Emily M. DeArdo

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Seven Quick Takes--St. Francis, Forgiveness, and Fear

7 Quick Takes, behind the scenes, current projects, the bookEmily DeArdo5 Comments
linking up with  Kelly !

linking up with Kelly!

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Why yes, I am alliterating my titles.

To start with St. Francis—it’s his feast day! Dominicans celebrate the feast days of Franciscans (and vice versa!), because we just love each other that much. :) Well, we do, but here’s the story.

St. Francis and St. Dominic, Fra Angelico

St. Francis and St. Dominic, Fra Angelico

So, happy Feast Day, Franciscans! We celebrate with you!

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Might be a good time to remind everyone that St. Francis didn’t really give us the “Prayer of St. Francis” (it was written in the 60s) and that he did more than just like animals. St. Francis was a pretty bad-ass saint. The Word on Fire documentary about him in The Pivotal Players is eye-opening, if you’ve only ever thought of him that way. This piece is a good overview.

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OK, Forgiveness.

This is just a reflection—a thought—on something I’ve been pondering this week.

I’m 37. That means in three years, I’ll be 40 (God willing and the creek don’t rise). That’s a good chunk of time living on planet earth. That’s two score of years!

But one thing I have noticed in those almost 40 years is how vital forgiveness is, how terrible it is for a person who doesn’t forgive past things to be weighed down by that anger and resentment and pain.

Holding on to that anger does nothing to the person who wronged you. It hurts you.

Some things aren’t possible to forgive easily. That’s true. They require work and prayer and maybe sessions with therapists or other professionals.

But after seeing a teenager forgive the woman who murdered his brother—he hugged her, for pete’s sake!—it just brought home to me how vital this call of Christ is.

We’re called to forgive the way we want to be forgiven.

I honestly don’t know how this young man did this. Christ works strongly in his life, is all I can say. If someone killed my brother, I’d be….full of rage. I’d be absolutely incapable of this kind of grace, at least at this point.

This teenager puts me to shame.

And in a way, this ties into St. Francis and his story about perfect joy (I excerpted this from a longer piece that you can read here.)

“One day, on the road home, Francis was walking with Br. Leo. Francis said to Br. Leo; ‘If the Order of Friars became world famous for doing good works, and spreading the Gospel, this would not be perfect joy. Br. Leo asked, ‘Father Francis, what then would be perfect joy?’ Francis responded, ‘If all the most famous and powerful people in the land entered the Order of Friars, and worked with us proclaiming the Gospel, healing the sick, caring for the poor, and converting many souls to Christ, this would not be perfect joy!’ Br. Leo then says, ‘Please Father Francis, tell me what is perfect joy!’ Francis said; ‘Brother Leo, if we come to our friary, after this long journey, tired, wet, cold, and hungry, longing for a meal, and a warm dry place to sleep, and we knock on the door, and hear from within our brothers who ask, ‘Who are You?’ We respond that we are your brothers coming home from a long journey, and we wish for you to let us in. But instead of the welcome we long for, we hear a response from inside, go away; we do not know who you are. We are expecting no one, you must be liars and thieves, intending to harm us! If, Brother Leo, after that, we can still have peace in our heart, that is Perfect Joy!’”

Man. I have such a long way to go to achieve perfect joy.

But back to forgiveness—run of the mill forgiveness—in the words of Into the Woods, “People make mistakes!” And they do. We’re hurt in all sorts of little ways that the other person might not even notice. But we have a choice. We can either hold on to that hurt and let it poison us (because it doesn’t poison the other person), or we can forgive and stop poisoning ourselves.

This isn’t new ground. But it’s something I’ve been thinking about this week.

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And that leads us to fear! (And then we’ll do some fun things, I promise, so this isn’t all heavy.)

Satan loves fear. He loves to play on our sense of inadequacy and comparison and uncertainty. He love, love, loves it.

Christ does not call us to fear. He calls us to trust and joy and hope.

So, if you’re feeling a lot of fear or doubt or inadequacy—tell Satan to get behind you and that Mary is crushing his head. :) And so is St. Michael.

(Do you say the St. Michael prayer daily? I recommend it!)

-V-

On the blog this week:

Yarn Along

St. Therese!

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BOOK STUFF!

The cover is 99% done. I love it and can’t wait to show it to you.

I’ve read the forward for the book and I love it. Can’t wait to tell you who’s writing it.

Basically it’s a lot of I love what’s happening but I can’t tell you yet! :)

(If you want to be the first to know, sign up for the newsletter…..)

-VII-

So glad to be going on retreat. If you have prayer requests, hit me up!

It's the Feast of St. Therese!

books, CatholicismEmily DeArdoComment

Happy Feast Day!

St. Therese is my (accidental) patron saint, and the older I get, the happier I am that I picked her—or she picked me, either way. :)

The St. Therese reliquary at the local retreat house.

The St. Therese reliquary at the local retreat house.



A French girl who died at the age of twenty-four from TB, what can she possibly teach us? SO MUCH. So much that St. John Paul II made her a doctor of the church. That’s right. She’s one of four women to have that title.

IMG_7914.JPG

Don’t be deceived by her sometimes flowery (period appropriate) prose, or the saccharine images. St. Therese is a wonderful friend to have.

If you’re new to her, let me recommend a few things:

1) Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul *. (My friend Elizabeth wrote the introduction to this edition!)

2) I Believe In Love, *which is one of my all-time favorite, desert island books.

3) The Film Therese. *

4) If you want to go a bit deeper, then 33 Days to Merciful Love is what you want. This is a daily meditation book, leading up to the Consecration to Merciful Love (which I made on New Year’s Day this year). It’s powerful!

There have been so many books written about her that it would take a long time to read them all (believe me, I’ve tried!) but these four resources are excellent starting points.

So, let’s get on the Little Way….

st therese meme.png


*=Amazon affiliate links

St. Dominic, the Innkeeper, and Twenty-First Century Preaching

Catholicism, essays, politics, DominicansEmily DeArdoComment
El Greco,  St. Dominic in Prayer

El Greco, St. Dominic in Prayer

There’s a story about St. Dominic that’s familiar to every Dominican, and I think it has important implications for us today.

Here’s how the Nashville Dominicans tell the story on their website:

Two years later a diplomatic trip brought Dominic into the Albi region of Southern France. A strong zeal for the salvation of souls was enkindled when the young canon encountered an innkeeper who was steeped in the errors of the Catharists, a heresy which threatened the region. Although other religious had been commissioned to preach in the region, little progress had been made. After a long night of intense discussion, the light of truth prevailed and the innkeeper returned to the practice of the faith.


So let’s break this down. Think of a hotel. Imagine you’re in the lobby, getting something to drink before you go to bed, and you start making small talk with the desk clerk. You discover that he’s an agnostic.

You have a few options:

Don’t say anything. Just smile and say good night, but mentally pray for him.

Share that you’re Catholic. Don’t go any father.

Tell him that he’s going to Hell.

Say that you’re Catholic and spend the rest of the night trying to browbeat him into submission!


What did St. Dominic do? He talked to the innkeeper. All night. You can imagine that it wasn’t full of highly charged statements (like, hey, you’re going to Hell! Good night!) or polemics. It was probably logical—because we Dominicans love study—and it was probably methodical. And it was also probably gentle. I doubt the innkeeper would’ve stayed up all night if St. Dominic was banging him over the head with proofs!

There’s nothing wrong with a good discussion, including one that gets a little exciting.

My siblings and I are all half-Italian. When we have discussions, we get loud. We get boisterous. We use our hands! For people new to way we converse, you can think we’re arguing. (Growing up, our mother, who is not Italian, often told us to stop arguing. “We’re not arguing! We’re talking!”) St. Dominic was Spanish, so I wonder if he used his hands, too. Maybe!

But there’s a distinction between passionate arguing and getting personal. And on St. Dominic’s Feast Day, that’s what I want to talk about.

St. Dominic (detail) from “Christ Mocked with the Virgin and St. Dominic,” Fra Angelico

St. Dominic (detail) from “Christ Mocked with the Virgin and St. Dominic,” Fra Angelico


One of the mottos of the Dominican order is “Veritas”—truth. We love truth. We live to spread the truth of the Gospel all over the world! And that’s part of the reason we study, so that we can know what the truth is. Truth isn’t about what you think is true, or a “personal truth". (for example, children believe that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny exist. We could call that their “personal truths.” )

Truth is verifiable. Truth can be known. Sometimes, yes, there is mystery! We will never understand everything—and we’re not meant to. Some things are just beyond our reach on this earth. But we know the truth of faith because it’s able to be studied. It’s able to be seen. We believe in the truth of Jesus Christ. At Mass every week, we say the “credo”—”I believe”. This isn’t what just I believe, or what you believe, or what the pope beliefs, or what Fr. Patrick up on the altar believes. It’s what we have always believed, as a people, a family of faith.

If you are Catholic, you have to know what you believe, and why you believe it—and you have to assent to it. You can’t just say, well, that’s fine for you, but I don’t believe in Transubstantiation. (You would be….wrong!) I don’t believe in the Church’s definition of marriage. I don’t believe in Hell. Etc.

Truth is truth whether you believe in it or not. People believed the earth was flat—but it wasn’t. People believed that slaves weren’t people—but they were. People believe that unborn babies aren’t people—but they are. See how this goes?

It goes without saying that the truth needs to be spread far and wide. That’s part of what Dominicans do.

But, the question is “how to do it.” As the Wicked Witch of the West said, “These things must be handled delicately.” We can’t be too nice that we deny people the truth—because the truth sets them free, and truth is the best thing you can give someone! But we also can’t be so awful and hard-core that we turn people away from hearing the truth and listening to it.

Let’s take a story from the Bible. It’s one that’s familiar to everyone—the story of the woman caught in adultery. I’m going to quote it here, so we can all have it freshly before us:

John 8:3-11

The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in their midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.”


Do not sin again. That’s the crux, really. We are all sinners. Every single one of us. I am, you are, everyone. None of us is without sin. But Jesus doesn’t say to the woman, “Oh, what you did is fine. Go ahead, go home, it’s all good.” He said, I don’t condemn you. But don’t sin again. That’s what happens when we go to confession—we have to promise to try not to sin again. We can’t just think, oh, I can do what I want, because confession!

Jesus loves us more than we can possibly imagine. And because he does, he doesn’t want us to keep messing up. It makes him sad! Do parents like it when their kids make bad choices? No! But are they angry? Maybe. Are they disappointed and sad? I think this is probably more likely. (I mean, they might be angry at first. But I think then it becomes more sad/disappointed.)

When we discuss heated issues in the twenty-first century, we are not good about being gentle about it, like Jesus is here. Now, yes, Jesus also turned over tables in the temple. Sometimes we can be righteously angry. I get righteously angry whenever I talk about disabilities or abortion. That’s my thing. But if I slip and start calling people names, or want to incite violence against them, I am sinning.

We can be preachers of the word. We have to be, both preachers of the word and doers of it. We have to live the life of Christ. Sometimes that means standing up for people. Sometimes that means living a quiet life of witness. Sometimes it means both!

If you want to make your point, if you want to convert people, you aren’t going to do it, usually, by violence or hatred or name calling. We need to stop doing that. We need to do it like St. Dominic did it—gently, with facts, with truth, and then….step back. See how it goes. Conversions aren’t instantaneously. St. Dominic famously cried, “Oh Lord, what will become of sinners?” He cared about them. He didn’t just want to score a point like in a college debate match. He didn’t want to just win. He wanted the other person to see the truth because it would save them.

Politics in America has always been nasty (see the Election of 1800!). But we must stop seeing each other as enemies across a divide. We have to state our position, but also realize that we can be friends with people who don’t vote the way we do. In fact, we are required to love them.

I know things get heated in the public realm. I worked in politics for 10 years. I saw it, up close and personal. We cannot want to kill our opponents, guys. We can’t approve the shooting of congressmen and women because the victim disagreed with us! What kind of people will we be then?

A story was told to me by the first legislative aide I worked with, who had been in the senate a long time. She said that senators used to argue like crazy on the floor, and then go out to dinner together. They were friends with each other. That was becoming rarer and rarer

Christianity isn’t a religion for wimps. Jesus doesn’t ask us to be a doormat. He asks us—and St. Dominic shows us how—to preach the truth, to live the truth with our lives, to pray for our enemies. We can have discussions—even loud Italian ones! We can be passionate! I’ve always been passionate when talking about the Church.

But there’s a fine line between being passionate, and being so whipped up into a frenzy that you can’t see the human being on the other side.

St. Dominic saw the humanity in the people he met. That’s what drove him to preach—his concern for them and his love for Christ.

Does the same thing compel us?




A Little Book and Movie Talk

books, Catholicism, moviesEmily DeArdoComment

I know, I hardly ever write on Saturday, but, I wanted to share some things with you, and there wasn’t an “official” Seven Quick Takes yesterday, which is good because I was editing the last bit of the manuscript! So the manuscript is edited! My editor will read it again, and then send it to the copy editor at Ave Maria Press in early July.

I should also be getting cover design shortly….and pre-orders should open soon!

Can you feel the excitement? I can!!!!

(Sign up for updates to get the news FIRST on all the book stuff!)

Anyway, speaking of books that aren’t mine….

The Feast of St. Thomas More was on the 22nd (which is also my mom’s birthday).

The Fourth of July is this coming week

So, in the spirt of both those things, let me offer you some good reading and film suggestions!

(These are Amazon affiliate links, FYI!)

St. Thomas More

Thomas More.png


If you aren’t familiar with this awesome saint, become so!

For movies, of course it’s A Man For All Seasons.

For books: The King’s Good Servant, But God’s First, by James Monti

For a look at the relationship with his daughter, Meg (which was a great one), read A Daughter’s Love: Thomas More and His Dearest Meg, by John Guy


American History

The Battle of Gettysburg raged from July 1-July 3. I highly recommend reading Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels and watching the film Gettysburg (which is based on Shaara’s book).

If you want to go back to the Revolutionary War, I suggest HBO’s series John Adams (Fabulous, based on the equally great book by David McCullough), the musical 1776 (great music, but also a great story), and the book 1776, also by David McCullough. Reading 1776 is an eye-opener. There was really no way the US was supposed to win the war, and that comes through with incredibly clarity in McCullough’s writing.

But we did win.

In terms of kid-friendliness—they can totally watch 1776. It’s very family-friendly. John Adams isn’t not family friendly but it’s sort of long, so I don’t know if it would hold kids’ attention, but older kids and teens? Definitely. Gettysburg is also long, and while it’s not incredibly graphic, it is about war. (Obviously) But I think kids could watch some of it. Teens, definitely.


Poems for St. Cecilia's Day

CatholicismEmily DeArdo2 Comments
Guido Reni,  St. Cecilia

Guido Reni, St. Cecilia

Today is St. Cecilia's Day: she's an early Church martyr who is also the patroness of musicians. (Singers also have Pope St. Gregory the Great--the guy who invented Gregorian chant.) She's the patron saint of music and musicians because, as she walked toward her groom on her wedding day, she heard heavenly music playing, reminding her of her vow to be the Bride of Christ. (She was marrying against her will--and she managed to convince her husband to live in a celibate marriage. So she must've been a pretty gifted speaker, as well!) 

She inspires a lot of poetry, so I thought I'd share some of them here today. 

The first one is by WH Auden, and can be found here

Alexander Pope wrote a very long poem called "Ode for Music on St. Cecilia's Day". I won't quote the whole thing, but the last stanza is very nice: 

  Music the fiercest grief can charm,

  And Fate’s severest rage disarm:

  Music can soften pain to ease,        

  And make despair and madness please:

    Our joys below it can improve,

    And antedate the bliss above.

  This the divine Cecilia found,

And to her Maker’s praise confin’d the sound.        

When the full organ joins the tuneful quire,

  Th’ immortal Powers incline their ear;

Borne on the swelling notes our souls aspire,

While solemn airs improve the sacred fire,

  And Angels lean from Heav’n to hear.        

Of Orpheus now no more let poets tell;

To bright Cecilia greater power is giv’n:

  His numbers rais’d a shade from Hell,

    Hers lift the soul to Heav’n.

 

Detail of John William Waterhouse's  St. Cecilia

Detail of John William Waterhouse's St. Cecilia

And finally, Dryden's "Song for St. Cecilia's Day", in its entirety: 

 

A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, 1687

by John Dryden 

Stanza 1 

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony 

               This universal frame began. 

       When Nature underneath a heap 

               Of jarring atoms lay, 

       And could not heave her head, 

The tuneful voice was heard from high, 

               Arise ye more than dead. 

Then cold, and hot, and moist, and dry, 

       In order to their stations leap, 

               And music's pow'r obey. 

From harmony, from Heav'nly harmony 

               This universal frame began: 

               From harmony to harmony 

Through all the compass of the notes it ran, 

       The diapason closing full in man. 

What passion cannot music raise and quell! 

                When Jubal struck the corded shell, 

         His list'ning brethren stood around 

         And wond'ring, on their faces fell 

         To worship that celestial sound: 

Less than a god they thought there could not dwell 

                Within the hollow of that shell 

                That spoke so sweetly and so well. 

What passion cannot music raise and quell! 

         The trumpet's loud clangor 

                Excites us to arms 

         With shrill notes of anger 

                        And mortal alarms. 

         The double double double beat 

                Of the thund'ring drum 

         Cries, hark the foes come; 

Charge, charge, 'tis too late to retreat. 

         The soft complaining flute 

         In dying notes discovers 

         The woes of hopeless lovers, 

Whose dirge is whisper'd by the warbling lute. 

         Sharp violins proclaim 

Their jealous pangs, and desperation, 

Fury, frantic indignation, 

Depth of pains and height of passion, 

         For the fair, disdainful dame. 

But oh! what art can teach 

         What human voice can reach 

The sacred organ's praise? 

Notes inspiring holy love, 

Notes that wing their Heav'nly ways 

         To mend the choirs above. 

Orpheus could lead the savage race; 

And trees unrooted left their place; 

                Sequacious of the lyre: 

But bright Cecilia rais'd the wonder high'r; 

         When to her organ, vocal breath was giv'n, 

An angel heard, and straight appear'd 

                Mistaking earth for Heav'n. 

GRAND CHORUS 

As from the pow'r of sacred lays 

         The spheres began to move, 

And sung the great Creator's praise 

         To all the bless'd above; 

So when the last and dreadful hour 

   This crumbling pageant shall devour, 

The trumpet shall be heard on high, 

         The dead shall live, the living die, 

         And music shall untune the sky.

 

 

Daybook No. 120: Our Lady of Guadalupe

Catholicism, DaybookEmily DeArdo1 Comment
The Our Lady of Guadalupe mural at the National Basilica 

The Our Lady of Guadalupe mural at the National Basilica 

Outside my window::

It's raining. It was snowing earlier and my car was covered this morning.  It's also been pretty cold but at the moment it's warm enough to rain and not ice, which is a blessing. Really. 

I'm wearing::

leggings and a blue t-shirt

In the CD player::

the Christmas playlist. 

Listening to::

Outlander Season two, episode one. Watching the series again. :) 

Reading::

Fire Within (more on that below),  O Jerusalem (A Russel-Holmes book--it's book 5 in the series); The Best Yes by Lysa Tekurst, for bible study, and I Believe In Love, which is the Well Read Mom book pick this month. (No, I'm not a mom, but I love this group.) 

Living the Liturgy::

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, which I've talked about here. Here's a little bit from that piece: 

Mary appeared to Juan Diego four times, beginning December 9, 1531, at Tepeyac. She spoke in Juan Diego's native language and asked that a church be built on that site in her honor. When he went to the local bishop, he (like most bishops and priests in these accounts) asked for a sign. On December 12, Juan Diego saw Castellian roses at the foot of Tepeyac, which weren't indigenous to the region. He filled his cloak (ilma) with the roses, and presented them to the bishop. However, the roses weren't the only miraculous thing--the interior of the tilma was imprinted with a picture of the Lady as she appeared to Juan Diego. (For technical information about the image on the tilma, see this Wikipedia article.) 

She is also the patroness of Mexico, the Americas, the Philippines, and the unborn. 

So if you want to eat Mexican food today in honor of Our Lady, I won't stop you. ;-) Or Mexican Hot Chocolate! :) 

Tuesday: St. Lucy. Who doesn't love St. Lucy/ St. Lucia? Have some St. Lucia buns! If you're a woman of a certain age (ahem, my compatriots), dig out your old copy of Kristen's Surprise and find your Kirsten doll. (I may or may not have a Kirsten doll. I may or may not have her St. Lucia outfit. I ADMIT NOTHING. :-P)

On Wednesday, it's the feast of St. John of the Cross, who wrote the "Dark Night of the Soul", and many other spiritual classics. He was a contemporary of St. Teresa of Avila, and at one point was her confessor and spiritual director. I'm reading Fire Within right now, about both of them, so my spiritual reading is timely! (It's a great book. You need to read it slowly. It's long. But it's great.) Since I've given you food recommendations for every other day, I'd go with something appropriately Spanish here. Or, you know. Tacos again. 

And then on Saturday, it's time to get excited, people. It's the beginning of the O Antiphons, and it's a week until Christmas Eve! 

Around the house::

Getting ready for Christmas with the rest of the housekeeping. Wheeee, right? :) And my dishwasher is broken, so I'm hoping the guy will be out to fix it today. 

Fitness and Creativity::

I've been trying to do a sketch every day this month, and I've been keeping up with it pretty well. My goal is to finish my current sketchbook by the end of the month. I've got about 13 pages to go, so it's definitely doable. 

Fun Links:: 

A Christmas song for you!

 

(Or, as it was fondly renamed in high school choir, "Do you know what I hear".....yes, it's very easy to mix up all the "hears" and "sees" and "says".....) 

 

Catholic 101: Becoming a saint

Catholic 101Emily DeArdoComment

While we're all called o be saint, what exactly is a saint, and how do we do it? And how do people like Mother Teresa et al. get those cool ceremonies and get added to the church calendar? 

First off, a saint is anyone who is in Heaven. If your grandma died, and is in Heaven, she's a saint. (YOU ARE NOT AN ANGEL WHEN YOU DIE.) Everyone in Heaven is a saint. 

However, we don't know if your grandma is in Heaven. Canonized saints, on the other hand, because of lots of evidence, are people that the Church is sure are in Heaven. They go on the official list of saints, called the "canon." Thus: Canonized saints. 

(A little note here: the Church doesn't "make" saints. God makes saints. We just recognize 'em.) 

The canonization process is a long one, and there are several levels in it. The process was updated in 1983 by Pope St. John Paul II, so it's not the same as it was back in the Middle Ages, etc. I'm describing the new process here. 

How to be a saint--in four steps: 

The process of canonization begins in the deceased own diocese. So, for example, if someone died in Columbus, OH, then the Diocese of Columbus is the place where the process would start. The bishop gives permission to open the investigation into the virtue of the deceased individual. Usually this happens no sooner than five years after the person's death. In the cases of St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta, this process was expedited. (At Pope St. John Paul II's funeral, there were signs that read Santo Subito--sainthood now!) (This period was also waved in the instance of Sister Lucia Santos, the last surviving Fatima visionary, who died in 2005--a little less than two months before the death of Pope St. John Paul II). 

A guild/organization of people who want the individual canonized is created, and an exhaustive search for the person's writings, speeches, etc. is done. A detailed biography is also written. 

When sufficient documents and evidence are gathered, the material is presented to the Roman Curia, specifically the Congregation for Causes of Saints. Here, the deceased is assigned a postulator, who gathers more information about the person's life. At this point, the person is called a servant of God. Relics are taken at this point. (More on relics next week!)

 When enough information has been gathered, the Congregation will make a recommendation to the pope that he declare the deceased possessed "heroic virtue" (What does that mean? Here's wikipedia: 

that is, that the servant exhibited the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, to a heroic degree

Once the declaration is made, the person is officially Venerable. He doesn't have a feast day, no churches can be built in his honor, and the Church isn't declaring for sure that this person is in Heaven. However, prayer cards may be printed, and people may ask for this person's intercession. 

This is where miracles start to come in. People can pray to venerable/blessed for him to intercede before God for their petition. A miracle is a sign that the person is in Heaven. However, it has to be through that particular person's intercession. (An example can be found here.) 

The last step before sainthood is beatification. This is a statement by the church that proclaims it is "worthy of belief" that the deceased is in Heaven. The person is either a martyr or a "confessor" (no, that doesn't mean a person that heard confessions. Perfectly reasonable assumption, though!). 

A martyr is a person who died voluntarily for his faith or in an act of heroic charity for others (St. Maximilian Kolbe is an example of the latter. If you don't know his story, read that link right now. He's awesome.) 

A confessor is someone who "confessed" his faith by how he lived his life. So if you're not a martyr, you're a confessor. If you're in this category, then at least one miracle attributed to your intercession has to happen. (For example, in Mother Teresa's case, there had to be a miracle, which you can read about in this article.)  Usually today these are miraculous cures, which are verified via a lot of medical testing, inquiry, etc. You can't just say it was a miracle; it has to be proven, as far as possible, via a lot of science. 

A Blessed gets a feast day, which is usually only celebrated in the blessed's home diocese or religious order. 

Finally, sainthood is announced when at least two miracles have been attributed to the person's intercession (if the person wasn't a martyr. If you're a martyr, just one suffices.) Canonization means the church is certain that this person is in Heaven and enjoys the Beatific Vision. (I love that phrase) 

The crowd at the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. 

The crowd at the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII. 

The saint gets a feast day, churches may be built in the person's honor, and the faithful may freely celebrate this saint. 

The canonization ceremony involves a Mass. A tapestry is made of the saint and is displayed during the Mass itself. 

John Paul II's tapestry at the canonization in Vatican City. 

John Paul II's tapestry at the canonization in Vatican City. 

Mother Teresa's tapestry. 

Mother Teresa's tapestry. 

As you can see, it's a long process, and obviously, not everyone in Heaven is a canonized saint. But as Mother Angelica used to say, "Where most men work for letters after their name, we work for ones before our name: St." 

We are called to be great saints. Don't miss the opportunity!

--Mother Angelica

Who's your favorite saint? 

 

Seven Quick Takes 125: Why Y'all Should Silent Retreat (Or retreat, at all)

7 Quick Takes, CatholicismEmily DeArdo2 Comments

I. 

OK, before we get down to Quick Taking, here's this week's writing: 

You Get What You Get

Hail Mary

And, since I'm going to be on retreat tomorrow--aka St. Therese's Feast Day--I give you: 

This post about her as my Confirmation Saint

II. 

OK, so anyway, this weekend, I'm going on a silent retreat. I go on a lot of these; I try to go on at least one a year. If I'm lucky, I get in two. But one a year is absolutely vital, and I think everyone should try to go on one, because they are awesome

But why are they awesome, Emily? Because they don't sound awesome to me. And I'm busy. I have Stuff. I have Life. I can't just go retreat!

OK, maybe you can't. But if you can, at all, you NEED TO!

III. 

Reason Number 1: SILENCE

OK, I know that this will make a lot of you run screaming for the hills. Silence? For a whole weekend? I can't do that. I have to talk! 

No, you don't. Trust me. Trust God. You really don't need to talk. You need to talk LESS (take it from a girl who used to get "refrains from unnecessary talking" marked as a need to improve area on every report card between grades 1-8. That's thirty two report cards, guys. )

God cannot talk to you if you're too busy yapping and watching Netflix and listening to Adelle and Facebooking and Face Timing and Messaging and Snapchatting and whatever else. I mean, he'll try

But if we take away all those distractions, all the talking, and we just sit and are quiet? It's a lot easier to hear God talking to you. 

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave.

---1 Kings 19:11-13

Yeah, sometimes God speaks in the thunder. But sometimes he's speaking in the quiet, and he's easy to miss. Make it quiet so you can hear him!

IV. 

Second: TOTAL focus on God

You have nothing to do in this retreat but be with God. That's it. You have nothing else to worry about. You are fed. You have a room that you don't have to clean. You have ample places to walk, to pray, and books to read, if you didn't bring your own. All you have to do is have quiet time with the Person Who Loves You The Most. (Yeah, that would be God.) You can do that however you want, as long as you don't break the silence. You can say the rosary. You can sit in the chapel and just stare at the tabernacle. You can go to confession. You can journal. You can read. WHATEVER. But the whole point is to grow in your spiritual relationship with God. 

Nothing stays stagnant. If you are staying stagnant, you're not growing. You're decaying. Think of flowers that don't blossom, or an apple tree that doesn't give apples. Something's wrong. You need to continually grow in the spiritual life. Retreats are a great way to do that. 

V. 

Third: New perspectives

Every retreat I've been on, there's been something new I've learned. Sometimes it's from the retreat master's talk. Sometimes it's from prayer in the chapel. Sometimes it's from a book I'm reading. But I always learn something new. 

VI.

Fourth: Refreshment

There is refreshment in retreat. Since life is stripped to the bare essentials, you don't feel like you have to be Chatty Cathy at the lunch table. You don't have to worry about laundry and cooking and all the other mundane things. You can just be. A retreat is fantastic self-care. You have to refresh yourself in order to continue growing. You need water just like a plant. A retreat is a great way to get that refreshment. 

VII.

Now, you don't need to do a silent retreat. They're my preferred retreats, because I find that I can really hear God best that way. But you can do retreats that let you talk. :) But some degree of quiet is important when it comes to retreat. They're meant to be introspective. You're meant to spend a fair amount of time on your soul and God and prayer. 

That being said, I also love Catholic Conferences, like the Columbus Catholic Women's Conference. Holy hours are also a great way to refresh yourself in the middle of life, if you can't get away for a weekend. 

But if you can, at all, I'd suggest trying  a weekend retreat. It might bear more fruit than you ever thought! 

Seven Quick Takes No. 119: 23 Rules for Sane Eating, and Dragons!

7 Quick Takes, Catholicism, family, foodEmily DeArdo2 Comments

I. 

The weekly recap: 

Intro to the Sacraments

Seeking Motivation

II. 

Last weekend, I visited my grandma with my parents. My grandma is 86 years old, and she's my last remaining grandparent--and I love her to bits. She raised eight kids on a music teacher's salary, and all 8 kids are married (STILL married! Not divorced!--several of them in the 30+ years category of marriage), and all have had children. There are 25 of us grandkids, and 9 great-grandchildren. Grandma gave me my lifelong love of piano. (And listened to me play even when it was more like....random noise.....than music.) 

Me and my grandma, celebrating her 85th birthday last year. 

Me and my grandma, celebrating her 85th birthday last year. 

 

Anyway, Grandma's house always has good reading. I was reading her back issues of Catholic Digest, and found some food columns written by Emily Stimpson, whom I love to read. And then I remembered that Emily had a blog about Catholic food and friendship and entertaining called The Catholic Table

So I went home and read through her archives, where I found this gem: 

23 Rules for Sane Eating. 

Really, don't we need these? Eating, one of our most basic tasks, has become so complicated, hasn't it? It was so refreshing to find Emily's level-headed advice, here. 

And I am definitely going to start entertaining people again. I love dinner parties, and though my place is small, I love having people over to eat. 

III. 

Today is the Feast of St. Martha. DRAGONS, people. DRAGONS. (Click the link for Dragons!) 

Seriously, I love St. Martha. She gets such a bad wrap for the "Martha, Martha" story. But geez. She is really a pretty awesome lady. 

Some musical inspiration, as well: 

IV. 

This week I've been crazy into my painting and sketching. I'm working on adding some SoCal trip pages to my "big" sketchbook . Here's some of this week's work: 

Charcoal movement sketches as part of a SBS assignment. The idea was to catch people doing things, or in poses. So it was mostly line drawings, but I'm glad with what I caught here. The goal wasn't to be realistic. 

Charcoal movement sketches as part of a SBS assignment. The idea was to catch people doing things, or in poses. So it was mostly line drawings, but I'm glad with what I caught here. The goal wasn't to be realistic. 

A page in my big watercolor sketchbook detailing the SoCal trip with two maps--a larger (and wonkier) one with the general area, and then a more detailed one of LA and environs proper. I do have a travel sketchbook, but sometimes I want the larger pages. 

A page in my big watercolor sketchbook detailing the SoCal trip with two maps--a larger (and wonkier) one with the general area, and then a more detailed one of LA and environs proper. I do have a travel sketchbook, but sometimes I want the larger pages. 

This is a watercolor version of my grandma's flower bed. I put the paint blocks in first and then drew in some flowers in ink once the paint had dried. The flowers are sort of successful, but I wonder if it would've worked with just the paint blocks. I think it might have. And obviously, my green got away from me. Too much green! 

This is a watercolor version of my grandma's flower bed. I put the paint blocks in first and then drew in some flowers in ink once the paint had dried. The flowers are sort of successful, but I wonder if it would've worked with just the paint blocks. I think it might have. And obviously, my green got away from me. Too much green! 

I'm trying to work with my watercolors and brushes, to get to know them a little better, and see what they can do. But I really had fun with the charcoal pencils. 

V.

I'm on snapchat now as emdeardo, if you're in to Snapchat. I think I have the hang of it. Maybe? Not sure. But I do see how it can be fun. I haven't used any of the silly filters yet. :-p 

VI. 

One of my favorite Columbus Summer things is next weekend--the Dublin Irish Festival! And thank goodness, it looks like decent temps for the day I want to go. I love going and hearing the Irish bands, eating the good food, and it's a great time for sketching. I brought my sketchbook for the first time last year and I had a lot of fun with it. I can't wait to sketch some more this year! One of my favorite bands is Cassie and Maggie, sisters from Nova Scotia. They don't just sing and play; they dance, too. Seriously. They are fantastic!

VII. 

Does anyone else really like the month of August? I like June because it's like the unfolding of spring and summer. It's full of possibility. July, I don't really like. I don't know why. And this has even been a particularly good July, with all sorts of fun things happening. 

But August just seems like such a lovely month. A slow month, a month to sort of enjoy the summer and prepare for fall. I remember when I was going back to school and I was always ready for school to start come August. August is like that slow transition from summer to the demands of fall. (But I do love fall.) 

St. Pope Pius V: Rosary Warrior

Catholicism, dominican saints seriesEmily DeArdo1 Comment

 

Pope St. Pius V basically saved Christendom in Europe--not to mention Europe, period. That's right.

Well, OK. He didn't. The rosary did. But you'll understand more in a second. 

Pope St. Pius V is the only Dominican saint who was also a pope. (In the photo above, you can see his habit peeking out from under the surplice.) Born Antonio Ghislieri on January 17, 1504, he entered the Dominican order at the age of fourteen and took the name Michael (or Michele, in French and Italian) as his name in religion. 

(Side note: This is why you call Dominican priests/friars "Fr./Br. First name." They chose that name as their name in religion, and they're proud of it! So you can call them Fr. Michael, Fr. Thomas, Fr. Paul.) 

Michele was ordained in 1528 and was sent to the Italian town of Pavia, where he served as a priest for sixteen years. While there, he wrote many pieces against the Protestant Reformation. As prior of several Dominican priories, he insisted on discipline, overcoming the lax standards that had been the rule in these priories. He was elected pope on January 8, 1556, right before his fifty-fourth birthday. 

He was very important in ensuring the formality of the Mass, and asserted the importance of ceremonials in the life of the church. He also promulgated the 1570 version of the Roman Missal, which we know today as the "Latin Mass", "The Tridentine Mass", or "The Extraordinary form". (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI allowed this form of the Mass to be more widely celebrated following a molto proprio (meaning "on his own inititative"--it's a type of Apostolic Letter) promulgated in May, 2007.) 

He also declared Thomas Aquinas the fifth Doctor of the Church, and supported Mary, Queen of Scots, against Elizabeth I in England. (He's the pope who excommunicated Elizabeth.) He is also credited with the formation of the pope's signature white garments, since the Dominican habit is white. 

Like Rose of Lima, Pius V had to deal with a hostile navy--this time, the Turkish navy, in order to prevent Italy from being added to the Ottoman empire, and its Christians being forced to convert to Islam, or become slaves. Pius V had asked the Holy League countries to fight against this invasion. The Pope also asked all of Christendom to pray the Rosary for the success of the fleet.  On October 7, 1571, the pope and the Rosary Confraternity of Rome met to pray the rosary for the success of the Holy League ships against the invaders. Don Juan of Austria led the Holy League ships against the Turkish fleet, and routed the enemy near Lepanto, off the Greek coast. 

The Battle of Lepanto,  by an unknown artist. 

The Battle of Lepanto, by an unknown artist. 

Pius V attributed the victory to Mary's intercession. In the Church year, October 7 is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. It was originally the feast of Our Lady of Victory, but Pope John XXIII changed it to the current title. 

A stained glass window of Our Lady of Victory. 

A stained glass window of Our Lady of Victory. 


Pius V died on May 1, 1572, of cancer. He was canonized on May 22, 1712, by Pope Clement XI. His feast day is April 30 (right after St. Catherine of Siena!)

The First American-born saint: Elizabeth Ann Seton

Catholicism, women saints seriesEmily DeArdo2 Comments

I've always loved this saint, and while she's not as obscure as some of the other saints we've talked about this week, her story is definitely worth telling. 

Elizabeth was born on August 28, 1774 (she was a contemporary of Jane's!) and was raised Anglican. Her father was a New York City doctor. Her mother died when Elizabeth was three. Her father remarried, but that marriage ended in separation. For a few years, Elizabeth lived with family in New Rochelle while her father studied in London. A gifted horsewoman, she also spoke French and loved music, poetry, and nature. 

 At the age of 19, she married William Seton, a wealthy businessman who worked in the import trade. They had five children: Anna Maria, William II, Richard, Catherine, and Rebecca. The family was socially prominent and happy, and Elizabeth was heavily involved in charitable activities. 

 William's business went bankrupt due to the Napoleonic Wars., and he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Elizabeth, William, and Anna  went to Italy for the climate, hoping for a cure, but William died. God, however, had other plans for Elizabeth's time in Italy.

After William's death, she stayed with the Fellici family, who were William's friends. They were devout Catholics who had Daily Mass said in their chapel. Elizabeth began to attend, and was drawn to their faith and worship practices. By the time she left Italy, she knew that she would receive instruction in the faith when she returned home. She was received into the church on March 14, 1805. 

This wasn't the simple decision it may seem. Anti-Catholic feelings were high in the new country (New York's Anti-Catholic laws had just been lifted in 1804, but Catholics still weren't allowed to vote in some places, and their churches were routinely destroyed), and Elizabeth's family warned her that they would withdraw all financial support from her if she did this. She converted, however, and was left to raise her five children without her family's financial help. 

Let's restate that: five kids. no job. Family has abandoned her. 

Was she crazy? Maybe. 

Fortunately, God provided. She started an academy for young ladies, and with the help of Bishop Carroll of Baltimore, she started an order of sisters--the Sisters of Charity, which still exist today. With her fledgling order and her children, she moved from New York City to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she opened her first school and first convent. 

The first few years in Emmitsburg were hard. Few students, little money, and no luxuries--all of which were hard for her children, who had been raised in the upper echelons of New York City society. 

The Stone House, Elizabeth and her sisters' first school/convent in Emmitsburg, MD. 

The Stone House, Elizabeth and her sisters' first school/convent in Emmitsburg, MD. 

Her two sons joined the Navy, but her daughters helped their mother in her work; however, Anna and Rebecca both died of tuberculosis. Katherine became the first American to join the Sisters of Mercy. 

On July 31, 1809, Elizabeth established a religious community in Emmitsburg dedicated to the care of the children of the poor. This was the first congregation of religious sisters to be founded in the US, and its school was the first free Catholic school in America. Mother Seton (as she was known in religious life) can therefore be called the founder of the American Parochial School system. 

Elizabeth died on January 4, 1821, of tuberculosis. By 1830, her order was running schools as far west as St. Louis and New Orleans, and had established a hospital in St. Louis. She was canonized on September 14, 1975, by Pope Paul VI. 

Her Feast Day is January 4, and she is the patron saint of seafarers, Catholic schools, and the state of Maryland. 

Can you expect to go to heaven for nothing? Did not our Savior track the whole way to it with His tears and blood? And yet you stop at every little pain.


The Real Lucy Pevensie

Catholicism, books, women saints seriesEmily DeArdo2 Comments
Good evening,” said the Faun. “Excuse me—I don’t want to be inquisitive, —but should I be right in thinking that you are a Daughter of Eve?”
”My name’s Lucy,” she said, not quite understanding him.
— C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Chapter Two, "What Lucy Found There"

Lucy Pevensie has always been one of my favorite literary characters. I liked her better than the uptight Susan, and definitely better than Mary Ingalls. Lucy, to me, was right up there with Half-Pint and Anne Shirley. 

I'd always thought Lucy was, like Anne, fictional. I was very pleasantly surprised when I realized that not only was Lucy real, but that C.S. Lewis had been inspired by the life of Bl. Lucy of Narni, a Lay Dominican from 15th Century Italy.

(Three guesses on where he got "Narnia".....)

Lucy Brocadelli was born on December 13, 1476, In Narni, in the region of Umbria. She was one of 11 children born to Bartolomeo and Gentilina Cassio. She had a vision of the Blessed Mother when she was five, followed a few years later by another vision where Mary was accompanied by St. Dominic. She was inspired to become a Dominican nun, but when her father died and she was left in the custody of an uncle, this plan was thwarted, as he tried to get her married as quickly as possible. Eventually, Lucy entered into a virginal marriage with Count Pietro di Alessio of Milan. 

Despite her busy social schedule as  a countess, Lucy devoted much time to prayer, instructed the servants in Catholicism, and was well-known for her charity to the poor. Her husband allowed these "strange" behaviors, until a servant told him that he had seen Lucy entertaining a handsome young man in her room. When Pietro went to confront his wife, he saw her studying a large crucifix. The servant said the man she'd entertained looked just like the carving of Christ on the cross.

Eventually, though, Pietro's patience ran out, and her locked her in her room for the whole of a Lenten season one year. She managed to escape and became a third order Dominican, which led her husband to burn down the convent where she'd received the Dominican habit. 

In 1495, Lucy joined a community of lay Dominicans. She received the stigmata and was frequently found in spiritual ecstasy. Her fame spread so that a stream of visitors came to see her and receive council. Pietro pleaded several times for her to return as his wife, but finally he gave up. He eventually became a a Franciscan friar and notable preacher. 

She founded several convents and served as prioress. She died in 1544, after struggles within her Dominican community and severe restrictions placed on her by the convent's prioress. When she died, so many people came to pay respects and see her body that the funeral had to be delayed for three days. 

The connection between Lucy of Narni and Lucy Pevensie, according to Walter Hooper, is that Blessed Lucy could see things that other people couldn't--like her visions--which Lewis incorporated into the story (In Prince Caspian, for example, Lucy is the only one to see Aslan for most of the story): 

After years of study it seems to me that Lewis’s character, Lucy, bears such a very strong resemblance to your saint – the inner light of Faith, the extraordinary perseverance – I don’t think the naming of his finest character Lucy can be other than intentional. I think Blessed Lucy of Narnia has furnished the world with one of the most loved, and spiritually mature characters in English fiction. And if I’m wrong? Well, let me put it this way. My guess is that when we get to Heaven we will be met by C.S.Lewis in the company of Blessed Lucy of Narnia. What will they say to us? Will they reveal whether Lewis based his Lucy on your saint? I think Blessed Lucy of Narnia and C.S.Lewis will laugh. Then Blessed Lucy will say, ‘We will tell you about that later. Other more important things come first. Jack Lewis are here to conduct you into the presence of our Host. After that we can talk about all the things on your mind. But not just yet.’
— Walter Hooper, May, 2009

 

(Lucy is also possibly inspired by Lewis' goddaughter, Lucy.) 

It probably won't surprise you to learn that, when it came time for me to pick a saint as my patron in the Dominican order, that I chose Bl. Lucy. 

 

St. Martha and the Dragons

Catholicism, women saints seriesEmily DeArdo4 Comments

A continuation of my Female Saints series

Did you know St. Martha fought dragons?

Seriously, guys. She did a lot more than just make dinner for Jesus. (Not that making dinner for Jesus is nothing, right?)

But most of the time being called a "Martha" is a bad thing, and that's always bugged me a little. We tend to just remember her first appearance in the gospels:

Vermeer, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

Vermeer, Christ in the House of Martha and Mary

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him. She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
— Luke 10:38-42 (NAB)

If this was all we knew about Martha, then she wouldn't come off too well, would she? But we can also relate to her. Who hasn't had work to do at a party, worried about dishes and serving and the turkey in the oven, while other people are just sitting around, not thinking about everything that needs to be done? It might not be a good reaction, but it's one that we can relate to. 

Often, this passage is used to illustrate the "active" and "contemplative" ways of life. There's some merit in that. Mary is the contemplative, at the feet of Jesus, lost in prayer, and Martha is the one who serves Jesus, who works in the kitchen and makes the house ready for His visit. Both sides are important in the Christian life, and to have just one side isn't good. 

But Martha is a lot more than just the housekeeper. In the Gospel of John, we see her great faith after her brother, Lazarus, has died: 

And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. [But] even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
— John 11: 19-27 (NAB)

Martha  shows her belief in Jesus here, and testifies, like Peter, that he is the Messiah. She knows who He is. She knows He could have healed her brother if he had been there earlier, but she also accepts Lazarus' death. Her faith in Jesus isn't shaken by this event. 

Martha is strong in both her temperament and her faith. She isn't perfect--Jesus tells her that she has to learn the 'better part' in Luke’s Gospel--but she has many admirable qualities that can be overlooked. She has common sense, strength, a desire to serve and take care of her family, and a concern for others. 

So--what about the dragons? (Come on, Emily, get to the good stuff.)

Well, that's from a French legend: 

 

...further legend relates that Martha then went to Tarascon, France, where a monster, the Tarasque, was a constant threat to the population. The Golden Legend describes it as a beast from Galicia; a great dragon, half beast and half fish, greater than an ox, longer than an horse, having teeth sharp as a sword, and horned on either side, head like a lion, tail like a serpent, that dwelt in a certain wood between Arles and Avignon. Holding a cross in her hand, Martha sprinkled the beast with holy water. Placing her sash around its neck, she led the tamed dragon through the village.
There Martha lived, daily occupied in prayers and in fastings. Martha eventually died in Tarascon, where she was buried. Her tomb is located in the crypt of the local Collegiate Church.
— Catholic Online

There might not be a lot of dragons around today, but St. Martha is still a good saint to keep in mind when the dragons of chaos and doubt roar in our daily lives. 

She's the patron saint of cooks, and her feast day is July 29. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An accidental patron: St. Therese and Me

Catholicism, women saints seriesEmily DeArdoComment

Some people have riveting stories about how they found their confirmation saint. It was a sign from God, a message from above, a huge thunderclap of recognition. 

Mine was....sort of random. 

When I started my eighth grade year, I knew I'd be confirmed at the end of it. So I started reading books about the saints, in the hope that I'd find one I liked enough to be my confirmation saint. In the Catholic church, you pick a confirmation name--the name of a saint you admire and want to imitate. This saint becomes one of your patron saints, along with any saints you might be named after, or have particular attachment to. (For example, there is a saint Emily--although I'm not named after her--and my middle name is a derivative of Michael, so St. Michael the archangel has always been one of my patrons.) You're not "supposed" to choose a saint you're named after, though--at least you weren't at my school. You were supposed to pick a different saint. 

Some people pick saints based on their patronages; in my family, a lot of people chose St. Cecilia, because she's the patron saint of music. (St. Gregory the Great is the patron saint of singers.) St. Christopher is the patron of athletes. My mom had chosen St. Bernadette, and my dad St. Francis of Assisi (although not because he was a big nature/animal fan.) I didn't feel particularly drawn to St. Cecilia (Not that she's not cool!). I was also supposed to choose a girl. If I was a boy, I would've chosen St. John the Evangelist. 

So I didn't have any hard and fast winners. I started reading saint biographies that I picked up here and there. (When in doubt, go to books, that's what I say.) 

Eventually, I stumbled on a biography of St. Therese that was written for kids. (I didn't know then about the incredibly large amount of books written about her and her family. If I'd picked a saint based on how many books I could read about them, she would've won pretty quickly.) Her life seemed sort of like mine. She grew up with her parents and her sisters. She played with her cousins. She liked going to church. She didn't have visions or die a virgin martyr. She was relatable. And she hadn't died all that long ago, which I thought was sort of interesting. I had thought that saints lived ages ago. The book also mentioned that she entered Carmel on my birthday. 

So I finished the book and that was that. St. Therese was my confirmation saint. 

As I grew up, I began to realize how intensely popular she was. I learned about the 'Little Way', and read more books about her. I didn't read Story of a Soul until after college, though. When I was diagnosed with a type of TB in high school, I remembered that St. Therese had died of it, and hoped not to imitate her that way. She might have died young (she was 24), but I was only 16! 

I liked the Little Way a lot. A lot of people probably say that, but Therese and I grew up in similar circumstances. We were both middle class girls and neither of us was Joan of Arc. I wasn't going to join the army or become a missionary. I didn't think I was capable of great deeds (like Merry in Return of the King). 

The year after my confirmation, St. Therese was declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope St. John Paul II. 'The Little Way' was right up there with St. Thomas Aquinas!  I didn't fully grasp the implications of that at the time, but I liked how many people were drawn to this French girl who only left her part of France once in her life. 

At the time, I didn't realize how powerful St. Therese is. Sometimes she's called Our Lady's First Lieutenant. She's an incredible intercessor for us. But most of all, she's human. Really. She did have ecstatic moments, like St. Teresa of Avila, her predecessor in Carmel. She didn't save France on the field of battle, like St. Joan of Arc, one of her favorite saints. But she realized she didn't have to--that in God's garden, there are all sorts of flowers. 

That image, as well as another, resonate powerfully with me. The other is the story of a young Therese:

At the age of twelve, Therese’s sister Leonie felt she had no further use for her doll dressmaking kit, and stuffed a basket full of materials for making new dresses. Leonie then offered it to her six year old sister, Celine, and her two year old sister, Therese. “Choose what you wish, little sisters,” invited Leonie. Celine took a little ball of wool that pleased her. Therese simply said, “I choose all.” She accepted the basket and all its goods without ceremony. This incident revealed Therese’s attitude toward life. She never did anything by halves; for her it was always all or nothing.

I'm a lot like that. I want to choose everything and have everything. St. Therese wrote in A Story of A Soul that she "could not be a saint by halves." And that, more than anything else from her, has been instrumental in my life. She refused God nothing; she took whatever He gave her, and she did it willingly. That might not have mean she liked it. But she did it. 

(Mother Teresa, who chose St. Therese as her name in religious--although spelled differently--had much the same attitude, saying she took from God whatever He gave her.) 

So while my 13 year old self didn't think too hard about her confirmation saint, twenty years later, I'm pretty glad she didn't, because she might have missed the treasure that is St. Therese. 

This post is part of a weeklong series on Women Saints.