Walking the Camino for my Milestone Birthday
This month I celebrated my 50th birthday and I realized that the greatest gift I received is actually-LIFE itself. Not only my life but the lives of those around me that I am blessed to fill my days with.
In this milestone year, I chose to walk a portion of the Camino de Santiago in Spain with my family. Along with my husband, our four children, a future son-in- law and daughter-in- law, and our family priest, we walked just under 100 miles in 7 days.
A Camino of Change
We have become a world that doesn’t talk to strangers, but my 19 year old daughter was determined to meet someone new every day along our walk and taught all of us how to let down our guards and join in the adventure. In doing this we created bonds with “strangers” from France, Italy, Portugal, Australia, England, Scotland and Ireland. These were people I would have put my headphones on and ignored on any given plane flight, and yet we started to look forward to seeing them every day on the road and at night in the different towns at dinner.
Living With a New Outlook on Life
When I returned home I had a whole new outlook on life that I am still learning to put into practice. This trip helped me to recognize that it’s the people right in front of us each day, even a stranger from across the world that I will never see again, that may be there to teach me a new lesson in life that day. It also made me rethink my priorities and where I spend my days.
The most vivid example of this is the time I spend with my 95 year old mother. Much of the time with her is spent just holding her hand repeating the answer to one or two questions that are on the forefront of her mind that day. Yet, as I attempt to re-answer the question in a different way each time so that my voice doesn’t give away that I am repeating myself again and again, I am reminded how many times she must have done this exact thing with me when I was just two years old and questioned her incessantly, the way toddlers do. She probably had a list of to-do’s a mile long, but she would put all of it on hold to make time for me. She laid the foundation in the lives of my seven siblings and I to teach us patience, and most of all to teach us to love every life. Now it’s my turn to put my to-do list on hold and be there for her. Every time I hold her hand and see that she’s wearing a My Saint My Hero blessing bracelet I am reminded who taught me the power of prayer!
“Where this is no honor to the elderly, there is no future for the young.”
I will never forget being at an audience with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s square in Rome when he said, “Where this is no honor to the elderly, there is no future for the young.” This struck me to the core, and gave me a keen sense of how we are all connected from birth until death – and how every life is invaluable. I am grateful for my life, but even more so for every life that has touched me in some way.
I plan to continue my ‘Camino’ right here at home and I pray that I can be a conduit of God’s love in the life of at least one person each day along the way.
Feast of St. Martha: July 29
The Struggle Between Martha & Mary: Finding my Inner Mary and Learning the Beauty of the Balance in Between
The “Better Part” is something I have been struggling to understand in my life for almost five years now. Struggling because I thought I was Martha in the story of Martha & Mary in the Bible, where we all want to be Mary because we don’t want to be reprimanded by Jesus like Martha was. I knew that God was bringing this story into my life over and over again to get me to slow down, make some different choices, and to choose the “Better Part”… ultimately, to choose Him! I was so caught up in the example of Martha cooking and cleaning while Mary sat at Christ’s feet and listened, because I would think “It’s fine for this one story to make a point, but wouldn’t they all have gone hungry that day had Martha not put the work in?” However, I was missing the honored guest list on this particular day. This was Jesus Christ Himself that was in her presence, not a normal guest! He doesn’t tell Martha that on a daily basis she should forget all about her obligations as the woman of the house. Rather to recognize the importance of the time when Jesus was right in front of her, for He knew He wouldn’t be there forever.
The Martha Lifestyle
I always worried about being present to every single person in my life while still attempting to be a good wife and mother and boss. But I realize now that this is impossible and this is the “Martha lifestyle” many women create thinking they are doing what God wants, when instead He is asking them for something else… something so much more fulfilling… something so much more attainable… something so much MORE. Making time to find when and where Jesus is actually right in front of you; asking you to sit at His feet and make time for Him, for the “Better Part” that He offers. He gives us so many opportunities, yet the world calls on us to be Martha and keeps us blind to them.
He’s Calling You to the “Better Part”
When is Jesus right in front of us, calling us? The glaring example is in the Mass. He wants us to know, to really know, that He is present there – body and soul, fully human and divine. Yet, like Martha, we sit during Mass thinking of our to-do list, organizing our day, our week and our life. Why? Because it’s the one hour a week we sit in quiet and our minds have the opportunity to organize and prioritize. We need to make more time to sit at His feet. At first, the Martha in all of us will kick in. We will use this time for the much needed opportunity to keep everything together. But the more time we spend with Him (more Sunday Masses, more daily Masses, praying the rosary, reading the Bible, and daily quiet time in prayer and conversation with Him to do all of the above) He will teach us. He will help us organize our lists and our life so much better than we could’ve done on our own, and then He will help us to put the list aside for the “Better Part”, for the time to sit at His feet and listen to what He wants to share with us. The “Better Part” becomes addicting and you will find yourself trying to steal away more time with Him. You will find yourself waking up earlier than you ever have and hiding away in your closet or any empty, quiet space in your home to have that time to sit with Him. You will find yourself giving up other activities in your day or other people in your life to make the time for Mass, adoration and personal prayer time.
Discovering Your “Inner Mary”
I know this seems impossible , or like the farthest thing from what you had planned for your life… but somewhere inside you know you were made for the “Better Part”. Start small, do an experiment… take the 40 Day Prayer Pledge (click on link to get one) and spend just 10 minutes with Him every day. Use the journal space and write. Don’t worry about what you are writing, that’s between you and Jesus and no one else. I promise you that at some point you will be genuinely surprised by your thoughts, your works, your actions throughout the rest of your day, and the glimpse at a peace you’ve been longing for… a peace from knowing that even though to the world you may look like Martha in all you do in your days, you will know that on the inside you have discovered your “Inner Mary” and that you have discovered what you are made for…the “Better Part”.
This is my ‘prayer couch’ as my family calls it. This is where I sit at His feet every morning…. Where do you make the time for Him? I can’t wait for you to share what you do now… or what you find yourself doing after taking the experiment in prayer!
St. James Feast Day: July 25th
My family as we embark on the Camino de Santiago!
El Camino de Santiago
I am off to Spain today with my family to hike the first 100 miles of the Camino de Santiago. We start walking this Tuesday, June 25th, (by total Divine Providence) on the Feast of St. James (Santiago). I am so looking forward to this life-changing trip and feel blessed to share this opportunity with all four of my children, my future son-in-law and future daughter-in-law, and our family priest that will be marrying both couples next year. I know it will be a huge challenge for every one of us and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us.
We all have bright yellow Benedictine Blessing Bracelets on (the same color as the arrows we will be following that guide our way on this pilgrimage) to bond us in prayer and keep us connected to the memories we will make on this trip long after we are home!
Who is Saint James?
Can you just imagine these saints working up in heaven around a table and St. Joseph sitting at the head of that table leading them in the mission for his Son? I didn’t know much about St. James and really never gave him much consideration before preparing for this pilgrimage. I want to share a few of the beautiful things I have re-discovered about him. St. James was the brother of John (the Evangelist). He was one of only three apostles, along with John and Peter, that Jesus brought with him to witness Moses and Elijah appearing with Him on Mt. Tabor. And again, was one of the same three apostles that Jesus brought inside the gates with him at Gethsemane to pray with him the night He was betrayed. Can you imagine being considered “one of three” of Jesus’ closest confidants?
Friends in Heaven
Why do we not think about or hear about St. James as much as we do St. Peter or St. John? Well, millions of people must have the same question and desire to find the answer as this Pilgrimage across Spain has increased in popularity, both in the faith-filled and the secular world. That’s the thing I love the most about the saints — you don’t have to believe in them, ask them for help, or even know they exist for them to be working in your life. They are impartial witnesses to the work of God. However, the more you open your heart to the idea that they have a role in your life here on earth, the more you just might recognize them working for you in so many ways, big and small. I look forward to what this great saint has in store for me and my entire family.
A Life Changing Moment
People say that once you have walked the Camino, you will refer to your life as “before the Camino” and “after the Camino”. I have experienced this before in my life…. “before I believed, and after”, “before my first trip to Medjugorje, and after”, “before I heard the voice of God, and after”. These are all powerful life-changing moments and I look forward to this new discovery. I may be a little apprehensive about what change it may bring, but my sincere prayer is to discover God’s will for my life. St. James wrote, “…draw close to God and He will draw close to you.” (James 4:8) I plan to walk one hundred miles to show Him I want to get closer to Him. I wonder how He plans to show me?”
Feast day: July 14th
“I will love you in heaven.”
I sit and imagine someone in heaven looking down on me and loving me. That someone is St. Kateri Tekakwitha and I believe that she is being true to her quote above because she chose me this year to guide and to love in a special way.
On the feast of the Epiphany (Jan 6) each year at My Saint My Hero we draw a saint card from a hat to be our patron for the coming year. We have come to learn that although we choose the card, it’s really the saint who is choosing us from heaven above. This year I pulled St. Kateri Tekakwitha. I knew very little about Kateri, and honestly I was a little envious of those around me pulling out the cards of Mother Teresa or JPII to be their guide. But I found a place for her card on my desk and every day I glance at her and wonder what she is teaching me or how she is interceding for me in ways I may never know about.
I was so excited this week when I received an email to learn more about her from one of my most trusted spiritual mentors, Fr. John Bartunek. He creates amazing online retreats and I’d love if you’d participate in this retreat with me tomorrow on the feast of St. Kateri. You can sign up and then click right on the new Retreat Guide at https://rcspirituality.org/a-virgins-courage-a-retreat-guide-on-st-kateri-tekakwitha/. We need to encourage each other to watch and talk about great examples such as Kateri (maybe switching the ‘girls night out’ conversation from the latest happenings on The Bachelor).
You may not have picked a patron saint this year but I’d love to share Kateri with you. Let’s learn from her perseverance and determination in faith and prayer. Let’s share what we have learned from her example and stay connected in prayer. Reply in the comment section below and I’ll send you a My Saint My Hero “wearable blessing” so that we can have a tangible reminder of our connection in prayer and a tangible reminder that we have a saint in heaven that is looking down from heaven and sending us love.
Praying with you (and St. Kateri) now…. very sincerely, Christine
Love Amidst War
We hear it said over and over again how God uses even the worst of tragedies to bring about good, but we don’t often get to witness those results. This past Memorial Day I realized I am living proof of a very real and concrete example of this manifested in my own life. I was thinking about my father who had served in the Royal Air Force in WWII and about all the sadness that he and my mother witnessed in the lives of many people near and dear to them.
But then I had an epiphany: had it not been for the war, my mother and father would have never met!
She was American and he was British, stationed in Canada during the war. He and his friends were invited to a party in Cleveland, Ohio, on one of their weekend leaves. This is where he met and fell in love with my mother. They were married less than six months later.
An Unending Love That Lives On
I know theirs is not the only love story born of WWII, and I am personally grateful for all those who gave their lives, allowing for many beautiful families to be born out of this sad time in history. My heart is so full of gratitude for the unending love, hard work and stability that my father provided for me and my seven brothers and sisters. I truly believe he is still responsible for much of our care from his seat in heaven today. If he were alive I have no doubt that he would proudly wear a My Saint My Hero Benedictine Blessing Bracelet. It would have given him a way to share his faith with others and a practical tool to stay grounded in prayer.
A picture of my dad and me: the first man I ever loved.
He always took the photos so, unfortunately, he was rarely in them. I treasure the few I do have of us together!
You are enough…
It is so easy to say this to someone else, but it’s very tough for me to look at myself and truly believe “I am enough”. In my role as a mother of four, it is especially hard to feel like I can ever be the perfect mother that I have dreamed up that my children need. But then I look to my own mother who has eight children! I look to her as the perfect example of the mother that Mary must have been for Jesus. She is patient, understanding, forgiving, self–giving, never disappointed in me (even through all of my mistakes and faults), truly humble, and has incredible love for her children. She has proven this by sticking by each and every one of us, no matter what our situation.
My mother is 95 years old and sits in a recliner all day long. But I can honestly say, she is enough. Her life means something. She is valued by her eight children, 21 grandchildren, and 19 great grandchildren. The world may not see her value but those closest to her do. They approach her with dignity, respect, great honor and love…just as I imagine Jesus must have approached His mother.
As I sit and write this I look down at my Queen of the Universe Swarovski Crystal necklace. It is one of my favorite My Saint My Hero pieces because of its sheer beauty. It is a piece that honors all mothers and when I wear it I am able to sit in the knowing that… I am enough.
-Christine Rich // Co-Founder, CEO
It’s two days after Christmas and I head off in the dark to morning mass. What a gift to pull up to this little church where I am vacationing, Maria Lanakila, and to be welcomed by Our Lady in such a beautiful way.
What a gift to be far
away from home and my community of My Saint My Hero and still have a family to share my faith with. I realize the best gift I could have received on any Christmas or birthday was the gift of my faith. I can’t wait to share more about my faith and the faith that has brought us all together here in this mission… a mission in prayer to remind people that they have a purpose and, more than anything, that they are so loved!
Father, my prayer this morning is that you share Your love in a very personal way with just one person that needs to know you exist… one person that needs the hope that only You can provide. I ask this already knowing that You have answered….
May your family enjoy the Christmas Season, Happy Feast of the Holy Family
“We are God’s children now”
Thank you from the bottom of my heart, your loving daughter, Christine