A New Year – A Saint Companion 2014

As we approach another new year, people naturally start looking at what they can do to better themselves. Here are the Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions people have planned for this year:

resolutions10. More Family Time
9.  Fall in Love
8.  Help Others
7.  Quit Smoking
6.  Learn Something Exciting
5.  Stay Fit and Healthy
4.  Enjoy Life to the Fullest
3.  Spend Less, Save More
2.  Get Organized
1.  Lose Weight

(Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology)

Some of these are usual suspects in annual resolutions. But I thought number 6 was pretty neat – Learn Something Exciting. And I think I am going to adopt that one for myself! 

But I also wanted to share with you and annual tradition in our Canossian communities that might fit as a Category 6, Category 4 and Category 8 events for you:  

Make this year a great one by journeying with a Saint!

It’s a great opportunity to be inspired by someone who found the sweet spot between living life and growing toward holiness at the same time. You always have that saint accompanying you in your prayer and daily routine. The Church has so many examples to choose from … the question is, then, how do we pick one?

1.  A spiritual director told me once, “We don’t choose Saints; they choose us.” If this is the case, we should begin praying, asking our unknown saint to reveal him/herself to us.

2.  Keep your eyes and ears open. Saints can adopt us throughout the year (this past year I received St. Francis of Assisi on New Years, and St Raphael the Archangel during my annual retreat. Saint Padre Pio kept interrupting my life off and on throughout the year as well). Maybe the holy card you were given was put in your path because that saint wants to help you. Or that book you received on a particular saint ended up in  your hands because that saint wants to accompany you. Or maybe a particular quotation or passage from a saint kept turning up in your email or reading. Maybe you came across a saint you didn’t know well, and found yourself captivated by a particular virtue. These are all good reasons that maybe your patron saint is right under your nose, just waiting for you to welcome him/her into your life in 2014.

What? No saint has shown up? Then think about a vice or bad habit you have that you want to overcome. Look up a Saint that struggled with that particular vice, or is known to be effective in helping in that area:

Explosive temper? Saint Louis de Montfort.
Addiction? Saint Maximillian Kolbe (because he was injected with a drug that ended his life)
Suffer Anxiety and/or Mental Issues?  St Dymphna
Cussing/Swearing?  Saint Bernadine of Siena (he abhorred bad language)
Loneliness? Saint Rita of Cascia
Troubled Teenager?  Saint Dominic Savio
Alcoholism?  Venerable Matt Talbot
Work with Youth?  Venerable Fernanda Riva

And these are just a few.

Still stumped for a Saint?  You can use Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Generator that will randomly assign you a saint. It’s also a fun way to get to know some new Saints.

If you are looking for a more personalized saint-search, check out Marianne’s “I Want to Be a Saint Too 2014” Blog

3. Next, make a prayer card (or buy one) of your particular Saint, or print out a prayer from the internet. Put it in your prayerbook or Bible, somewhere you will see it everyday.

Find a book on your Saint, and read it. Get to know the Saint as an intimate friend. His or her life might have the key to unlock your troubles and set you free.

4. Leave a message in the comments below letting us know what Saint chose you. It might not make sense at first, but you will find through the year, if you ‘hang out’ with your Saint, you will find graces unfold!

In our Canossian family many of our communities continue the tradition of being given a patron saint. On New Year’s Day, we will each draw by lot our Patron Saint for 2014. I’ve written about this practice before, and we have had some awesome saints!

I can’t wait to find out which saint chooses me this year. What about you? Who chose you?

RELATED POSTS:

Elizabeth Scalia:  “O My 3 Patron Saints, Teach Me What You Know!”

What Saints did the Canossian Sisters receive?

What kind of Resolutions do Saints Make?

And here is another way to get a Saint, Micah Murphy’s Draw a Saint!

Be Careful of Jealousy

Today’s Reading from the First Book of Samuel (18:6-9), follows upon David’s victory over the Philistine. It describes King Saul’s entry into the city and how women came to meet him singing of the victory.

“Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his ten thousands.”

This victory song did not set well with the King:

“They give David ten thousands, but only thousands to me.
All that remains for him is the kingship.”

The narrative goes on to tell us, And from that day on, Saul was jealous of David.”

Jealousy is a cousin of envy (wishes the good in the other diminishes). It is a fear of losing what one possesses – in Saul’s case, the kingdom – to another.

Is there a corner in our inner-lives where we fear losing a best friend to another, or a job, or status?

A good rule for us is found in the Book of James:

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every foul practice. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.

James 3:16-17

When we find disorder (that can manifest itself as deceit, ill will for another, etc), it is an indicator that our hearts need an adjustment. If not, we might find ourselves causing harm to the innocent, just as Saul had threatened to do to David.

What might have been the right attitude for Saul towards David? How could he tame his jealousy? How can we tame ours?

Saint Thomas Aquinas would recommend applying the opposing virtue to overcome vice. In this instance, since jealousy is a cousin of envy, we might want to work on the opposing virtue of kindness towards the one who brings out the fear in us.

What might have happened in the story of King Saul, if, instead of harboring his fear of David as a threat to his power, he exercised benevolence upon David? He would have had an open heart to discover David’s sincerity and faithfulness. Perhaps he would have found a true friend, rather than forcing David to become the enemy he most feared.

For a look at the “green-eyed monster”, Fr Jon Hansen, C.Ss.R. wrote about it at Redemptorist Preacher.

Related Posts:

Abram’s Faith

Catholic Modesty

Choices: It’s Not About Us

Get Clean: Is Confession that Simple?

Always a Way Back to God

I’ve seen this video before, Lifehouse’s Everything Skit, and it always touches a cord in me, so I am sharing it with you (please click picture to watch):

Like all of us, the young woman has life breathed into her by God, created for intimacy with Him. And so starts out our own human existence, innocent and playful, intimate…but somewhere, we fall into various traps: the skit portrays the traps (temptations) of lust, avarice, alchoholism, vanity, depression, despair, which can lead to suicide. The skit was designed to pull at the emotions: the music is hauntingly beautiful, the words could be a love letter from us to our beloved. It is meant to make us question, “what is my ‘Everything’?” and “What are the traps that bind me, keeping me from the One who loves me as I am?”.

One viewer of the skit observed: “The skit itself bothers me as it portrays Jesus at one point as being powerless to intervene. Come on, this is the Second Person of the Trinity, God Himself, and he is powerless to stop what is happening?”

Watching the story unfold, it does seem as though Jesus is powerless, no? One moment He is dancing with his creation, and at some point lust pulls her away from this union; and with it, her created innocence. In real life, this happens, but in much more subtle ways. Most of the time full-blown sin enters the soul by seemingly innocent curiosity… wanting to fit in, or the surrounding culture says tells us a television show or activity isn’t harmful. And by this very curiosity the soul lets down its guard and opens a window that allows something else (fill in the blank) be entertained. In the Gospels when Jesus says ‘one cannot have two masters’ (Luke 16:13, Matthew 6:24), this wisdom is applicable to more than money and greed; whenever we make a choice to compromise just a little bit, we open the window just a little wider for something other than God to enter in, and in doing so, we let ourselves walk away from that union with our Creator that we were designed for. Each time we lower our standards, or tell ourselves, ‘just this time’, we create another barrier between us and that perfect union with God. The helplessness portrayed by Jesus, as the girl goes from one temptation to another is the result of the gift of our free will. He has made us free to choose, so in a way, we make Jesus powerless to help us when we choose a lifestyle contrary to His love.

The way back begins with a decision that we need God first and foremost in our lives, but it isn’t a magic trick that corrects itself automatically (although I do not rule out Divine intervention through special grace in some cases – I know this occurs). It requires our determination and will to return, or convert. Convert – the Latin convertere – means, “to turn around, transform”. What we see happening in the skit when the girl throws down the gun and starts trying to get back to Jesus, is this process of conversion taking place. It is a struggle of the will trying to overcome learned behavior – including how her mind and body have learned to respond to stimuli – takes a lot of her own effort. The skit shows her moving back and forth between different indulgences she’s experienced, as they ‘rear their ugly heads’ to again keep her from the One person who will shut them out for good. Just as it takes a soul a long time from that first instant she entertained a small step away from her union with God, so it takes a soul quite a bit of effort to put the acquired vices and sin behind her, and be free. She falls and fails, she gets up and tries again, until eventually, the hold of the old temptations on her life are less and less a threat to her goal – her renewed relationship with God. Seemingly, as in the skit, she has to go at it by herself, but true to scriptural teaching, she’s never alone.

There’s another important aspect conveyed in the skit. As she’s struggling, Jesus seems to be pulling her toward him by an imaginary rope. This pulling effect is the working of grace in our lives. Whenever we are struggling to overcome sin or vice, and call on God to help us, He comes to our aid. Our problems do not miraculously disappear, but there is a hidden resolve or strength that keeps us from giving up. This is grace at work. This is why people who are struggling to overcome addictions and vice need to ask for prayer, and to stay close to the Sacraments. The simplest definition of a Sacrament is ‘an outward sign of an inward grace’. Thus, when we partake in the Sacraments – especially Reconciliation/Confession, Anointing of the Sick and Holy Communion on a regular basis – we receive spiritual help and support to strengthen us in the daily battle to grow in holiness and continual conversion. Little by little we find the hold of our vices and addictions on our lives less and less, as we slowly reunite ourselves with the One we were created for.