St. Clare of Assisi

Posted by on Aug 11, 2017 in courageous saints | Comments Off on St. Clare of Assisi

Fresco at church of San Damiano, Assisi

I was born in Santa Clara, a city named after St. Clare of Assisi, and baptized in a Franciscan parish. I have great uncles who were Franciscan friars, and a grandmother who was a Third Order Franciscan. Despite this, my interest in the Franciscans never extended past perpetuating the image of St. Francis as Snow White in the garden, surrounded by the little birds and woodland creatures. I am sure that somewhere in my dozen or so years of blogging I have misquoted St. Francis, perpetuating the myth of this (in)famous quotation so often misattributed to him,

Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.

That encompassed my entire knowledge of St. Francis of Assisi, and I knew even less about St. Clare of Assisi. It illustrates the rather tepid relationships I’ve had with the Saints throughout my life, and the gentle awakening I’ve had in the last several years that has drawn me into the stories of these holy men and women. The Saints, I must admit, have been extending their hands in friendship for years, and only now am I responding. Better late than never is no real consolation, but writing one book about the saints in my life, and then writing a second one, Super Girls and Halos, that features St. Clare of Assisi, has opened my eyes and my heart to these powerful stories of conversion, faith, and commitment to the Lord.

Behind the accounts of incredible miracles and dramatic martyrdoms exist lives of heroic virtue. This kind of heroism doesn’t require superpowers such as flying or crushing mountains. Instead, it is a quiet strength that trusts in God, and abandons all to his holy will.

In Super Girls and Halos I explore the over-the-top heroics of fictional women, such as Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and explore the virtues in these women. I examine Rey’s character, and acknowledge that her strength and desire for justice in the galaxy are worthy of emulation. And then I examine the same virtue in a Saint, recognizing how grace works through her. Where Rey becomes a ray of light in her fictional universe, I discovered Clare, who was truly such a light in her life.

My favorite account of St. Clare’s trust in the Lord is recorded in the traditional image of her holding a monstrance. In the year 1240, the convent at San Damiano in Assisi and the neighboring village were under attack by Saracen mercenaries. St. Clare, ailing and sick, went to the wall of the convent holding the Blessed Sacrament, beseeching the Lord to protect them. The Saracens retreated, and the sisters and the village were spared that night.

Dear Saint Clare, pray for us, that we may shine the Light of Christ in our corner of the world.

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Elemental: birds by the water

Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in Weekly Photo Challenge | 2 comments

This week’s photo challenge takes us to earth, wind, fire, and air. My contribution covers two of the elemental challenges, air and water. You might say I capture two birds with one lens.

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St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Posted by on Aug 9, 2017 in courageous saints | Comments Off on St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Edith Stein

Today is the feast of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, an extraordinary woman and an inspirational Saint. She is one of my favorite saints from the 20th century. I was drawn to her story while researching saints for my first book a few years ago, and I was so delighted to be able to include her in Super Girls and Halos.

One of the best parts about writing books that feature canonized saints is the encouragement I get as I read about women and men who pursue lives of holiness. I kind of expect these Saints to live their lives on an epic scale. In reality, they are usually regular people so inspired by Christ, so in love with the Lord, that they become extraordinary.

A Heroine

St Teresa Benedicta was already a formidable woman long before she converted to Catholicism and joined the Carmelites.

Edith Stein was born on October 12,1891 in Breslau, Poland. She enjoyed the perks of being the youngest of 11 children although her father’s death when she was a child brought challenges to the family. Her mother was able to take over the family business and make it successful. The example set by her mother no doubt influenced Stein’s later views on the role of women in society.

This sense of independence and self-sufficiency seemed to drive the young Edith. Although the Steins were observant Jews, Edith began to distance herself from the faith over the course of her teenage years, culminating in her declaration of atheism. She became an ardent student of philosophy, and while she maintained her atheism throughout her studies, she discovered the writings of St. Teresa of Avila and was convicted almost immediately. In fact, St. Teresa was so influential in Stein’s conversion that after being baptized Catholic, Stein pursued a desire to join the Carmelites.

Stein’s conversion proved to be a difficult situation for her family, especially her mother. This was further complicated by the socio-political climate in Germany in the 1930s which persecuted Jews. Stein’s conversion appeared to be a rejection of her roots. Because the conversion caused such anguish for her mother, Stein’s spiritual advisor recommended that she delay her entry to the Carmel, a delay that she respected for many years.

A Saint

In the end, her entry to the Carmel proved a devastating blow to her mother, who didn’t understand. The separation from family was deeply felt. Unfortunately, tensions continued to rise in Germany. Stein, now Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, transferred from Cologne to the monastery at Echt in the Netherlands for her safety, taking her further from family. Tragically, she was unable to escape the Nazis, and was arrested, along with her sister, and transported to the death camp at Auschwitz. She was murdered on August 9, 1942. Sister Teresa Benedicta of the Cross went to her death with quiet heroism, and died a martyr of the Church.

I paired St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross with Special Agent Dana Scully from The X-Files. I was inspired by Scully’s quest for Truth in the television series and her prudence in seeking answers. I was struck by the same qualities in Stein, coupled with her dedication to the faith.

“In order to be an image of God, the spirit must turn to what is eternal, hold it in spirit, keep it in memory, and by loving it, embrace it in the will.”

One of the things I enjoy about discovering saints and reading about their lives is when I find small nuggets, a thoughts or teachings that I can adopt and apply to my life. I may never be a canonized saint, but in adopting something from the saints, I feel like I am moving closer to living a life of holiness as modeled by them.

 

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St. Kateri Tekakwitha Memorial Today

Posted by on Jul 14, 2017 in courageous saints | 1 comment

St. Kateri Tekakwitha’s memorial is today. I’m drawn to her as a model of virtue, so much so that I included her in my book, Super Girls and Halos: My Companions on the Quest for Truth, Justice, and Heroic Virtue.

I’m often asked how I pick the saints I share about in my books. The short answer is that the saints find me. I know, that’s a glib answer. The more complex one is that I enjoy reading biographies, and in the last several years, have been picking up the lives of saints. I guess I have been slowly amassing a collection of saints that I’ve been drawn to in some way. I like to think of them as my friends in heaven. The random part of that process is that, maybe, they are calling me from the shelves. I like pretty covers and clever titles.

Back to St. Kateri Tekakwitha! I spoke about her virtues. She showed an amazing amount of fortitude in her brief life. Tekakwitha was born in 1656 in the area we now know as New York. Her mother was Algonquin and her father was Mohawk. Jesuit missionaries had a strong presence in the area, and Tekakwitha’s mother converted to Christianity. Sadly, a smallpox epidemic wiped out her immediate family when Tekakwitha was only four years old. Her uncle took her in, and thus began a life of conflict for the young woman.

Tekakwitha longed for the faith of her mother, and was drawn to the Jesuit priests who taught this faith near her village. By the time she was 20, Tekakwitha had decided she would convert. She took the name Kateri, after St. Catherine of Siena, and was baptized. That led to more difficulties with her uncle, who hated the Christians. She faced ostracism and more in her village.

Eventually, when things became increasingly difficult for her, she fled to a Christian community in Montreal, Canada. A Jesuit mission had been established there, and she was able to not only find kindred spirits there, but some family, too. She had to travel hundreds of miles into an unknown area to find the peace she sought in Christ.

Although I admire St. Kateri’s fortitude to withstand the trials she faced daily, it was actually her temperance that I admired in her life. She learned to live within the limitations imposed upon her, embracing her solitude rather than fighting it.

St. Kateri died in 1680 at just 24 years old, succumbing to illness no doubt exacerbated by the physical challenges she faced in the wilderness. She was known as the Lily of the Mohawks.

 

Photo credit by Dieterkaupp – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38143146

 

 

 

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birdie buddies create bridges

Posted by on Jul 11, 2017 in Weekly Photo Challenge | Comments Off on birdie buddies create bridges

My birdie buddies — beautiful birds that live nearby or are moving through in the migration patterns around Mobile Bay. They are my early morning companions as I have my coffee. They pop in and out throughout the day. I wish I had a better understanding of their movement. We have plenty of the usual birds that I can identify readily. Lots of cardinals. Lots and lots of bluebirds. But we have a huge variety of birds I don’t know, and it’s a neat challenge to get to know them. These new buddies, often just around for a brief period, are a bridge to other places as I wonder where they’ve come from and where they are going.

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