Worth Revisiting: Our Call to Become Saints

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Last year at this time, to my heart’s delight, my son Peter was confirmed in the Catholic Church as Paul. In this moment I was reminded both of the importance of this sacrament and of the journey ahead. These were my words to him..

“Welcome to the school of the Spirit, the sacrament of Confirmation…for those who want to be holy, to be saints, to be warriors of God, men and women of Spirit”

– from Rites of Justice by Megan McKenna

Perhaps, you haven’t thought about this sacrament in this light and thought of it as a conclusion to your learning in the Catholic faith. If so, let’s look again at what happens in this sacrament and what it truly symbolizes and signifies.

First, confirmation is not considered a sacrament of conclusion but of initiation into a more active participation into the life of the church. Once celebrated with baptism and the Eucharist, it highlights the reception of the Holy Spirit to empower the candidate to walk the sometimes difficult path as a follower of Christ. The sacrament is marked by a laying on of hands, anointing with chrism oil with the words, “Be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit”, and a sending forth by God and the community to serve as “true witnesses of Christ”.

So, there is a reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us, but also an invitation to respond to the suffering, and injustice in the world with the very witness of our lives. Therefore, this sacrament is not an end, but a challenge to go forth and to be a visible sign of Christ in the world. God confirms you as a member of the body of Christ, but then the response and the choice is yours. It is a call to a higher standard to strive for love, mercy and peace not only within the doors of the church but as saints in the world.

In answering this call..

we can look at the examples of Christian faith set by the apostles Peter and Paul. Peter, originally named Simon, was a fisherman by trade who heard the call to “come after me” and become “fishers of men”. Although Peter’s boldness put him in the wrong at times it is because of his faith that Jesus called him “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it”.  In the life of Peter we learn of a man who lost courage in walking on water to Jesus, and who was taught humility of service- in being asked not once but 3 times if he loved Christ and in having his own feet washed by Jesus. Even after having denied Jesus, Peter was one of the few disciples chosen to witness the resurrected Christ. Peter lived that witness with his life, in preaching and leading the early Christian churches, and in facing a martyr’s death. Paul, who we know was previously a persecutor of Christians, encountered a vision of Christ that transformed his life forever. From then on he is known as a passionate teacher for Christ, traveling far to the east and west, establishing early Christian communities, and suffering martyrdom as well for the faith.

Likewise, there are later saints like Catherine of Siena, born in 1347, known for her care for the poor, diseased, and for the conversion of sinners, who used her “insight, passion and determination to tell the truth in the chambers and cathedrals in the larger church”. Another beautiful example, of one who courageously walked the lifelong path of discipleship is Teresa of Avila. Born in 1515, Teresa joined the Carmelite order at age 20, but realized that even in the monastery the Christian life “demands much more”- a deeper friendship with God and other Christians that aren’t always encouraged in society. Led by visions from God, Teresa was very aware of God’s presence in prayer and championed active reform of the monasteries and in the “lives of all of the people she touched- a woman who inspired and gave life”.

Looking within the past century, we are given numerous contemporary saints like Maria Faustina, and Pope John Paul II. St. Faustina, born in Poland before WWII, joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in 1925, and soon thereafter began to receive revelations on the Passion of Christ. In these meditative experiences, Christ urged Faustina to tell others about His enduring Divine mercy and forgiveness for the sins of the whole world. . Beatified on Divine Mercy Sunday, John Paul II is considered one of the most beloved popes in the history of the Church. Instrumental in the continued work of Vatican II, John Paul II worked tirelessly to encourage communication and interfaith initiatives between Catholics and other Christians, and between Christians and other religions of the world. He is both the longest serving pope and the most traveled pope having visited 127 countries.

Yet, if we should begin to think that saints are a thing of the past..

we only need to look around us to find the saints among us. In each of these stories we are witness to the “gracious work of the Holy Spirit in the body of Christ” in taking our natural gifts and talents and adding grace so that so that Christ’s mission in the world may be visible to all. There is no “distinction on the basis of gender, social status, or ethnicity”and each one of us is given gifts “simply by being members of the body of Christ”.

As you can see, there are many ways God could be challenging and calling you to be a saint in the world today. And while you may not know yet what that is to be, you need only to be ready and willing to do God’s will. If you put God first, then the path is clearer.  It is now that I ask of you, what will you do today with your gifts as a confirmed member of the body of Christ?

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This hopeful saint in the making,

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Worth Revisiting: Learning How to Be Second Place

It’s Worth Revisiting Wednesday! A place where you can come and bring a past & treasured post to share, and link-up with fellow bloggers! Co-Hosted with Allison Gingras at Reconciled To You.

On this the week of my 21st anniversary, I thought I’d share with you an interview given earlier this year to Karee Santos of “Can We Cana?“, a Community to Support Catholic Marriages. What a joy it was to both share but also to reflect on those essential elements of our marriage and the vital role of faith in all we do. For other discussions, articles, and resources on marriage, pregnancy, parenting, and teachings on theology of the body please check out this incredible site.


“Learning How to Be Second Place: 10 & Then”

 Elizabeth and John, parents of three boys, just celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary and are still going strong! Elizabeth is a blogger, a Pastoral Studies graduate student at Loyola University Chicago, and an avid church volunteer. John, a former Army helicopter pilot who was deployed in Iraq, made it home safely and now works for the MA Environmental Police in Boston. Elizabeth and John especially love their shared ministry as Eucharistic ministers to the two nursing homes in their area. Find out why “more than comfortable with coming in second, it is in fact one of the things we love most about each other.” You can follow Elizabeth at her blog, theologyisaverb.com, or on FacebookTwitter,  Google+  and Pinterest.
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1. How many years have you been married and how many kids do you have?

We have been married 20 years this past May, and have three boys ages 18, 15 and 9. As friends during our undergraduate years, we were unexpectedly amazed to find each other so early in our lives. That day, I married my best friend and quite honestly I cannot imagine these years without his constant friendship, love, and strength.

2. Name three things that have helped you stay married this long.

At the top of this list has to be a strong faith life in prayer. In addition to attending mass we began by praying together at the close of each day. As we had children, this became a family prayer time where each of us lifts up our intentions and one another in prayer. Yet, over the years we find that we also join together to pray throughout the day. It could simply be a text, or the invitation to say a decade or two of the rosary together. “Where two or more are gathered in my name” truly has special significance in our lives.
Secondly, we have found it vital to support one another through life’s challenges as well as to fully celebrate life’s gifts.  In those moments when I’ve been given an overly demanding day, or sleep and serenity elude me, I know he’s there to listen and lend a hand. Conversely, when one of us has good news we appreciate that we have been called to joyfully share in it.  I’d venture to say that we are each other’s biggest fan!
Finally, communication is not just important but essential to both of us. This goes past daily pleasantries – so often requiring persistence, patience and desire.  Whether big or small, we always try to include one another in the decision making process. Even when we disagree, we strive to never go to sleep angry.

3. What role has your faith played in your marriage?

From the beginning, marriage has been for us a lifetime commitment to a shared journey of intimate friendship. And while there are twists, turns, and speed bumps on this path, there are no viable exits. There is, however, a Guide who knows the terrain, holds the map, provides rest and sees the big picture. Faith for us requires trust- not only in each other but in God to see us though the difficult times.
The year my youngest was born, I had lost my grandmother and later my mom to cancer. My husband, then an Army helicopter pilot, was shortly thereafter sent orders to be deployed to Iraq for an indefinite time. Through the many tears I found God right beside me, and peace came in trusting Him through the chaos. Not to be disappointed, God brought John home safely and much sooner than expected.

4. What advice would you give people who are dating and considering marriage?

Spend time to really get to know the person you love. While it’s not necessary to spend as great an amount of time as we did, really examine if you are compatible. It’s important to seriously consider if you can truly live with one another’s flaws. Jokingly, today my husband says that we can truthfully say that we successfully survived a 2 year interview process during our engagement!

 5. What advice would you give newlyweds?

Love God and put God first in your marriage. Following the greatest commandment to, “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Mt 22:37). Yet, what does this really look like? Simply put, it means making space and time to talk to and spend time with God in your everyday- seeking Him in all that you do. If you can do this, you increasingly realize that you are capable of expressing even more love in all your other relationships. More than comfortable with coming in second, it is in fact one of the things we love most about each other.

6. What’s your top parenting tip, or advice for couples who are trying to have children?

Elizabeth: For me, it’s patience and forgiveness.  Highly desired and but sometimes lacking, patience I believe is needed both in conceiving and raising children. I have come to recognize over the years that God’s timing is not necessarily my own. Hand in hand with forgiveness, patience is what God shows me as time and time again I slip and he gently picks me up.
John:  My advice for parenting is consistency. Consistently loving, but taking a steadfast and predictable course. Our children can faithfully depend on the fact that each decision has been carefully weighed, and made in their best interest. It is being able to say no when their eyes plead yes, because you want so much more for them. This is indeed a gift that they will value later in life!