Erica Tighe | October 22, 2019
Before Be A Heart was my business, it was my blog. I started it to write about my experience of being a heart – nothing but a heart in the slums of Brazil. It was about compassion and learning how to love others more deeply and selflessly. After living there for a year and a half, I moved to NewYork and continued blogging about that transition and how I tried to continue living that same idea in the fast paced city.
Eventually Be A Heart was the platform for which I launched my business as a calligraphy and designer. Imagine now as I walk up to a high profile event to design something on site and someone says to me, are you Be A Heart? It still makes me chuckle. What kind of name is that, anyway? But for it, I am so grateful because it really keeps me in check. This idea of being a heart not only dictates how I interact with my clients, but also draws a very specific type of clientele. Most of the people who come to me have a similar heart in life and are promoting beautiful things with their own work. In turn, I get to design things that I believe in myself.
I have yet had to deal with an inquiry project for something that goes against my personal beliefs. I guess I wouldn’t be able to design something for an organization who was anti-refugee or promoting guns or the other issues that contrasts my own convictions. However I also recognize that not all my clients have the exact same beliefs as me on a personal level. I do always try to put the human first. We all have had different experiences to bring us to where we are and I am in no place to judge them. Usually in terms of a professional relationship, I can find plenty that we do have in common rather than seeing our differences.
I usually approach my work as an act of service. I am thereto serve them and not discriminate based on who they are or what they believe.This then is an act of love and that is always what I am trying to bring to the world.
Something I have been working on the past few months is learning to trust my own intuition though when I need to turn down a project. I recently had a client call very frantically needing something last minute and out of my normal scope of work. I had a weird feeling of it, but because I always want to be helpful, I agreed to do it. They kept negotiating my price down and asking me to come in extra times to meet and long story short it turned into a nightmare and they won’t return our calls or send payment for the work.
So for me, I should have seen some red flags in the way they treated us from the beginning in a way where I felt a bit exploited and used and while I try to treat my clients with love and tend to put in the extra mile for them, I also expect to receive kindness and respect in return.
And in the end, I don’t want my handiwork on a business that may not treat its own clientele or employees with dignity and kindness. I think one of the best ways to avoid this is to be really clear in the mission of your own work and knowing what your non-negotiable issues are. This generally will help in the very beginning to attract those who also want to be affiliated and do business with you.
Claire Dwyer | October 22, 2019
Our Lady of Sorrows Feast Day: September 15
This week we’ll celebrate two important feasts: the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, on September 14, and the following day, September 15, we’ll remember Our Lady of Sorrows. Two days linked forever in meaning, inseparable, poignant.
September 15 also happens to be my birthday. And for a long time, as long as I was old enough to realize who I shared the day with, I felt a little – cheated. I mean, it’s a bit of a downer to liturgically commemorate all the bitterness in Mary’s life on a day for celebrating your own. Not that I ever thought it should be all about me, but as a child, it just didn’t seem quite fair. To enter the world as Mary grieved at the Cross.
Eventually I made peace with it. And then I considered it an honor to be born on a Marian day, whichever one it may be. Forever I’ll be tucked into that title, a little footnote on her calendar. And as I got older, the meaning of suffering, hers and my own, took on its own strange beauty and could be appreciated. At least, I reasoned, I have a patroness in all the little crosses I drag reluctantly as I shuffle along, hopefully heavenward.
But today I came to love it.
Suddenly, in my Suburban. A flash of clarity at a stoplight, that came, like most good things, while meditating on the rosary. It was this: Our Lady of Sorrows is the Cause of Our Joy.
These are both ancient titles of Mary, but I had never held them together in my heart before, each one like a mirror reflecting the other, returning its own light. Each one meaningless, really, without the other. There is no value in suffering without its little Sunday at the end, and there is no joyful redemption without the cross. There just isn’t. It’s one of those paradoxes our faith is famous for.
First, Our Lady of Sorrows, the woman who tasted bitterness at the prophecy of Simeon, when she hears that a sword would pierce her heart, already fear stabbing her. But then, as always, a yes. Each sorrow a yes. Specifically, we remember seven: The Prophecy of Simeon, the Flight into Egypt, the Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple, their Meeting on the Way to Calvary, Jesus’ Death on the Cross, Mary’s Reception of His Body, And the Placing of His Body in the Tomb. Those are the big ones. And all the little piercings, too, each step he took away from her, into the crowds that would kill him, each soul that rejected him, each sin she saw, each one was an ache. But every time there is the yes, the giving away of herself into the will of God. Every sorrow was sealed with a “fiat” that gave it eternal power. Until finally it would culminate at the foot of the Cross, with her leaning into that will with a silent agony we can only imagine.
And then. In that darkest hour, in the horrible silence as heaven held its breath, He spoke. “Woman, behold your son…behold your mother.” In that extreme grief, there was yet another yes. And we all flooded into her heart, hollowed out by humility and suffering. The day he wrenched eternal life back for us, he gave us the source of his own human life – he handed us his Mother.
And we won twice.
So that’s one reason she’s the Cause of Our Joy. Because in another act of generosity only possible for God Himself, she is ours. Our Lady. In the most anguished hour of all her sorrows, we received a gift that the angels would envy if they could envy. We share her with them as a Queen, but only to us can she be a Mother. In all things she shares our life and loves us with unspeakable tenderness. Once we have become her children, we feel the warm gentle weight of her gaze that makes life bearable even in its most difficult days. “Our faith tells us that here below, in our present life, we are pilgrims, wayfarers,” says St. Josemaria Escriva. “Our lot is one of sacrifices, suffering, and privations. Nonetheless, joy must mark the rhythm of our steps. ‘Serve the Lord with joy’ – there is no other way to serve Him.” Every shimmering joy, each a foretaste of the eternal that awaits us, is from her spoon.
She is also the Cause of Our Joy because, by the design of God, it is only through her that He came. Christ, our salvation, came through this little vessel and we are so forever grateful. From the first, the big “Fiat” spoken to Gabriel, divinity took flesh within her and finally, our salvation was underway. She is the first chapter in the book of eternal life. Joy itself comes to the world, and only through Mary. St. John the Baptist was the first to feel it, leaping with joy as an unborn baby as he felt their presence, even as she herself exclaims, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” (Luke 1:47)
Appropriately, then, we rejoice too because she is honored in heaven and earth. She is given a seat next to her son, she is crowned Queen of Heaven, the final victory is given to her. “A great marvel appeared in the heaven: a woman, dressed with the sun, with the moon at her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” (Revelation 12:1) If our Mother is Queen, then we take heart. St. Josemaria Escriva reminds us that we are prompted to “acknowledge the basis for this joyful hope. Yes, we are still pilgrims, but our mother has gone ahead, where she points to the reward of our efforts. She tells us we can make it. And, if we are faithful, we will reach home.” So she is the Cause of Our Joy because she is a sign of our salvation. What we hope for she holds high as a promise fulfilled.
Finally, and this is the difficult part, but what brings it all full circle – Our Lady of Sorrows is the Cause of Our Joy because, Fr. John Hardon said, “She enjoyed the happiness of suffering with Christ, suffering for Christ, suffering like Christ. How the meaning of happiness is taught us by the mother of God…happiness on earth is a measure of our living lives of sacrifice as Our Lady did. When we address Our Lady as the Cause of Our Joy, we mean it…She is the Cause of Our Joy because our joy will depend on how faithfully we allow Mary to teach us what it means to be happy.”
What he’s saying is this: if joy is union with God, then there’s a cross in it for us. No cross, no joy. We can run away from it, and maybe there’ll be a little relief in the distractions of the world, but no real joy. Only by leaning in, as she did, can true joy be found, and once we do, we find that being so close to a God who suffered takes on a certain sweetness. No Sunday sunrise without Friday’s slow fade. No Queen of Heaven without the Sorrowful Mother.
I guess then, it is a “happy” birthday after all. In the most joyful sense of the word.
Claire Dwyer | October 22, 2019
Feast Day: August 27
The canonized women who are mothers add to our altars a special kind of incense – a two-fold fragrance of motherhood, both natural and spiritual. The very definition of their sainthood reveals that the life of the soul was sacrosanct to them, and that while they nurtured the physical life of their children, it was eternal life which they desired to impart above all.
Of these special women, St. Monica is among the most famous, and that is because of her son. What we know about her is almost completely from the Confessions of St. Augustine, who is as well known for his unruly early life as he is for his later saintliness and preaching as Bishop of Hippo, in Northern Africa. Now a Doctor of the Church, he started out life steeped in impurity and pride, rejecting morality and Christianity for mistresses and error. His loose living was a tremendous cross for his devout mother.
Monica was no stranger to family crosses. Raised Christian in the fourth century, she had married a violent and unfaithful man, Patricius, who refused to allow her to baptize their three children. While in deep personal pain, her faith was her unshakable anchor. Other women began to notice. It was a common scenario for suffering wives to come to her for strength and comfort in their own difficulties. Years of patient love and powerful prayers paid off in the end, when Patricius converted to the faith a year before he died.
But the seventeen-year-old Augustine had yet to reform. In anguish, Monica implored the local bishop for help convincing Augustine to surrender both the mistresses and Manichean heresy he had taken up. God’s time will come, the bishop reassured her, but she was so persistent he finally urged, Go now, I beg you. It is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish.
And so the widowed Monica redoubled her efforts as she followed Augustine to Italy when he left home to continue his education. Although Augustine tried to lose her on the way, she resolutely came after her brilliant but sinful son, first to Rome and then to Milan. All the while, she was pulling down favors from heaven by fasting and praying as only a Christian mother can. Augustine, looking back on those days in the Confessions, remembers the rivers flowing down from my mother’s eyes, by which, before (God) and in my behalf, she daily watered the ground beneath her face.
One answer to her prayer was the friendship of a holy and gifted bishop, Ambrose, who came to admire Monica’s devotion and easily won the trust and admiration of her son. Largely through his influence, Augustine was able to finally embrace the faith and desire to be baptized. His conversion had been a tremendous struggle. In the end, it was a voice from heaven urging Augustine to take up and read the Scriptures which broke his resistance and flooded his soul with grace
It was a grace won with Christ’s blood and a mother’s tears.
During that Easter vigil in 387 Monica witnessed the birth of eternal life in the son she had delivered into earthly life. It was what she had hoped for all those years. Overjoyed to be of one mind and heart at last, mother and son prepared to go home to Africa. Before they arrived, Monica died from a sudden illness and her 33-year-old son sorrowfully closed her eyes – the eyes which, he said, had wept more for me than mothers weep over their child’s dead bodies.
This time, it was the son who wept.
I cannot tell clearly enough, Augustine emphasized, what love she had for me, and how with greater anguish she brought me forth in spirit than she had given me birth in the flesh.
St. Augustine closed his memories of his mother by asking his readers to pray for her. Now, as a Saint, it is she we ask for help, turning in our own times of anguish to her for intercession for our marriages, for the return of wayward children, and for the flourishing of supernatural life in the souls of all those entrusted to us.
No doubt she has a few spiritually fertile tears left for us, too.
St. Monica, mother both natural and spiritual, pray for us!
Christine French | October 22, 2019
Question: Many of us have heard the term “spiritual motherhood”. What does this mean to you? What does spiritual motherhood look like?
I have a wonderful mother who raised me in the Catholic faith and has been Catholic her whole life. But as I was growing up I struggled with faith and asked a lot of hard questions about the Church and not satisfied by answer around me. I was drawn in by many other deeply faithful Catholics in college, a wonderful chaplain and a very motherly Campus Minister, Alecia, who listened to me for hours in her office as a worked through struggles. Alecia is the first spiritual mother I was really open to receive from, but had many others before and since that time with her in college. Now I am a campus minister back at my high school.
When I began to organize our parishes first Endow group with a friend and mentor out of the prompting of the Lord on JPII’s Letter to Women, we initially assumed that it would be a group for 20 to 30-year-old women from our parish. Then one woman I really admire from our parish text me, Mary (as in Our Blessed Mother) told me to contact you for consolation. We met and as we were talking I had an overwhelming desire to invite her to join our Endow group, even though she was older than our original age range. She was a religion teacher for the parish’s middle school, ran the Confirmation program, and had already contributed to my life personally. After talking to my co-leader and praying about it more we invited her to join us.
As a result of this women joining our Endow group we invited two other older women. All three are mothers and have their own children ranging from 6th grade to out of college. As we began our first study I was deeply moved by the entire group that the Lord brought together we were all different and unique but seeking the Lord and wanting to grow in holiness and in community.
One quote in the study by Saint Edith Stein says, “Woman naturally seeks to embrace that which is living, personal, and whole. To cherish, guard, protect, nourish and advance growth is her natural, maternal yearning.” Over and over again I saw this lived out concretely in the support our group provided for one another: a listening ear, remembering an important date/milestone, prayers, and food.
When I was struggling a lot one day after Mass a woman from the group came over and knew something was upsetting me and just began to pray over me out loud and a different day another woman offered a hug and a listening ear when I was believing Satan’s lie that I was all alone. I got texts and dinner invites, lots of laughs when I was getting too serious, and I had people who could see through the masks I put up and allow me to be vulnerable and grow in trust first of them, then of God. I then got to share my enthusiasm with others, my knowledge of evangelization, particularly with today’s teens, and encourage people to get a spiritual director and lead spontaneous prayer, lectio divina, etc for our group. We were present for each other. This is what it means to nourish the spiritual growth of others. And the joy and other fruits of the Holy Spirit were so present as we recognized the fruitfulness of our yes to the Lord that contributed to the growth of our sister in Christ.
The study says, Consecrated women’s willingness to love all Christ’s children as their own is an ongoing witness to the truth, the power, and the beauty of the feminine genius (P. 81). For nearly 2 years prior to starting this study I had been discerning consecrated life, but this study was one of many ways the Lord confirmed I was moving on the right path and helped give me the courage to respond to the Lord’s promptings and move in with the Apostolic Oblates, lay consecrated women that take vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity with a promise of apostolic availability. I am currently in the first step, The Experience before even starting formation, but receiving a lot from the Lord here. Getting to tell my spiritual moms from the group about my day of prayer that led me to take this step was so exciting and their encouragement and support helped me stay grateful for this move even when other people in my life were not as excited for me as I begin this journey.
The beautiful thing is that the Lord will use us right where we are, in our state of life and varied circumstances to bear spiritual fruit and be a spiritual mother if we are open to His voice and promptings.
Claire Dwyer | October 20, 2019
One of the most saintly love stories in history began on a bridge.
It was April, 1858. Zelie Guerin was walking over the bridge of St. Leonard in Alencon, France when she observed a striking, dignified man also making his was across. An interior voice, which she recognized as coming from the Blessed Virgin, spoke: This is he whom I have prepared for you.
The pretty young woman had been noticed by Louis Martin, too, and it didn’t take long for them to be introduced, probably by his mother, who was taking a lacemaking class with Zelie.
The two had much in common. Both had desired religious life, but had been turned away at the door of both monastery and convent. He, for an inability to master Latin, and she, because, as the Superior of the local order of St. Vincent de Paul mysteriously told her, â€œIt was not the will of God.
They had both set about to learn intricate arts. Louis learned the careful craft of clockmaking. Zelie’s art was lacemaking, specifically, Point de Alencon, a complicated and highly-prized lace the region was known for.
Most importantly, they had a deep devotion to God and to the Catholic faith. They had long since set their hearts on fulfilling perfectly God’s will for them. When He revealed that they were called to marriage, they embraced their vocation and wished for many children to bring them up for heaven. Perhaps, they openly hoped, some of them would be given the religious vocations they themselves had not received.
Married on July 13, 1858, the Lord heard their prayers and soon the home was filled with the gentle joy of children. Marie-Louise, Marie-Pauline, Marie-Leonie, and Marie-Helene followed each other in quick succession. And then, finally, a son arrived, and the family rejoiced, hoping that Marie-Joseph-Louis would grow up to be a missionary priest! But he was called home to heaven just a few months later, ushering in a period of deep grief for Louis and Zelie. Another son was born and died, and then they suddenly lost little Helene shortly after Marie-Celine was born. I thought, wrote Zelie, I would die myself.
Another daughter, Marie-Therese-Melanie was born in 1870, and as Zelie was unable to nurse her babies, had to be sent to a wet nurse in town. Tragically, incomprehensibly, the nurse had let the little girl starve, and she died in agony on Zelie’s lap. It was another bitter cross, and one which could only be borne with a faith deeper than death. But that was, of course, exactly the kind of faith they had.
It was the next child who would bring this family into the light of the whole Church, little Marie-Francoise-Therese, St. Therese of Lisieux. She was a fresh joy, a little winter flower who appeared on January 2, 1873, and she was encircled in a family rich in love. Together they attended Mass daily, prayed, served the poor, and fulfilled their duties with attention to every detail. Zelie continued to work as she raised her daughters; in fact, her business became so successful that Louis sold his own in order to help her manage the lacemaking. Her many remaining letters are filled with the joys and sorrows of daily family life, and themselves laced with faith in a God who works all things for good.
But the warm circle would be broken by another suffering. This time the sacrifice the Lord asked for was Zelie herself, who died after an excruciating battle withÂ breast cancer when Therese was only four years old.
Broken hearted but determined to do his best for his five daughters, Louis sold the lace-making business and their home and moved to Lisieux to be near Zelie’s brother and his family. It would be a move designed by Providence.
In Lisieux was the Carmelite convent where four of the five girls would find their calling. Louis surrendered them to God, generously but not without a bittersweet grief. First Pauline, then Marie, then Therese, his Little Queen, when she was only fifteen.
Celine’s entrance would have to wait, for a final sacrifice was asked of Louis – in the form of an illness that took his health, his independence, and slowly, his mind. At his final visit with his Carmelite daughters, barely able to speak, Therese would emotionally remember his final gesture to them: his hand raised, his finger pointing upward, and a single, wrenching word: Heaven!
Celine and Leonie alone remained to help care for him until his death in 1894. Then they both would enter the convent: Celine joined her sisters in Carmel and Leonie became a Visitation nun.
For decades, it was Therese, canonized in 1925, who would capture the hearts of the faithful. One of the most loved saints of all time, The Little Flower and her way of spiritual childhood spread like wildfire over our spiritual landscape. But the Church slowly realized that this Flower bloomed on a burning bush, a family itself ablaze with love. Perhaps it was she, this time, pointing us upward to heaven, revealing those who had opened her little-girl heart to Jesus and made Him the King in their home and their lives.
Louis and Zelie Martin were canonized in 2015, the first married saints of modern times and the only married couple to be canonized together. Their 19 years of marriage was rich in suffering but richer still in love, a love which gave birth to a spirituality. Therese’s way of confidence and love really was a rediscovery of the deeper meaning of her own beloved childhood.
The Church, by raising them to the altars, urges us to find hope in their story. Now we are encouraged to call on them for help – in finding a spouse, perhaps, or for a happy marriage, or holy children, or strength in the bitterest sufferings. Certainly the lacemaker and the clockmaker will help us faithfully fulfill the millions of tiny details in our daily duties – to the last stitch and the final screw.
This year marks the 160th anniversary of that divinely-orchestrated meeting on the bridge. How good is God, who guides our steps that we encounter such saints as we make our own way across this life! May Louis and Zelie pray for all of us, that we safely, faithfully, cross the bridge into heaven and join them there.
Saints Louis and Zelie Martin, pray for us!
Jenny Uebbing | October 20, 2019
Question: Have you had a great experience with a health care professional who made you feel seen and heard? Have you taken a moment to thank that person, give a referral to a friend, or write a positive review for their practice?
Lately I’ve been navigating some frustrating postpartum health issues – nothing life-threatening, but life-interrupting nevertheless. I’m grateful to have decent health insurance which has enabled me to see a doctor, a couple PA’s, and one very helpful PT. Save for that last practitioner, the overwhelming response from the medical profession has been a sort of metaphorical pat on the head and a wink and a “well, this is what life with lots of children feels like. And that maybe I should drink more coffee if I’m feeling really tired, and have I thought about going to the gym to help with the weight loss? (facepalm)
Oh, and my personal favorite: an official suggestion to schedule more date nights. By a PA who winked and me and offered to write me a prescription to that end.
Now I don’t know anyone who doesn’t hanker for a prescription to get thee to a wine bar, but for a 35-year-old college educated woman with 5 kids and a busy life, it’s a little frustrating to be patronized thusly.
Yes, it is a lot of work to have five kids. So is it, I imagine, a lot of work to command an aircraft carrier or lead a medical research team or litigate a corporate fraud case. I wonder if those professionals find themselves similarly dismissed in the exam room for being just a little too impatient with their suboptimal bodily performance and perhaps being chided for having too-high expectations for their quality of life.
Somehow I doubt it.
I was thinking of this and other things related to being female, namely, fertility, and I got to thinking that a significant piece of the problem is perhaps that we – all of us, culturally speaking – have reframed female fertility from a wonderous and naturally occurring aspect of human life to a disease to be managed with the utmost care and pregnancy a condition to be indulged in sparingly and only with the greatest trepidation.
And I don’t just mean the American College of Gynecology who, in their welcome admission of the existence of a “fourth trimester” to cover the immediate postpartum period (duh) are all-too eager to impart their wisdom on sexuality and contraception to a woman who pushed or had cut out of her 21 days earlier an 8 pound human being. But yes, best to get her nice and sterile again ASAP lest we get ourselves into this situation again.
I have a theory that part of the reason maternal healthcare is so bad in our culture has to do with the expectation that a woman will maybe undergo pregnancy two or three times in, say, a decade-long period and then be done with the whole thing, so why put many resources into supporting and researching best practices and good postpartum care?
Why put time into studying the natural effects of hormones if a woman is just expected to go back to repressing them?
Why encourage women to have healthy, fit, functional pregnancies if it doesn’t matter if they blow it since it’s “only” nine months, maybe eighteen if they go for a second kid? (I’m pretty sure whoever coined the term eating for two was not planning on a woman doing so four or five or nine times, thereby annihilating her metabolism). On the other side of the coin, why strive to help women to recover their fitness and ideal physical and emotional health if we’re conditioned to think that being overweight, overtired, and overwhelmed is simply par for the course of motherhood?
“We don’t know, that’s just what happens after you have a baby!” is not an acceptable answer from a civilization that has produced cochlear implants and iPhones and the internal combustion engine.
But I think until we start demanding better care and refusing to accept “schedule more date nights” or “just take this pill” as appropriate answers for real medical issues, this is what we’re going to get.
Women should be able to find competent postpartum and maternal healthcare that sees their endocrine and reproductive systems not as dangerous threats to be chemically suppressed and neutralized, but as essential components of the delicate whole of their entire bodies. And they should be treated with the respect and dignity that is proper to the human person. There has to be a solid middle ground between “suppress it and forget it” and “we don’t know what causes that.”
New mothers should be leaving the hospital or birthing center with a prescription for physical therapy, instructions to schedule an insurance-covered, comprehensive physical at 2 weeks and 6 weeks and 12 weeks postpartum, recommendations for supplements, plans to check hormone and vitamin levels with lab work, and a general reassurance that her body has just accomplished something demanding and incredible and also utterly and completely normal.
Maybe it’s too much to hope for from a culture that spends much of its emotional and political energy on so-called “women’s issues” ensuring that female healthcare remains strictly limited to accessing free chemical contraception and the inalienable right to end your pregnancy if you don’t want your baby.
But maybe it’s something we can work towards, one mother at a time, expecting more for ourselves so that we can one day hand over a greater collective wisdom and a higher standard of care to our own daughters.
Because I am a woman, not an inconvenience. My body is strong and capable, not weak and declining. And my fertility is an intricate and intelligently designed gift, not a disease. Help me to honor these truths and you’ll be practicing real medicine.
Have you had a great experience with a doctor who made you feel seen and heard? Have you taken a moment to thank that person, send a referral their way, or write a positive review for their practice? Maybe we can’t close the health gap that exists between the sexes on our own, but we can recognize and affirm doctors and other medical professionals who rise above the status quo to provide competent and compassionate care.
Claire Dwyer | October 20, 2019
The young Spanish priest had felt in his prayer an unidentified urging for several years, a vague call, a sense of something more. On October 2, 1928, while pondering some notes in his journal, Fr. Josemaria Escriva suddenly saw it: the call within a call such as Mother Teresa had received. He saw his mission clearly and definitely – to open a new path to holiness, a way of living out the universal Christian vocation in the midst of the world by sanctifying the everyday and the ordinary.
He would dedicate the rest of his life, until his death on June 26, 1975, to this great Work of God, or Opus Dei as the movement came to be called.
Fueled by an intense inner life of prayer, he and the tens of thousands of lay men, women and priests who would follow him would find that by perfecting, uniting to the cross, and offering up of their professions, their friendly interactions, their recreation, their family life – all human activity – there was a natural but powerful way to sanctify both the world and themselves.
This Way is a foundational charism of Opus Dei, now a familiar and formally recognized movement in the Church. Fr. Josemaria Escriva would himself be raised to sainthood by Pope St. John Paul II in 2002. But just as St. Josemaria gave himself completely to the whole Church, his message and his means of holiness are meant for us all.
In fact, the mission he received so willingly would prophetically precede one of the central themes of Vatican II – the ordinary baptismal call to holiness of all believers. Each of us has a mission, often unseen (and all the holier for it!) to sanctify all of our everyday realities. And beautifully, paradoxically, it is we who in turn find ourselves sanctified through our small movements of cooperation with God.
The word of encouragement to a friend, the daily Mass with toddlers in tow, the well-written professional proposal, the deliberate work of a craftsman, the cake baked with care. It’s divine. All of it.
And when we mingle our work with our worship, like water and wine, we find that the division between heaven and earth blurs and God infuses our hearts with Himself. St. Josemaria would foreshadow not only Vatican II, but he would point us to the reality of heaven itself in the here and now.
In the spiritual writings he left behind, this saint of everyday holiness gave us thousands of gems for meditation. Here are a few to take to prayer as we celebrate his feast day:
Do you really want to be a saint? Carry out the little duty of each moment: do what you ought and put yourself into what you are doing. (The Way, 815.)
You want to be a martyr. I’ll place a martyrdom within your reach: to be an apostle and not call yourself an apostle, to be a missionary – with a mission – and not call yourself a missionary, to be a man of God and to seem a man of the world: to pass unnoticed! (The Way, 847.)
We are children of God. Bearers of the only flame that can light up the paths of the earth for souls, of the only brightness which can never be darkened, dimmed, or overshadowed. The Lord uses us as torches, to make that light shine out! It depends on us that many should not remain in darkness, but walk instead along paths that lead to eternal life. (The Forge, 1.)
Live and work for God, with a spirit of love and service, with a priestly soul, even though you may not be a priest. Then all your actions will take on a genuine supernatural meaning which will keep your whole life united to the source of all graces. (The Forge, 369.)
St. Josemaria, pray for us!
Claire Dwyer | October 20, 2019
It was year 1450, and it the first Holy Year declared in the Church. Lay and religious pilgrims joyfully converged upon Rome including a band of Augustinian nuns from Cascia, in the region of Umbria in central Italy known for it’s saints, as the birthplace of St. Benedict and St. Francis.
Among them was an elderly nun, weak and exhausted from the long journey, but rejoicing to be the great Holy City.
Little did Rita of Cascia know that 650 years later, during another Jubilee year, she would return to Rome or, her mortal remains would by police helicopter, to be venerated by pilgrims and the Pope himself, in honor of the 100th anniversary of her own canonization.
Pope John Paul II reminded the crowd gathered there Saturday, May 20, 2000, that she was the first woman to be canonized in the Great Jubilee year of 1900. She was, he said, small in stature but great in holiness, who lived in humility and is now known throughout the world for her heroic Christian life as a wife, mother, widow and nun. Deeply rooted in the love of Christ, Rita found in her faith unshakeable strength to be a woman of peace in every situation.
His voice, trembling with age and suffering, spoke of one of his famous themes. Rita well interpreted the feminine genius, the Pope said, by living it intensely in both physical and spiritual motherhood.
And so she did.
It had been a long journey, her pilgrimage, not just physically, but in spirit as well. Rita’s life was a series of sufferings, of twists and turns, of losing everything and finding it again.
Born Margherita Lotti in 1381 to aged parents who rejoiced to finally have a child after years of infertility, Rita grew up in a devout home. Anxious to have her future secured as they neared old age, her parents arranged for a marriage when she was a very young teenager.
Her husband, Paolo Mancini, was an angry man at first, embroiled in the feuds common between Italian families at the time. Rita’s goodness and prayers softened him. Still, he became of victim of the violence and was murdered in a blood feud, leaving her a young widow with two sons.
Adding to her grief, Rita’s anguished sons swore revenge for their father’s death. Her pleas for forgiveness for the killers went unheard. So she turned to the God who always hears, and begged Him to spare her sons from the stain of mortal sin. Shortly after, they both died, probably of the plague, and Rita was utterly alone.
She longed to enter the Augustinian monastery of St. Mary Magdalen, but faced a serious obstacle: one of the medieval requirements for admission was that a childless widow have her relatives’ permission to enter. Her husband’s family would have withheld their permission unless she joined the bitter vendetta. Rita turned again to prayer, and received the grace, miraculously, to forge a peace between the two families.
She became a nun, devoted the last half of her life to intense prayer, and received the stigmata on her forehead in the form of a wound from the crown of thorns. It caused her unspeakable pain and would have prevented her from making the pilgrimage to Rome during that first Holy Year. When it was time for the nuns to leave, though, the wound disappeared. Rita set out with them, making the difficult journey with joy.
She would live just a few more years before her final pilgrimage to the heaven in 1457. The day of her death is her feast day: May 22.
Who knew, at the time, that this simple woman of the Beatitudes a woman of peace and meekness, who mourned but showed mercy would hundreds of years later be invoked by millions as patroness of impossible causes? Who knew then that one of the greatest popes, a Saint himself, would esteem her as model of the feminine genius and both kinds of motherhood, physical and spiritual?
St. Rita reminds us that our Church is rich is women who show us what is best about ourselves, whose qualities of holiness transcend time and place. Even now she makes little pilgrimages into our own situations of sufferings in our homes, she journeys with us in our pleas for seemingly impossible resolutions in our marriages and families, and she joins us in our daily prayers to become women of forgiveness and mercy.
St. Rita, pray for us!
Katherine Meeks | October 20, 2019
This Mother’s Day, join Endow and the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles in celebrating all mothers the moms who gave us life and the spiritual mothers who have carried us through it. If you need help showing your mom a little extra love this Mother’s Day, we’ve got your back. Here is a little DIY bouquet tutorial we’ve put together from Endow woman, Colleen Monroe and founder of https://floraloom.com/.