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.

Finding Mary

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Finding Mary on my UK trip: Mary, Untier of Knots medal. Ballintoy, NI. Our Lady of Lourdes replica, Dublin. Mary, Mother of G-d, Dublin. Our Lady of Dublin, Dublin. Praying the rosary at Ballintoy, NI. Tiny Saints, Mary, the Blessed Mother. Mary statue at Cranfield Church, NI. Mary, Untier of Knots color charm. (c)2017-2018

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The Living Rosary

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On Tuesday night, my church held a Living Rosary. There is music with our organ and the choir. There is a candlelit procession of all the beads on the rosary. There are prayers, and the benediction of the adoration that’s been in the church all day. It is a wonderful, faith filled, and beautiful tribute to Our Mother, Mary.
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There is so much beauty in candles being carried into a dark church. The organ playing, the choir and congregation singing. And then the rosary being spoken as I pray on my own beads.

The Glorious Mysteries were read and prayed on:

1. The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
2. The Ascension of Jesus to Heaven
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit
4. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven
5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Heaven and Earth

There is so much to admire about Mary. Her acceptance of G-d’s will, her bravery and determination to walk on a path that was so foreign to her and to the times in Ancient Israel. Often people look at her as a background figure. The Bible is filled with Jesus’s deeds and Words, but not so much of Mary’s. That’s fine, but we forget that his public ministry began when he was thirty. Prior to that, he was just a boy; a little Jewish boy growing up and doing the things a boy at that time and in that place would do.

He’d have friends. He’d play with them. He’d learn carpentry from Joseph, his father. He’d learn to worship and pray. He must have had chores. Did he make his bed or tend the sheep? How often did Mary have to remind him to wash his hands or shake the dust from his sandals. Did he have to prepare the table for eating or did he help with cooking. Or lighting the fire?

In the so many ways that He was different from us, he was also the same.

After the candlelit rosary, Father J talked about Mary. He began by mentioning Pope Francis’ devotion to Mary and how it began in Germany when he was a student. I began to smile. I couldn’t help it because I knew this story. This is my favorite devotion to Mary. Pope Francis grew attached to a stained glass and a painting in his church. Before I knew of his devotion, I had already formed my own to Mary, Untier (or Undoer) of Knots. I carry that particular prayer card in my purse daily, which I showed the father after the service.
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Mary, Untier of Knots speaks to me on so many levels. I do especially think of her when in the very tangible job of untangling my daughter’s necklaces, but also in the broader spirit of fixing things.

Everything can be fixed if we try at it long enough. We can pray on it; we can think on it; we can ponder and ask questions and sleep on it. We all have knots in our lives. How will we pay that bill? My son is sick, what can I do? I had a fight with my spouse or my child; or my parent.

The knots of our everyday need untying, and Mary can help us with that through her intercession.

Anything that can be done, can be undone.

There is nothing that can’t be forgiven.

Mary, Untier of Knots

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This is one of my favorite images of Mary and invokes so many feelings as a mother myself. We are constantly called upon to repair and literal untying is probably what I do most: shoelaces, necklaces, garland, holiday lights, and so on.

We are often “tied up.”

We “untangle” our problems daily; often multi-times daily.

So many instances and moments; tied and untied and the never ending problem solving of motherhood; it’s nice to know I’m in good company.

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(Painting is by artist Johann Georg Melchior Schmidtner, done around 1700, and hangs in St. Peter am Perlach Church in Augsburg, Bavaria, Germany.)

(Picture Source: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Untier_of_Knots)