering and then as we spiritually mature, we get to the point where we are genuinely happy for our sufferings.  Kind of like that saying, “fake it until you make it.” So the point is to smile, to train ourselves to be joyful, to choose joy no matter what our circumstances. Joy is not the same as happiness. Joy is an internal contentment that has nothing to do with our circumstances.

I bet you know people who are constantly joyful. It doesn’t mean they are always happy but they just radiate a joy, a peace. And its a very attractive quality.

True joy, true peace comes from acceptance. Or actually I prefer the word surrender. Yes, surrender, as in, I give up, Lord. Have Your way–even if Your way for me is the way You took, the way of the Cross.

We are called to imitate Jesus. Jesus suffered so we should rejoice in our sufferings as they allow us to be more like Him!

Like Bishop Sheen said, “You can’t have Easter Sunday without Good Friday.”

Things that helped me:

So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:41)


Out of these ashes… beauty will  rise.

And we will dance among  the ruins

We will see Him  with our own eyes.

Out of  these ashes… beauty will rise

For  we know, joy is coming in the morning…

in  the morning, beauty will rise. (Steven Curtis Chapman Beauty Will Rise) From the album: Beauty Will Rise.

What else from the life of Saint Therese says joy to you? What story of joy lifts you through your suffering?


Mary and trust


saint maryI thought it made sense to begin reflecting on saints with the saint of all saints, our mother Mary.

Mary embodies so many virtues but today I am thinking about her amazing ability to trust God, her surrender.

Sometimes when I’m saying the Rosary and thinking about the Annunciation, I think that this mystery we see as so joyous now, may not have been all about joy at the time. It might have been kind of  . . .confusing, maybe a little scary. Not just the whole seeing an angel part which was obviously a little terrifying since she is told not to fear, but even the being told she is going to have a baby. Talk about changing your whole life plan. There was so much unknown in her life now. Whatever she envisioned her life was going to be like for the next year or years, was completely changed. She would never have that vision–she had to re-invision her life, sort of speak.

As a matter of fact, from that point on, I dare say Mary’s life was bittersweet–as seen  by the devotion of the seven sorrows of Mary where we recount some of her greatest sorrows: 1. prophecy of Simeon. 2. flight into Egypt. 3. The loss of Jesus in the temple. 4. Mary meets Jesus on the way to the Cross. 5. Jesus dies on the Cross. 6. Mary receives the dead body of her son. 7. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

What worse can you suffer than watching your child die–and to die so horribly and the subject of so much cruelty? Yes, Mary knew suffering.

But what stands out to me is that Mary does not question. She asks a logistics question (how is it possible for me to have a baby?) but she doesn’t cry out against God’s plan for her life or even for her child’s life. She trusts that God’s plan makes sense and that although it may come at a great cost to her, that He will triumph in the end. And that was enough for her.

That trust gives her peace.

For me, I believe that God knows everything and that He sees the bigger picture, that He can work all things together for my good (Romans 8:28)  . . .but I still fight against it.  I want Him to bring His will about–but I want Him to do it in another way, not through my suffering. I remember telling my friend how desperate I was, how hard I was trying, to deny my situation. She told me it was like an adult temper tantrum.  And that’s just it–I was saying, “don’t let this be happening. You have to stop this.”

No surrender. No peace.

I’m not saying that this is unnatural. I think sometimes we have to go through this phase. But we have to move from it to really grow. If we say we trust God, then we have to trust Him always–even when He changes our whole life plan. We like to proclaim that trust in Him, but its only when we suffer that we find out if that is really true. Its that moment where the rubber meets the road as the saying goes. Faith in the good times may or may not be real faith. How do we know until its tested? We don’t have to understand what’s happening, but we need to believe that God has our best interest in mind–which is not necessarily synonymous with our happiness!

That’s the trust of Mary–the trust that brings us peace in suffering.

I’m not there yet . . .


Two things that have brought me comfort:

The Bible verse:

“And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.” ( Romans 8:28–The Holy Bible : DOUAY-RHEIMS VERSION)

And a Steven Curtis Chapman song:

“I will trust you God, I will. Even when I don’t understand. Even then I’ll say again, you are my God and I will trust you . . .I know your heart is good. I know your love is strong and your plans for me are better than my own.” (Steven Curtis Chapman–I will Trust You)  From the album: Beauty Will Rise.

So what do you say? Are you, like Mary, ready to trust God, with anything He gives you?