Large families are a huge blessing, especially at the holidays! As the youngest of eight children I have many memories of waiting for family to arrive on Thanksgiving. I had brothers and sisters driving home from college and from their own homes (bringing my nieces and nephews that were like brothers and sisters to me as they were more my age than my siblings). The anticipation built in me as I waited for our quiet home to be transformed into hub of laughter, fun, singing, and lots and lots of sharing. When I was young I took all of this for granted, I don’t anymore.
Many things have changed since I grew from being the baby in the family to having a family of four children of my own. I realize now that the presence of one thing connects every thanksgiving I have celebrated over the last 50 years: PRAYER. Throughout the years there have been many different forms of prayer depending on the household hosting the gathering that year, but every meal has always started in a prayer of Thanksgiving for the food we were about to share, for all of our blessings, and a prayer of petition for all those that would not have all that we had that day.
I will never forget one prayer in particular as long as I live. It was the prayer my niece’s husband prayed at their home the year he found out he had A.L.S. There was not a dry eye in the backyard tent (like I said our family is large and most houses can’t accommodate all of us) as he read from the book of Psalms in his bible. The night ended with the whole family singing Hallelujah accompanied by another niece’s boyfriend on his ukulele and all I could think of was the multitude of prayers being sent to heaven for him as I was reminded of the saying, “singing is like praying twice!” Two years later he is miraculously still in amazing physical health despite his diagnosis. He has an army of family and friends praying for him and, whether his good health is due to these prayers or to modern medicine, EVERY day is worthy of thanksgiving prayers for him.
Thanksgiving This Year
Today I fly to Denver to be with a whole new family this year for Thanksgiving… the family of my future daughter-in-law. I am bringing along a bag full of Blessing Bracelets to share. My prayer is that every time we look down at these bracelets they will be a reminder of the love shared on this beautiful occasion and of being blessed, once again, as our family continues to grow.
We are often asked the question at My Saint My Hero, “Are you a non-profit?” My answer to this has become, “What sets My Saint My Hero apart is that we intentionally mixed our deep faith into a for-profit business that would give us the foundation to fulfill our mission: to bring faith, hope, and purpose into everyday life and to provide a tangible reminder for people that God is real and that prayer works!”
I love pulling the wisdom of our patron saints as we look for direction in our work. Pope Saint John Paul II said, “The purpose of business is not simply to make a profit, but rather to create a community of persons that produces something good to serve the needs of society.”
The Good Profit Conference
I saw this lived out as I never have before when I had the honor of participating in The Good Profit Conference put on by The Catholic University of America in Washington DC, and The Napa Institute.
The conference was inspired by the book with the same name, The Good Profit, by Charles Koch, who has been a very controversial figure in the work place and politics.
Mr. Koch lays out his many ideas in the book (you would think he was Catholic because of the way he has incorporated the ideals of Pope Saint John Paul II as noted above) and the reasons he believes his company has been so successful, not just monetarily, but more in terms of bringing dignity into the workplace and into the world.Mr. Koch speaks about Good Profit bringing something of value to people when they didn’t even know they needed it.
This is what inspired me the most, and this is what I spoke about during my few minutes in front of the microphone on the panel, titled “Spiritual Entrepreneurs”, on the first afternoon of the three-day conference.
Ultimately, I believe this idea of bringing something of great value to people when they didn’t even know they needed it is exactly how God works in each one of us.He places desires on our hearts that we would never have dreamed of.
I know this to be true because of the unlikely pair he chose to carry out the mission of My Saint My Hero.Amy and I did not have degrees in business or entrepreneurial ventures, yet, when we sat in prayer at the very start we came out with a vision for our company (as an answer to the prayerful request of St. Giovani Giuseppe and our patron saints):
From Left to Right: Christine Rich | Cofounder of My Saint My Hero; Scott Kauffmann | Partner, Content Lead Praxis Labs; Jennifer Baugh | Founder & National Executive Director, Young Catholic Professionals; Robert Reynolds | President, Avesta; Bob Keith | Director – Enterprise Solutions to Poverty Project Director – Spiritual Entrepreneurs Lab Director – Summer Business Institute Co-Founder, The Ciocca Center for Principled Entrepreneurship The Busch School of Business & Economics
To share the saints stories so that people today know that they were real people who walked this earth, but walked in union with God – and we can do this today!
To share the stories of those walking the earth now on their path to sainthood – Bringing the SACRED TO NOW.
To empower women/communities through meaningful work (both here at home and all over the world).
To bring pieces from sacred sites that people may never get to in their lives.
To share the sacredness/secrets of our faith to bring faith, hope and purpose back into everyday life.
Inspiration and Strength
Throughout my time at the conference I wore a prototype of a necklace that we plan to launch in January featuring St. Joan of Arc.I grabbed onto her medal whenever I needed the reminder to step out in courage.I was reignited in the mission that God had placed on our hearts in the very beginning through the inspiration of so many others in very successful businesses that I would never had known had based their businesses in a strong doctrine of faith.
If you are in need of inspiration, look up some of these amazing people: Dina Dwyer (The Dwyer Group), Robert Nardelli (former CEO of Chrysler & Home Depot), Claire Huang (Former CMO of JPMorgan Chase & American Express), Rob Reynolds (Avesta)… and the list goes on and on.
The Example of Cardinal Turkson
In another keynote, Cardinal Turkson, the Chief Economic Advisor to Pope Francis, reminded us to keep bringing out the good seeds that God has planted in us.He taught about ‘intergenerational solidarity’, to look to examples of those who have gone before us working for the good of society and to make sure that we work to leave behind a better world for our children and our grandchildren.
But beyond what he said at the podium, the Cardinal was a living example of the joy that comes from bringing God into our work and into every decision that we make. He is a man of great wisdom, with a great position in the church, yet I was blessed to laugh with him and pray with him and share in the joy of what it’s like to live with Christ at the center of, not only our businesses, but in every part of our life.
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.
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!
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?”
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 aMy 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
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!
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.
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