Saturday, January 10, 2015

Worshiping Saints and Monkeys

Kristen M. Soley

Sitting in a cozy coffee shop, enjoying a creamy vanilla latte and some moist pumpkin bread with a dear friend, our conversation turned to a party which her child had recently been invited. The family hosting the party was Hindu and as the party came to a close, the guests were invited to, as her child explained, “Pray to a monkey.” From the host’s perspective, this opportunity was, from what I understand, very generous, as the Hindu monkey, or Hanuman, is one of the most popular idols in the Hindu pantheon and is worshiped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance, and devotion. 1

In a very sincere and light-hearted delivery, my friend then likened this form of worship to how Catholics worship the saints; how we worship statues and images of saints, more specifically.

I was very humbled and grateful to hear this perception of my Catholic faith, as this friend is a beautiful Christian. Although her beliefs are somewhat different than mine, we have a dear friendship, mutual respect for one another’s faith, and share a deep love for Our Lord. I just had no idea that my protestant brothers and sisters in Christ believed that we (Catholics) truly worship the saints and could not have visualized this perception until I envisioned a group of children worshiping a monkey. It then made more sense to me why some might disagree with Catholics - if they have been taught and truly believe that this is a typical form of worship for us. In both the Christian and Jewish faiths, worshiping idols is a grave sin.

“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them.” (Exodus 20:4-5 NASB)

 The quote from Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen came to my mind,
“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

With great joy, I was able to share with my friend one facet of my Catholic faith - the fullness of the truth in the communion of saints. I explained how the saints, those who have gone before us and are in heaven in the presence of our Almighty and Loving God, are so close to Him and intercede, or pray for us. They are living in the beatific vision, face to face with God, desiring for us to join them when our pilgrimage on earth comes to an end. With such hope, I shared that I ask (daily) for the saints in heaven (my grandmother included) to pray for me; that I may love our Lord and those He has placed on my path as He loves and that I may come to know, love, and serve Him according to His Divine Will.

Jesus assures me that the saints indeed live in His presence as He questioned Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (JN 11:25 NASB) Jesus also expresses in Matthew 22:31, "But about the resurrection of the dead--have you not read what God said to you, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?  He is not the God of the dead but of the living."

The saints are living and have reached perfect happiness with God in heaven, beatitude. I explained that I truly believe the words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the greatest saint of modern times, who shared, “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth and… will let fall from heaven a shower of roses.” I don’t worship St. Thérèse, but, quite honestly, I desire to love our Lord as she does. Her love of Lord has inspired me to, as Mother Teresa says, “Give until it hurts” for love of God and all His children.  Furthermore, I do ask her, among many other saints (my late Grandmother included) to pray for me. I pray directly to God for specific intentions, as I have absolute confidence in His love, fidelity, and mercy. I know He is relentlessly pursuing me, drawing me closer to Him, every day. Unfortunately, I am weak, small, and I need as much help as I can get. I cannot rely on myself to carry me through the trials and temptations this world has to offer. I depend on God’s grace and the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ, both living and deceased, for the support and grace needed for my journey.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, the intercession of the saints:
"Being more closely united to Christ… do not cease to intercede with the Father for us… So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."(CCC956)

To help me pray, I do have a picture of St. Thérèse near my kitchen sink, which I often look upon when I ask her to pray for me. Just like I look upon the picture of my dear and very holy, late Grandmother. I don’t worship my Grandmother, nor do I worship St. Thérèse, but I have confidence in their intercession for me as I look into their eyes, knowing that those same beautiful eyes look upon my Savior, face to face, as I hope to join them, gazing upon Him, adoring Him someday as well.  

I also look to images of the saints, as I look to images of role models, like those of great leaders, inspiring me to rise up, even after I fall - sort of like the Vince Lombardi picture we have in our basement, instructing on “What it takes to be Number One.” The great saints have walked a similar path of struggle as I presently walk, fighting the greatest battle of all time, against self. With faith and trust, they have successfully surrendered their will to the Will of God. They are my heroes if you will. They have overcome their faults, with God’s grace and true Divine Love. 

I wear a cross on my necklace, reminding me of the sacrifice Jesus made for me; the sacrifice that gives me hope for eternal life with Him.  I also wear medals of some powerful saints on my necklace, such as Mary, the Mother of Jesus, St. Benedict, and Saint Michael the Arch Angel. I ask Sts. Michael and Benedict to pray for my protection against the wickedness and snares of the evil one and Mary, a perfect role model for my vocation of wife and mother, whom I love dearly, to pray for me to be more like her: patient, humble, loving, obedient, self-controlled, meek, generous, and to love her Son like she does.  I cannot love Mary more than Jesus and desire to love Jesus as she does.  For me, she is the ideal mother and I pray to be to my children as she was to her Son, my Savior.  She is a tough act to follow.

My faith has provided me many aids in this pilgrimage to my home in heaven. I worship God and in Him and Him alone I place my trust. But thank you Jesus, I have His friends, and mine to help me along the way, that I may, God-willing, enter through the narrow gate (MT 7:13) and He may one day look upon me and say, “Well done good and faithful servant." (MT 25:21)

In summary, I thank God for this morning coffee, with my good friend, and for the insight into the perception of my Catholic faith. I am also grateful for the opportunity to clarify the truth of my Catholic faith for my dear friend. I feel blessed and thank God daily that I was born Catholic, this is truth for me and I know that God’s plan for me is perfect. He made me to know, love, and serve Him, that I may be happy with Him in Heaven at the end of my pilgrimage. This is the path for me to achieve beatitude. I pray that as a Catholic, I witness to my Catholic faith as I was taught and respect others as they witness to theirs. Gratefully, I will be able to do this partly aided by those who have already run the race.

“...since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NASB)

Praise God! He is so good and loves us dearly! St. Therese, Pray For Us!  All the Angels and all the Saints, pray for us!





Sunday, December 7, 2014

Get Happy! The Beatitudes of Life for the Vocation of Wife and Mother - Conclusion

Kristen M. Soley

The Eighth Beatitude - Blessed are they that suffer persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

Merriam-Webster defines persecution as “The subjecting of a race or group of people to cruel or unfair treatment, e.g. because of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs.”  

There are so many great saints that suffered persecution for the sake of justice. Saint Perpetua suffered for the justice of Christ crucified. She would not deny her Christianity and for this, she was martyred by the gladiators in Carthage in the year 203. In the arena, she was first tortured by wild beasts, and ultimately gave up her life by the sword. Before she handed her life over to the gladiator, she encouraged Christians that would come after her, saying, “Stand fast in the faith and love one another; and do not let our sufferings be a stumbling block to you." 10

Reading her testament in The Passion of St. Perpetua is a great investment of time as it demonstrates absolute surrender, love, and faith!  

Living out this beatitude in the vocation of wife and mother is simple, but not always easy. We are called to live our faith, really live it, regardless of the company and situation in which we find ourselves. We cannot choose to follow Christ with part of our life. We must follow Him in all things and “do not be afraid” (MT 14:27) to let Him shine through us, regardless of how people might respond to His love.   

Jesus promised that "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” (John 15:18 NASB) Suffering persecution does not need to entail blood for it to hurt; this differentiates white martyrdom with red. We encounter white martyrdom when we are judged for the size of our family, or what we do in our spare time, and our position on biblical truths in everyday life, specifically related to marriage, life, and education. We can, however, be consoled, as there is no pain of mockery, judgment, rejection, humiliation, nor abandonment that Jesus did not endure. Give your trials to Jesus.  

Like the great saints, we can find beatitude in these persecutions. We are found worthy enough to help Jesus carry His cross, what a privilege.  

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." – Jim Elliot

In Conclusion

The vocation of wife and mother finds genuine happiness in serving others, for love of God, with the hope of eternal happiness. The Eight Beatitudes are our roadmap to achieving this happiness here on earth and we know that Jesus is the source of true beatitude.  

The Beatitudes "confront us with decisive choices concerning earthly goods; they purify our hearts in order to teach us to love God above all things." (CCC1728) With God’s grace and loving Him above all things, we can achieve union with Him, experiencing Heaven on earth. With confidence, we can ask the Blessed Mother to pray for us, to be more like her, the embodiment of each beatitude.

Again, we were created to know, love and serve God, that we may be happy with Him in Heaven. Let us be gospel poor, meek, mourn for souls separated from Christ through sin, share Jesus’ mercy, remain pure of heart, be peacemakers, and suffer for love of God for the sake of justice. With God’s grace, living out the beatitudes will help us to achieve this beatitude. It is what we were made for!

Now go, and get happy!

Sources –
2. Eight Happy People, Reverend John J. Ahern
6. Happy are you Poor, Dubay
7. Volume 6, Direction for Our Times – Anne the Lay Apostle
8. Courageous Virtue, Stacy Mitch (A Bible Study on Moral Excellence For Women)
11. The Twenty-Four Hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ – Luisa Piccaretta
12. Michele Szekely -  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Get Happy! The Beatitudes of Life for the Vocation of Wife and Mother - Part VII

Kristen M. Soley

Seventh Beatitude - Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

The "peacemakers" are those who not only live in peace with others but help to preserve peace and friendship among man and between God and man. They also help to restore.1 

St. Francis of Assisi was a happy and blessed man, who found his beatitude in peacemaking.2 Preaching peace was his war cry.

The Prayer of St. Francis is a perfect embodiment of peacemaking and a great guide to living out this beatitude in our vocation. 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace – May we be the source of grace and peace in our home. Even if there is chaos, with God’s grace, we can help set the tone of our home. We can lovingly guide and reprove, use gentle and forgiving words and show consistency in our presence. If we can remain calm in all situations, with God’s grace, we can be a constant and reliable source of peace.

Where there is hatred, let me sow love- In all things, choose love. Not only should we teach this to our children, but we should live this out. Set an example of unconditional love, even when it does not come easy. Encourage charity among the children and do not tolerate uncharitable behavior. Ask Mary and Jesus to love through us and that they fill the gap of love we fail to meet in our homes.

Where there is injury, pardon – Again, to be forgiven, we must forgive, as we are taught by Jesus, in the Our Father, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We are also taught in scripture the number of time we are to forgive, "…I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:22 NASB) Encourage our children to say, “I am sorry,” and “You are forgiven.”

The rest of the prayer runs:
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy; 

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love. 

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

This would be worth hanging on the fridge as a constant reminder that we are called to be the channel of peace in our homes. And with God’s grace through time spent with Him in prayer, He can bring this peace into our homes. 
May we become the "peacemakers" who not only live in peace with others but help to preserve peace and friendship among man and between God and man; in our homes and wherever He may lead us. 1

Sources –
2. Eight Happy People, Reverend John J. Ahern
6. Happy are you Poor, Dubay
7. Volume 6, Direction for Our Times – Anne the Lay Apostle
8. Courageous Virtue, Stacy Mitch (A Bible Study on Moral Excellence For Women)
11. The Twenty-Four Hours of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ – Luisa Piccaretta
12. Michele Szekely -  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Mission Critical!!

Kristen M. Soley

Years ago, I read that the primary mission of the family is to get each other to heaven. We have seven children, five of whom are boys. Introducing the journey to sainthood as a mission seemed a perfect approach for our family. It also helped to understand that God’s plan is perfect and has chosen each family member for our sanctification (growth in holiness).  

Everything that happens to us, good, or seemingly not so good, is by God’s hand; gently aiding our growth in virtue. For our family, He Wills for us joy through successes, peace through time spent in prayer, safety through our angel's prayers, wisdom through learning, laughter through recreation, character built through work, His love through us given to each other, and ultimately union with Him through full surrender to His Divine Will. He also wills that we grow in patience through trials, fortitude through hurt feelings, perseverance through enduring long days without sufficient rest, meekness when we hit sensory overload, forgiveness when we have things stolen from us, mercy when we lose a friend (if only for five minutes), humility when our pride is pricked, and surrender when we feel unappreciated. These are a mere sampling of all the opportunities family life provides, and are not dissimilar to His life on earth. Each of these opportunities allows us to grow in virtue; to be more like Him.  

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10 NASB)

Our family has taken this mission, as given directly from our Commander and Chief, God Himself. Therefore, in our home, we begin each morning with family prayer. As we close our prayer, either my husband or I, with team-captain enthusiasm, pose the question, “What is our Mission?” To which we all cheer, “To get each other to heaven!” This is followed by the question, “What are we going to do today to get each other to heaven?” Which is followed with the children cheering loudly the following:

· “Be kind and share!
· Do the right thing even when it is difficult!
· Pray, think, and then speak!
· Pray, think, and then do!
· Build up the Kingdom of God!
· Do something beautiful for God!
· Be charitable!
· And when in doubt, ask the question, ‘What would Jesus do?’”

Finally, we all put our hands in, team-style, and raise them as we cheer, “One, two, three - “Go team Soley!” 

This has helped us to daily embrace our assignment to this critical mission; getting each other to heaven, and helps us to remember that it is a mission we cannot fulfill without each other. 

+All For JMJ+