I am five years old. I am sitting in my bedroom, pondering as I tend to do at this age. “God, I just want You to know that I am here when You need me,” I silently pray as I gingerly caress a favorite image of Our Lady. “I want to do great things for You one day.” This was not an uncommon prayer for me as a little girl, though I later discovered that it was unusual for most kids to be thinking in such a way at such a young age. For me, it was a fire that had been planted in my heart at Baptism. That fire awakened when I began Catholic grade school, and it only emblazoned all the more fiercely as I grew older, received the sacraments of First Holy Communion, First Confession and confirmation. The Holy Spirit set His seal upon my heart. It was time for me to discover my purpose on earth. We are all anointed, brothers and sisters. Our Baptism seals us as God’s beloved ones. As such anointed people, we are all called to greatness, to do great things for God as I once prayed as a youngster. Your calling differs from mine, but they are all from the same great source: the Holy Spirit. How do we live as God’s anointed ones when life is so hectic and seems to get in the way of all we long for and dream of? I am not sure I have an exact answer, but I do know that it involves the risk of vulnerability. When you and I are vulnerable—that is, open to authentic and wholehearted living—we become clay in God’s hands. First, we must become broken, and that brokenness is what we feel on a daily basis: lost, alone, afraid, overwhelmed, exhausted, confused. Maybe we just feel nothing, a sort of numbness that has led us to a place of complacency or apathy as we maintain the daily drudgery of life. God wants more from you and me, my friends. He is calling us every day to continually hand Him our brokenness, our weakness, our littleness. How can we truly serve Him when we are still serving ourselves? Living our anointing means that we become totally His—Totus Tuus, as was Saint John Paul II’s personal motto—and belonging to another means we no longer live for ourselves. That is why we feel broken and alone in such a cold and calloused world. To move beyond where you are, you must allow that brokenness to reach a place of His wholeness. Recall how He allowed Himself to suffer and die an unthinkable death so you and I might live eternally. His brokenness became our wholeness. That is why being broken ourselves and living in total dependence on God each day is a necessary first step in living our anointing, or our calling on earth. I have come to understand that living our anointing extends beyond what we expect. It is more than going to work every day. It is more than doing the laundry. It is more than taking the kids to soccer practice or piano lessons. It is beyond the mundane. Even if your life ends up being one that is hidden, like Saint Thérèse of Lisieux’s was, when you live your anointing, you are moving beyond the ordinary into the eternal. Doing the laundry becomes an opportunity to pray the rosary. Taking the kids to soccer practice becomes a way to discuss with them how life is going and what kinds of issues they are encountering in the real world. Going to the office is a place where countless opportunities arise to evangelize others. Live your anointing. It will not be easy, friends. It will challenge you. It will change you. But you, in turn, will encourage others. You will, one by one, change the world through the influence of your life: through every conversation, every smile, every act of kindness. Do not underestimate the simple ways you are called to be Jesus today and to encounter Jesus in others. Be open. That is the first step. When your heart is open, you are ready to become malleable clay in His hands. Even should He choose to shatter you when you are a finished clay pot, you will not be dismayed but, rather, overjoyed. For a life lived in and for Christ is a life fulfilled. There will be no greater way you can give back to Him than by giving Him everything, starting today.
Jan 13, 2018 6 0 Donna Marie Klein
I will never forget one particular high-school youth group I attended where the minister was preaching on why you should not have sex before marriage. To make his point, he took out a piece of gum and started chewing. After a few moments, he spat the chewed gum into one hand, held out the fresh piece in his other hand and asked us, “Which piece would you rather have?” The chewed piece of gum was meant to represent someone who had slept around; the fresh piece was someone who had saved sex for marriage. There is just one problem—you are not a piece of gum. The thing I hate about this analogy is that it implies that if you have gotten sexually intimate with someone before marriage, you are somehow worth less. But that is simply not true. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is John 8:1-11. In this passage, a group of Jewish religious leaders want to kill a woman who was caught committing sexual sin. They take her to Jesus and ask Him whether He thinks she should be stoned to death. To the religious leaders, this girl is worthless. She is the piece of chewed gum. As far as they are concerned, the only thing this girl is good for is to prove a point about divine justice. So, what does Jesus do? He calls out the religious leaders for treating this girl like she is nothing. He reminds them that every single one of them has screwed up at some point. His reply is, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, they drop their stones and leave. When Jesus and the woman are alone, He turns to her and says, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin again.” If you want to start over, God is not going to be up there thinking “Ha! You sinned! Off to Hell you go!” God is going to be thinking the same thing that God was thinking thousands of years ago, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). God does not love us more when we are being good and less when we are not. God just loves us—unconditionally and always. Often, though, the biggest barrier to starting over can be forgiving ourselves. Because past mistakes can be the source of a lot of pain, we generally do one of two things. We play them over and over again, obsessing on all the things that we could have done differently, or we try to sweep the memories under a mental rug and completely forget about them. Thinking about your mistakes to a certain extent is important, but only because you need to understand why it happened so that you do not make the same mistake twice. Beyond that, do not beat yourself up about the past. The most important day to Jesus is today. Also, know that forgiveness is not a feeling. When you start over, you might not necessarily feel forgiven. The reality is that the pain of past mistakes will probably take a while to heal. But remember that the past is gone. God does not condemn you for it and you should not condemn yourself for it. You might have to tell yourself that you are forgiven 100 times the first day and the second day, but on the third day it will be a little less and even less each day thereafter. Until one day, you will be able to accept that you have been completely forgiven. So, I think we need a new analogy. While every analogy is going to have its limitations, one I really like is the $100 bill. If I had a $100 bill, I could crumple it up, I could stomp on it, I could pass it round an auditorium filled with people, but at the end of the day, it would not be worth any less. It is still going to be worth $100. If you have gone through your fair share of mistakes and heartbreaks, do not ever believe you are worthless—and do not ever believe you cannot begin anew.
Jan 09, 2018 34 0 Donna Marie Klein
I simply worshipped the heroes of ancient Greece when I was at school. I loved to hear stories about Troy and the heroes who fought there. I loved to read about the Persian wars and the warriors who fought for freedom at Marathon, Salamis and Thermopylae. Most of all, I worshipped Alexander the Great and marveled at the mighty empire he set up even before he was 30. I could not help it if the hero I was introduced to in religious class seemed to be rather weak compared with those. He did not actually triumph over his enemies as my Greek heroes did nor was there much in it for his followers, unless you happen to like being thrown to the lions! However, shortly before leaving school I had something of a conversion experience that led me to join a prayer group run by the school’s spiritual director. It gave me a new vision of the faith in which I had been raised. It enabled me to see that Jesus was a hero after all—He promised a new sort of heroism that was open, not just to a chosen elite but to all. He showed, not only by what He said but also by what He did, that the human weakness the Greeks despised becomes strength when it enables a person to experience his need of God’s strength. It was this strength that enabled Jesus to do not only all things possible but the impossible—that was way beyond the strength of the mightiest Greek warrior. When a Greek hero was persecuted, he would curse his enemies and plan revenge. When Jesus was persecuted, He would bless His enemies and grant them forgiveness. Moreover, the forgiveness that He readily gave was not given later, long after the event “when time had healed”; rather, it was given at the time when they were in the act of torturing Him to the death. For it was while the nails were being driven into His hands and feet, sending shock waves of pain into every part of His person that He prayed for their forgiveness. This sort of heroism was way beyond the Greek heroes that I had once adored. It demanded a quality of superhuman strength that was first embodied in the man I had once considered weak and unworthy of my attention. If all that is expected of us is to stand back and admire what Jesus did I could cope with it, but the truth of the matter is we are called upon to do the same. The words of the Gospel are clear and unyielding. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you.” In addition, we are told to forgive them not once or twice, but time and time again—“seventy times seven.” Those frightening words are not just addressed to a chosen few but to all who claim to be Christian. If we do not think they ask the impossible then we should thank our lucky stars that we have never really had an enemy, never experienced what it is like to be hated, especially by those you thought were once your friends. Saint Francis used to say that we should call our enemies our friends, especially when they bring us down and humble us. For it is then, in experiencing our weakness, that we will fall down on our knees in the true and certain knowledge that only God can help us. Then He will give us the grace that pride had prevented before, to do what no Greek hero has ever done—the impossible. For it is only with God’s grace that we can forgive our enemies without hesitation, no matter what they would do to us. When we have done that we can be fully forgiven as well, because at last we can pray more sincerely than we ever have, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.” I may well have started my conversion as a teenager many years ago, but by this standard I still have a long way to go. It does no take me quite as long to forgive my enemies as it once did, but I am still a long, long way from forgiving them at the time, especially when they are hell bent on doing their worst to do me harm when I am only trying to do my best!
Jan 08, 2018 22 0 Donna Marie Klein
My heart can still feel the ache of singleness. My eyes well up with tears and I feel the pain of what used to be. It was a long road of sadness, anger, uncertainty and loneliness. It seemed like I was always discerning God’s will and discovering more about who I was becoming. There were blessings of joy and beauty. For 16 years I longed to have my deepest desire fulfilled. In college, I cried with friends telling them of this ache. I have journals with pages of sorrow. There have been so many prayers. Unless you have traveled the road of singleness for quite some time, it may be hard to truly understand what it is like. It was never about just getting married or going with just what I wanted. It was about what God wanted for my life. Coming to realize that is one thing; it is another to want what God wants and to embrace it with joy! I prayed often for God to take my desire for marriage away until the time was right. It hurt to have such deep desires with nowhere to go with them, especially when I believed they were from God Himself. I prayed for my heart’s desires to be His desires. I laid down my desire for marriage time and time again. This all took place during dating, break-ups and singleness. I discerned whether or not marriage was the vocation to which God was calling me. I have always enjoyed Mass and sharing the Gospel message. Parts of religious life are very beautiful, but I did not feel a call to that life. Was the single life for me? I enjoyed many parts to that life and I faithfully served God. What about marriage? Little by little, I laid down my will for marriage and focused on becoming a happy, healthy woman. Laying my life and future down to the Lord (completely) was one of my most painful experiences. I believe that once we make a decision after discerning for some time, God brings peace. Once I surrendered, I learned that what will be will be when it will be. I embraced each day being present in it, rather than living in the past or in the future. We are not truly living if we are not in the present. When I got busy living, I was not so focused on what I thought was missing from my life. Instead, I was busy being happy and growing in many ways. I started taking care of myself by putting things into my life that made me my best self. I also took out things. I learned to move on from a relationship that was never going to bring marriage. I learned to love again, but guarded and with confidence in who I was becoming. I discovered how to be OK with alone time and I eventually embraced it. I ate right and exercised. I learned what a healthy dating relationship was. I better balanced my personal and work time. I set weekly goals that focused on building confidence. I said good-bye to men that brought me extreme joy and frustration because they were not God’s plan for me. I turned down a wedding proposal and a future seeing a clear vision of who my husband should be. I closed a chapter in my life with someone who was “perfect,” but could not love me according to God’s plan for marriage. I have been working on embracing life and God’s plans for my vocation since 2011. I looked at it as a mountain climb. In order to get to the top, I had to go through the tough stuff—the healing, forgiving myself and others, taking new risks while being afraid, moving on, letting go, laying down my life and trusting God. I realized that I could not skip or take shortcuts to get to where I was going. As Robert Frost said, “The best way out is always through.” I love the person I became and the person I am becoming as a result of the “going through” and embracing God’s plan for me each day. Hard? Yes, but worth it. A Practical Note: Please pray for the single and the pain they suffer. If you ever need to offer words to someone struggling with their state of single life, it is always best to walk with them rather than give advice. There are so many bad “words of wisdom.” Be there. Listen. Offer an “I’m sorry you’re hurting and going through this.” Pray with and for them.
Jan 07, 2018 22 0 Donna Marie Klein
There is no greater force against evil in the world, says Cardinal Raymond Burke, “than the love of a man and woman in marriage.” Keep in mind that marriage, as a sacrament instituted by Christ, is a reflection of the exchange of love between the three persons of the Blessed Trinity. Because of this, marriage is under attack, perhaps in a way that it has never been before. We should pray for married couples, that they may receive abundant graces to live out their vocations in fullness. As married couples, we should turn to prayer each day to seek renewed strength and love from God. We should also celebrate Catholic weddings as a reverent and joyous occasion. Do you know who the patron saint of marriage is? Actually, that is a bit of a trick question, because there are more than one. Some are patrons of specific situations within marriage, which might make one of them in particular a very fitting intercessor for your needs. Saint Adelaide of Burgundy: Patron Saint of Second Marriages Saint Adelaide, born around 931 AD, was daughter to the king of Burgundy and “one of the most influential women of 10th-century Europe.” Her first husband, Lothair, is believed to have been killed by enemies of his throne. Later, it seems that Otto, the emperor of Germany, fell in love with Adelaide and married her. Together they had five children. She was widowed twice, since Otto died long before she did. During the course of her life she was imprisoned, forced from her throne, held in solitary confinement and treated with contempt by certain family members. Throughout all of this, she remained humble and gentle, giving her life to the Church and her people. She founded many monasteries and churches and was overwhelmingly generous to the poor, even to the point of putting the kingdom’s treasury at risk. She died on December 16, 999. Saint Gengulphus of Burgundy: Patron Saint of Difficult Marriages Saint Gengulphus is a little-known saint who has been called a great miracle worker. He was a knight who served King Pepin the Short in the eighth century. One story told about the saint is how his sanctity was revealed to the king when a lamp continued to miraculously rekindle beside him as he slept. Though he was renowned for his great charity and piety, his own wife was unfaithful to him and he was murdered at the hands of her lover. There are not many details known about his life, but a certain Gonzo of Florence wrote that, “This blessed Gengulphus daily performs among us so many remarkable miracles that, were he alive today, even the swift pen of the poet Thespis could not have described them individually.” His feast day on the Roman calendar is May 11. Saint Joseph: Patron Saint of Married People It will come as no surprise to us that we can turn to Saint Joseph as a patron of married couples. There is not a better earthly exemplar of Saint Paul’s teaching: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her …” (Ephesians 5:25). Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote a beautiful book called, “The World’s First Love.” In it there is a chapter called “The World’s Happiest Marriage,” in which he speaks of Joseph and Mary. “No husband and wife ever loved one another so much as Joseph and Mary …” writes Sheen. “But in the case of Mary and Joseph, there was no need of the symbol of the unity of the flesh, since they already possessed the Divinity.” Theirs was a virginal marriage, but a true, happy marriage. Who does not want a happy, holy marriage? Turn to Saint Joseph as intercessor. He is said to be the most powerful saint in heaven after Our Lady. March 19 is the feast of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary. Saint Monica: Patron Saint of Married Women Saint Monica was born in the fouth century to a wealthy Christian family. They may not have been particularly devout, however, for when she came of age, they married her to a pagan Roman official, Patricius. He was infamous for his “violent temper” and “dissolute habits.” Though irritated by Monica’s faith and by her devotional practices, he did respect her. Saint Monica suffered greatly on behalf of the godless lifestyles of her husband as well as her son (who we now know as Saint Augustine) but she wept, prayed and fasted on their behalf, begging God for their conversion. Her prayers would be answered. Her husband was baptized a year before his death, and although it was much longer before Augustine converted, he would become one of the greatest saints in the Church. Almost everything that we know about Saint Monica we have learned from his classic book, “The Confessions of Saint Augustine.” Her feast day is May 4. Saint Priscilla: Patron Saint of Good Marriages Saint Priscilla and her husband Saint Aquila were Jewish converts to Christianity. It appears that their conversion was brought about when they met Saint Paul. We know about them from the Sacred Scriptures (read the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 18 for starters) and here is something beautiful: their names are always mentioned together, never separately. This reveals the unity lived out in their marriage. They were tentmakers by trade (as was Saint Paul) and were some of the earliest Christian missionaries. They were martyrs for the Faith, and their feast day is celebrated on July 8. Saint Rita of Cascia: Patron Saint of Difficult Marriages Saint Rita was born in Italy to devout parents in 1381. When she grew up, Rita desired to become a nun, but her parents arranged for her to marry a man named Paolo Mancini, with whom she would have two sons. It seems that Paolo was a complicated man (and there are varying accounts of his character) but we do know that Rita suffered during her marriage. Paolo was impetuous and had a fierce temper and seems to have been irresponsible with gaming and debts. Violent conflicts between noble Italian families were common at this time and Paolo was involved in these feuds. He was rough with Rita and may even have been physically abusive. In spite of all this, she exercised the virtues of patience and humility toward him and was a truly loving and faithful wife and homemaker. Over time, her love, example and prayers bore fruit and Paolo’s heart began to undergo conversion. (One biographer writes that he would become ashamed of his temper when it got the best of him and rush out of the house, returning only when he had calmed down.) Paolo did have enemies, who eventually ambushed and killed him. His sons wanted to avenge his death, but Rita tried to dissuade them; finally, she begged God to take the lives of her sons rather than allow them to commit a mortal sin which would endanger their salvation. Both sons did pass away from an illness and were prevented from acting in violence. Rita subsequently entered an Augustinian order of nuns. She died in 1457. Her feast day is May 22. Saint Thomas More: Patron Saint of Difficult Marriages Saint Thomas More was born in England in 1478. He is a well-known and beloved saint who was a husband, father, statesman and renowned lawyer. Sir Thomas was a just man who was brilliant and blessed with innumerable talents. He married a gentlewoman by the name of Jane Colt. They had a four children and theirs was a happy marriage; but sadly, she died very young. Thomas More married again. His second wife was Alice Middleton. Though she was of a different temperament than Jane, who was so quiet and meek, we are told that this second marriage was also a very happy one. Thomas More was a devoted husband and loving father. Why is he a patron saint of difficult marriages, if both his marriages were happy ones? The reason is due to his opposing King Henry VIII’s divorce, which would eventually lead him down the path of martyrdom. After his trial, he was officially condemned to death for his refusal to acknowledge the king as the head of the Church in England. Saint Thomas More’s feast day is June 22. Saint Valentine: Patron Saint of Happy Marriages There is very little known about Saint Valentine, who lived in the third century under the reign of Claudius Gothicus. It is understood that he was a priest (possibly even a bishop) who was martyred; his remains were buried along the Via Flaminia in Rome. Recent archaeological finds have proven that he lived: the remains of catacombs and a church dedicated to him have been unearthed. There are two legends as to why he was martyred, which might be due to the fact that there may have been more than one “Valentine” and their stories were mixed. One legend says that he was executed for giving aid to Christians. Another legend says that the emperor Claudius had banned marriage in order to obtain more soldiers for his army, since married men with wives and children would be less willing to die in battle. Thus it is said that Saint Valentine married couples in secret and was eventually found out. Various churches today have relics from him, including his skull. He was canonized in 496, but his feast was removed from the general Roman calendar in 1969 due to the resulting confusion over the years of possibly three or four Valentines being treated as one person. However, in various localities the Church still celebrates his feast day, which is, of course, February 14. Saints Louis and Zelie Martin Saints Louis and Zelie Martin are the first married couple to be canonized together. They lived humble, ordinary lives, in which both suffering and joy played important parts. Together they bore nine children, but only five survived childhood. Each of these five daughters would eventually enter the religious life. One of them is well known to us: Saint Therese of Lisieux, called “The Little Flower.” It is usually the case that we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by the lives of “great saints”; we feel that they are super humans whom God has called in a special way and that He does not mean for us to attain such a level of sanctity. This is not the case. Simply by cooperating with God’s grace in our particular state in life we can be deeply purified and closely aligned to Our Lord and His loving will. Louis and Zelie are perfect examples for us. They faithfully fulfilled their roles as spouses and parents and through their quiet lives of love, service and self-sacrifice, God brought them home to Himself. In his homily for their canonization Pope Francis said, “The holy spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin practiced Christian service in the family, creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters …” Although it has not been officially stated that they are patron saints of married couples, they are beautiful examples of the vocation of marriage expressed in all its fullness, and we can certainly imitate their virtues and seek their intercession. Their feast day is July 12. … And Other Wonderful Saints If you are reading this, and you are a single man or woman hoping to meet your future spouse, remember that there are patron saints for you, as well! Saint Ann, the mother of the Virgin Mary, has long been a faithful intercessor for young women who pray for a husband. Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra (who is usually forgotten outside of the Christmas season) is the patron of young people seeking a husband or wife. This is because of an incident in his own life in which he provided a dowry for three poverty-stricken sisters so that they could marry.
Jan 06, 2018 38 0 Donna Marie Klein