Last year, going on pilgrimage to Spain, France and Portugal, our band of pilgrims walked in the footsteps of the saints, ordinary men and women, who lived their faith in ordinary routine and extraordinary ways. Often throughout the church year, we, too, can walk in the footsteps of the saints.
This past week we walked with Saints Dominic, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, Lawrence, deacon and Martyr, Clare of Assisi, Jane Chantal, founder of the Visitation sisters, Pope Pontian and Hippolytus. None of these saints were perfect human beings, but each one discovered their mission, their vision from Christ on how to live their life in faith and trust.
Saint Dominic saw the need for good preachers to reach the ordinary person searching for a richer faith life, sharing with them the results of contemplation; or simply said, to “speak only of God or with God.” His alliance with Francis of Assisi made a powerful complementary dynamic, the contemplation of the Dominicans joined with the pastoral action of the Franciscans.
Saint Lawrence is better known by the legends that sprung up about him rather than the faith life he lived, except that we know he died for Christ. Serving the church as one of the early deacons, he did his best to serve the poor and probably died a martyr’s death. He is my patron saint.
Saint Teresa Benedicta formerly a Jew, Edith Stein, and later an atheist, experienced her conversion and felt drawn to the Carmelite order, a noted philosopher and writer, she was sent to the Netherlands by her superiors when Hitler began his pogrom against the Jews. She was deported from the Netherlands to Auschwitz where she died in the gas chamber along with countless other women on August 9, 1942. In the end, she was true to her faith and did not waver.
You can look up more information on each of these saints at saintoftheday.org and find a thoughtful phrase or prayer to guide your personal reflections.
But I must mention Saint Clare, close friend of Francis of Assisi, who founded the Poor Clares. Along with the other women who joined her, they lived simple, austere lives devoted to prayer. Visiting the convent where she lived in Assisi made it very clear how austere were the lives of these women who protected Assisi from attack by holding up the monstrance for the invaders to see. She is the co-patron of our diocese along with Saint Joseph.
What moves me is that each one of these people struggled with their faith, deepened their prayer through focus and attention, never giving up or settling for less. Yes, times are different, but the struggle to be faith filled people never changes. Though we will not directly imitate their lives, we might find inspiration in how to live our lives in faith and trust from their example. Their lives are windows through which we can see the light and love of Christ, and always experience God’s healing mercy.
Father Larry Hendel, Pastor