Who Are The Saints We Turn To?

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When I was young, I loved to read about Joan of Arc. It was many years before I discovered she was a saint. It just wasn’t part of my growing up to associate her with religion; not really. I know she talked to G-d; I mean, so did I! I wasn’t Christian so I didn’t grow up attending church. But I knew Joan of Arc. She was a part of my girlhood, like Anne Frank, another young girl, someone I could relate to who also died too young. These were my heroes.

In my recent years of finding Catholicism and spirituality, I’ve added to my “collection” of saints and saintly people. I love hearing that saints are just like us. I’ve also learned that they are an outgrowth of their times. Sometimes their lives are huge and important and sometimes their deaths are, but in a lot of times, they are just ordinary people who do or preach extraordinary things. I know that today is All Saints Day, but I was still taken aback by the number of times I was called by the saints in the last two weeks.

Once I put this topic on my calendar a few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about it and the saints I look to in my life. They do change depending on the circumstances. I didn’t start reading on any of them in particular, but I looked at the saints for the day, seeing which feast days were coming up and thought a lot of who I felt the closest to.

Throughout October, I had been attending weekly zoom presentations on Diversity in Spirituality. Last week’s lecture was given by Dr. Kim Harris of Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California. Her focus was on Black Americans, their experience, their worship, and their saints (and lack thereof). In addition to music and talk of the ancestors, Dr. Harris also asked the following question:

In our troubled and tumultuous times, what kinds of saints do we need or what kinds of saints do we need to be?

I was stunned into silence. That is very nearly the exact question I put on my calendar, the one that I’ve been contemplating on for the past two weeks, and here it was as our breakout room assignment!

What kinds of saints do we need in our lives right now indeed?

In conjunction to that synchronism and along with all of these thought provoking happenings, yesterday, I also attended a scheduled Day of Reflection centered on walking and praying with the saints. I had been looking forward to this day for several weeks and it did not disappoint. It also led me in my continuation of thinking about the saints and who I feel the closest to.

This was a question that I had been giving a lot of thought to, although in my mind I hadn’t phrased it quite like that at all. I’ll share a few thoughts with you.

I’ve mentioned Joan of Arc earlier. I was always enthralled by her hearing voices and following as well as being able to command an army. Maybe it was because I grew up in the feminist wave of the 70s that it seemed impossible to ignore and easy to admire.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha is a newer, local saint. Her birthplace is in upstate New York at the village where the North American Jesuit Martyrs died although they weren’t there at the same time. The spring where St. Kateri was baptized is there, and I am hoping to be in good enough shape to go through the woods to the spring sometime in 2021.

St. Elen is my personal saint, the patron of travelers and roads. I chose her for my saint’s name for my confirmation in 2014. Upon finding her, I found so many things about her that I could relate to as well as having been in her homeland, literally where she walked the earth although I did not know it at the time. I was fortunate to be able to pilgrimage to one of her holy wells in Wales in 2017, and it still gives me pause when I remember my times there.

Maximilian Kolbe and Edith Stein draw me back to my Jewishness and my Jewish upbringing. I know that Maximilian Kolbe wasn’t Jewish but he was killed in the camps in Nazi Germany as was Edith Stein. It reminds me that others (in Edith Stein’s case) have walked a similar path to mine.

I was drawn to Mary, Untier of Knots through Pope Francis’ devotion, and it has only grown stronger over the years. There is something very familiar about untying knots as a mother from shoelaces to necklaces to yarn and in needlework, not to mention the untying and smoothing that goes along metaphorically.

St. Dafydd is, of course, the patron saint of Wales, a place that I feel connected to since I first set foot there in 1987.

And finally, in this moment at least, Mary Magdalene. I didn’t know much about her; her life was co-opted a bit and confused with others, but what I do know and believe is that she followed Jesus from very early on. She was the first of his disciples to see him after his Resurrection, and she brought the word of his Resurrection to the apostles, becoming the first to bring the Holy Word of Jesus to others after his death. I love that she is the Apostle to the Apostles and that she is in history as someone who can possibly convert hearts to allow women priest and preachers.

Which saints are you drawn to during these difficult times of chaos and uncertainity?

Art is mine based on the song:
Saints Of God In Glory
Frank Brownstead · Bernadette Farrell · St. Thomas More Group, 1991.
(c)2020

Listen here.

Mental Health Monday, Part 2: Sing of Mary: A Springtime Celebration

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These mental health Mondays have been giving me trouble each week. I’m struggling to find my balance, and each day brings a new horror of deaths and White House incompetence that quite honestly is beyond frustrating; I don’t want to overuse the word, but it is horrifying. It’s beyond anything that we’ve seen in my lifetime. For those of you who saw the New York Times cover commemorating the covid-19 death toll reaching 100,000, you can see and understand it’s devastation.

It’s been a difficult time for those of us already on the edge with our “everyday” mental health issues having to slog through isolation day after day, and then watching on television people doing the exact opposite and wondering what the whole point is. I understand. Some parts of my anxiety have subsided, but some parts of my depression are heightened a bit. Nothing that needs a med check, but enough that it’s noticeable, and it’s hard to center myself.

I would usually find a quiet corner in a Starbucks and write. However, the Starbucks dining rooms are closed, and writing just isn’t there for me. While pre-covid I would sit in the car and have lunch and read or write on my Kindle, I find that eating in the car when the car is respite from the home isolation is not giving me the mental boost that it once did. I don’t know if it will come back post-covid, but for now, I’ve put off that worrying for another time. I’m trying to stay in the present, and the writing…I hope it will come. I will occasionally jot down a few thoughts in a journal, and I’ve been publishing here, but the writing that I long for just isn’t available to me right now. I can’t slow my brain down enough to get through a sentence let alone a paragraph and I may have mentioned my overactive brain has also been keeping me from sleeping properly.

Our family did have a nice weekend. We went to the comic store (curbside) and then got takeout from a chicken place, went to the state park and had a picnic in our car. Despite what I said above about eating in the car, this was actually a lovely time and we had a nice drive to places not too near our home so it was a different view for everyone. The people around us seemed to be following covid protocols so there was no outside stress from counting the maskless faces.

Upon arriving home, I discovered an art and music presentation that I had missed, but luckily through the magic of technology and the internet, I was able to watch the video of it.

The art was by my favorite spiritual artist, Brother Mickey McGrath and I know that when I’m enamored by something I post about it a lot and I will readily admit to being a Bro. Mickey stan. The music was from Meredith Augustin. I’m providing the link below because I think that this presentation, while religious in nature was also very soothing and would be a beneficial mental health exercise for anyone. Brother MIckey’s voice in describing the artwork and Meredith’s singing really just lulled me into a different headspace, and the beauty of it I think transcends and invites non-religious people to enjoy it as well, and spend an hour with it, away from everything else that may be weighing on us right now. I would certainly encourage you to give it a try, at least through the first musical section. If it’s not for you, of course, stop the playback and find your own musical and art encounter.

I had originally planned to draw or doodle in my sketchbook while I watched it, but I was so caught up in the presentation and pulled so far into the pictures that I didn’t do anything but give myself over to it. I can always doodle tomorrow.

Give yourself that time to breathe.

Sing of Mary: A Springtime Celebration in Art, Story, and Song with Brother Mickey McGrath and Meredith Augustin

The Black Madonna

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As part of Mary’s month, I’d like to something written by my friend, Brother Mickey McGrath, artist and author. This article, titled We Need Images of the Black Madonna Now More Than Ever appeared in the March 5, 2018 issue of America Magazine. Below is one of the pictures that appeared with the article.

Our Lady of Montserrat. (c) Brother Mickey McGrath 2020

Inspire. May.

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Statue of Mary, Journaling, Spring Blooms, Rosary, Mary by Tomie de Paola, Zen Garden. (c)2020

Mary our mother sustains us in moments of darkness, difficulty, and apparent defeat.
– Pope Francis

We’ve been slowly returning/adapting to a new normal. I don’t think we’ll go back to what we knew as normal for a long time, if at all.

I don’t think it’s helpful to be Pollyannas, but it is possible to find joy in our new circumstances.

Knowing that staying home and also wearing a mask when I go out for groceries and other supplies is my way of contributing to the mitigation and the time to search for a cure makes it a bit easier to accept my role in the effort. Each of us has a small part but all of us together can create a larger outcome.

Cooperation.

Unity.

Selflessness.

Compassion.

We all have our own struggles, but I would encourage you to find the silver lining in the cloud; the rainbow after the rain; the cliche in the trope.

Three Places Where I Find Joy

1. Cool breeze

2. Mary  *more below

3. Kindle – FB with family/friends, books, podcasts, writing – encompasses much of my person in one place, not quite a talisman, but a path, a tunnel from one place to the next; from one world to the next.

May is also Mary’s month in the church. There’s Mother’s Day and Mary is all of our Mothers. Marian devotions. May Crowinings. Pope Francis provided two new prayers to add to our rosary prayers for the month of May. 

I will have weekly Mary posts throughout May beginning below with links to the Vatican’s Rosary pages and the Pope’s letter and his two rosary prayers.

I have been praying them when I’ve prayed the rosary this week and it truly makes me feel as though I’m doing something tangible and positive during this pandemic. I may also begin a Mary meditation, but time will tell.

Sundays in Lent – Holy Saturday

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​I never really think of Mary as a mother. It’s right there in the Hail Mary prayer, and many if not all of the Mary prayers. And more than the Mother of G-d, she is mother to a child. She fed Jesus and taught him his letters. She told him not to run through the kitchen and to take a bath. When she asked him to assist the bridal party at Cana and his response was, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come,’ I can see the side-eye she gave hm until he relented and did as he was told. I can’t imagine how she felt watching him die on the Cross – a public renunciation of her own flesh, his pain her pain, his torture hers, never once challenging the path set out for him, but bearing it.

Last week, mys on had a medical emergency and was in hospital for three days. It felt like a lifetime. He’s an adult, but my child will always be my baby. Mismatched words became prayer and as always, G-d hears all, even what isn’t said. Not the fancy, not the prayers that come with a collection basket, not the extravagant song, but the simple. The humble. The genuine plea to set aside the pain, the heal the hurt, to comfort the parent, to help the child.

Comfort me, O Lord in my distress,
But care for my loves.
Heal the sickness;
Subside the pain.
Give rest to the weary.
As your name is on my breath,
Keep their breaths free of obstruction.
Make them whole.
Care for them as I would:
With whole being and gentle blessing.
Praise for your health restored.
Praise for your answer,
Their care and well-being.
In all this I ask
with a grateful heart,
In your name, Amen.

Sundays in Lent – 1st Friday

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Use this oppotunity to go on pilgrimage. I know that we all can’t just hop on a jet and see the world or pray around the world, but we can visit some places that inspire us to be more prayerful and draw us closer to G-d. 

Lourdes is one of those places.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VGZxmB38Sjs