Today’s guest blogger is a dear high school friend of mine who is absolutely brilliant in every sense of the word, and like a sister to me. She had the incredible gift of having met St. John Paul II, whose feast day we celebrate this Sunday, October 22, and today, she has generously opened her heart to share her experience of meeting a saint with us.
Touched by a Saint
In January 2001, I had the opportunity of greeting Pope John Paul II in St. Peter’s Square. I knelt before him for a few seconds, grasped his hand, received his blessing. I walked off the platform still in a daze. Had I really been blessed by the Pope?
As the Church would later confirm when it first beatified, then canonized John Paul II, I had not only been blessed by a pope, I had been touched by a saint.
In 2001, I was floored that I had been able to meet John Paul II. I was excited and grateful. Over time, I began reflecting more on the significance of that encounter, apart from checking something exciting off my bucket list and having a neat story to tell.
I had been touched by a saint. What did that really mean?
It meant that sanctity was a reality. In real time. I could no longer associate holiness only with far off stories of medieval Europe, or martyrdom and imprisonment. Holiness exists in the world today, in people we can come in contact with. People with likes and dislikes, struggles and hopes.
It meant that I felt challenged. I felt personally connected with someone who had responded to God’s call to journey closer to him. God relentlessly pursues mankind, faithfully, eternally. Some individuals respond by relentlessly pursuing God. They are called saints. Coming in contact with one of them stirred within me the awareness that I too should be relentlessly pursuing God.
It meant that I had to figure out what holiness actually means. Holiness isn’t something we can accomplish or produce. We can open our hearts to it, but we cannot command it. I finally found a description of holiness that resonates with me (thank you, Benedict XVI!), and that I return to from time to time:
Holiness does not consist in never having erred or sinned. Holiness increases the capacity for conversion, for repentance, for willingness to start again and, especially, for reconciliation and forgiveness. (…)Consequently, it is not the fact that we have never erred but our capacity for reconciliation and forgiveness which makes us saints. And we can all learn this way of holiness. (Pope Benedict XVI Jan 31, 2007).
I appreciate Benedict XVI’s emphasis on the importance of ongoing conversion and forgiveness. Holiness is not something we attain, but a way of life that we strive for anew every day.
It meant that life would be OK. I was 15 when I met Pope John Paul II; he was 80. His wrinkled hand, blessing my forehead, caressing my cheek, was the same hand that had rescued a starving 13 year old Jewish girl during the holocaust. John Paul II saw more of life than most of us ever will. He understood human experience, deeply, and he lived in hope. Without knowing what my own life would have in store, as I clasped that hand, I instinctively knew that life was worth living.
Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us.
Ellen Mady lives in Pittsburgh, PA, where she spends her time working for the local Church and raising her three crazy and adorable children. She enjoys writing on faith and family topics when she has some downtime in the evenings.
In this month of October we join hands and hearts as we come together to continue our prayers for a cure for Breast Cancer. Most of us know at least second hand, if not personally, someone who has been affected by this kind of cancer. This pink bracelet reminds us that we are united together in praying for healing, for peace, for hope with the faith that when two or more are gathered in His name, He is there in our midst. (Matthew 18:20)
“More than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors live in the U.S. They are survivors of the second most-common cancer in women, behind skin cancer, and survival rates continue to climb due to better treatments and increased screening that finds cancers when they are most treatable.” –City of Hope
Today’s post comes to you from a reflection by Sarah Erickson. We asked her what “be the one” means to her. Below is her answer. Thank you for sharing, Sarah!
My recent conviction of “be the one,” when I think about the one person, the one collection of human beings in the world that needs this love that doesn’t have bounds, conditions or strings attached is young women. I don’t see a more broken group of people.
I see, being in college, young girls looking to be known and loved in their relationships with men. Our culture pushes this need to be in a relationship, to always be pursued to be in that picture perfect relationship that is, in today’s terms, “goals.”
Therefore I am so convicted that I need to love them through sisterhood and remind them of the greatest pursuit: that of the man on the cross. We are so broken and we crave the affection of a father, the affection of that man on a cross who romances us through His blood.
So I think, when I hear, “be the one,” the first thing that comes to mind is to be the one to stand by those women who may be held captive, whether they know it or not. Their femininity is most treasured when it is centered at Calvary, with Mary, hand in hand in front of the Lord: the King of kings who is bleeding out for that woman.
So that is the image I keep getting, to bring those girls back to their roots, back to the beginning, back to where their freedom comes from, to where their salvation comes from. Because it is there where we can see glimpses of the Father’s love and know the greatest man’s affection. We don’t have to earn it. It was within us when we were born into the world.
Did you know October is the month of the Holy Rosary? The feast day, which we celebrated on October 7th, is in memory of a most glorious victory at the battle of Lepanto. That battle was the most pronounced and convincing victory that proved without a doubt the great power of the Holy Rosary.
“Pray the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace in the world…for she alone can save it. ” (Our Lady, July 13, 1917)
The message of Our Lady of Fatima, whose feast day we celebrate this Friday, October 13, urges us to pray the Rosary every day for peace. When we hear the story of the children saints of Fatima to whom she appeared: Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco, we cannot overlook the prominence of the Rosary.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.
This simple prayer, a kind of “I love you, Mom”, repeated 10 times in a decade, is at the heart of the Rosary. It is a beautiful prayer which praises her as the blessed Mother of God, and then asks for her intercession at the end of lives. It has often been reported that most people call out for their mothers in their last hours; if we faithfully pray this prayer throughout our lives, how can Mother Mary deny our request when that unknown hour comes for us?
Hail Mary Morse Code Prayer Rope
Ancient Christian tradition has a deep appreciation for the power of a symbol. An entire story can be packed into a single simple mark or object. Wear this prayer rope as your symbol of grace, knowing that the Hail Mary Prayer has been encoded using blue crystals as the dots in Morse Code and silver beads as the dashes. May you be wrapped in ancient tradition as you live each day full of grace.
Either worn around your neck or wrapped around your wrists, may the Hail Mary Prayer Rope remind you of our dear Mother to call on her in good times and in bad.
Today we celebrate St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, a humble Polish nun through whom God imparted His message of Divine Mercy to the world.
It’s not a word to be used or taken lightly. So what does it really mean? What implication does that have for us? When God chooses His words, He does so with full intent. So for us to better understand the heart of God, we ought to study and understand this word that reoccurs many times in Sacred Scripture.
A definition is the stating of the exact nature — of the necessary inborn character — of a thing; or, it is the “precise meaning” of a word. What is the nature, the inborn character, the meaning of “mercy”?
The Latin word, which is the ultimate root of our English word “mercy,” is misericordia. It, in turn, derives from two words: miserere, meaning “to have pity on” or “compassion for” and cor, meaning “heart” (genitive case — cordis: “of the heart”). Mercy, therefore, carries the idea of having compassion on someone with all one’s heart. The latter phrase expresses the idea: “From the very inmost depth (or core) of one’s being.”
The Sacred Scriptures show clearly that mercy is the greatest “relative” characteristic of God, the attribute that extends over all He created (e.g., Ps 145:9); and it explains the whole plan of salvation: the power (virtue) of a compassionate heart that shares another’s misery to come to that other’s rescue. Saint Thomas, therefore, can fearlessly profess and demonstrate that, with relation to all that exists in creation, mercy is the greatest divine attribute (Summa Th., IIa IIae, 30, 4c).
A “composite” definition of “mercy” (based on definitions found in various dictionaries) would go like this: A feeling of tenderness, aroused by someone’s distress or suffering, which inclines (causes) one to spare (abstain from killing/hurting) or to help another who is in one’s power and has no claim whatever to (or is completely undeserving of) kindness. Another definition would be: pardon given to someone who could be punished (often used with reference to God when He forgives sin).
Both these definitions make quite understandable what Pope John Paul II expounded in his encyclical on the Mercy of God in Part VII, no. 13, par. 4:
It is precisely because sin exists in the world, which “God so loved … that He gave His only Son” (Jn 3:16), that God, who “is love” (1 Jn 4:8), cannot reveal Himself otherwise than as mercy.
The essence of mercy is to take into account not only that which is strictly due (as is the case with justice), but also weaknesses, infirmities, and defects of all kinds; and in considering them, to give more than is required by merit and to soften the blow that guilt deservingly brings upon itself through the shutting off, by sin, of the flow of God’s goodness. Divine Mercy, therefore, by no means signifies some sort of sentimental emotion (as certain pagan philosophers saw it, branding it “a weakness excusable only in old people and children”).
If the Holy Scriptures often refer to “the bowels of mercy” being moved in God (Jer 31:20; Lk 1:78); or if Jesus, for that matter, in His revelations to St. Faustina, uses the biblical expression (“Everything that exists is enclosed in the bowels of My mercy, more deeply than an infant in its mother’s womb” from the Diary, 1007), it is not some “gooey” emotion or sentiment that is being brought to our attention. The Hebrew word rahamim carries two meanings: bowels (womb) and mercy. Pope John Paul II explains the various related terms in the lengthy footnote (52) in his encyclical on mercy. What is important, however, is that, from all of them we get a picture of a person tenderly taking care of another even in spite of the latter’s possible unworthiness.
Divine Mercy, then appears to be the unchangeable disposition in God by which He cannot “take pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man’s conversion [turning around back to God] that he may live” (Ezek 33:11).
Divine Mercy in My Life
We can appreciate this immense and gratuitous gift of God by simply meditating on these two simple questions that St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast day we celebrated yesterday often prayed, “Who are you, Lord my God, and who am I?”
When we allow our hearts to be vulnerable before God and open it up to His measureless, merciful love, which is full of kindness and forgiveness, and ever-faithful, it is only then that we can see ourselves in the light of truth, and see ourselves as we are before God. It doesn’t take a theologian or intense meditative prayer to achieve this. Simply quiet your heart and soul before Him, kneel before His presence, and allow His love to wash over you. In the face of such love, we cannot help but see our shortcomings and failures. But if we give him our “misery”, He will gift us His heart, “coridae”. There we find mercy, love, forgiveness, and healing.
The Divine Mercy Chaplet is a simple but beautiful prayer that only takes a fraction of your day. It is a prayer given to us by Jesus himself. You can pray it on our Divine Mercy Blessing Bracelets, or with your fingers, or pray along as you drive or wash dishes with this audio version.
Whenever my little ones, ages 3 and 2, spot a statue of a male saint, they almost always excitedly mistake his identity; “Loooooook, it’s Jesus!” I often laugh and correct them, but recently I thought, perhaps in their innocent mistake is hidden a glimmer of truth.
According to Wikipedia, A saint (also historically known as a hallow) is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God.
So essentially the measure of saintliness is the equivalent to how much you are like Jesus. Perhaps my children’s pure souls saw beyond what our adult eyes could perceive: seeing Jesus shining through the person of the saint.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”– Galatians 2:20
St. Francis of Assisi
St. Francis of Assisi is one of those saints my children have on many occasions mistaken as Jesus, perhaps because he so closely resembles Him who St. Francis loved and served so faithfully throughout his life, so much so that he was able to be another Christ for those around him. His feast day has greater significance this year as we currently mourn the terrible event in Las Vegas. In a world so full of strife, let us pray that he can guide us to become instruments of God’s peace.
St. Francis’ Great Love
I greet you, Lady, Holy Queen, Holy Mary, Mother of God, Virgin who became the Church, chosen by the most holy Father of Heaven; consecrated to holiness through His most holy and beloved Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. In you was and is the whole fullness of grace and everything that is good. – St. Francis of Assisi
Like Jesus, who loved His mother with such devotion and tenderness, St. Francis too, had a deep love and devotion to Mary: a trait shared by all the saints. The Franciscans friars and sisters embrace this devotion not only in their prayer life but have incorporated it into their habit so that it may also be on their person at all times, and serve as a reminder and a blessing to themselves and all around them.
“Both friars and sisters wear, on the side of the heart, the miraculous medal. Both are cinctured by a hemp-colored cord with four knots which symbolize the vows which we profess: unlimited consecration to the Immaculate, obedience, chastity, and poverty. The rosary, attached to the cord, is the “Franciscan crown”, a particular devotion from the Franciscan tradition which contemplates the mysteries of the seven joys of the Blessed Virgin Mary.” –MaryMediatrix.com
I like to think of our Blessing Bracelets as a kind of like their habits in today’s world. Its 10 beads or medals make up a decade of the rosary that can be prayed anywhere and at anytime. Most of us here at My Saint My Hero wear at least one bracelet every day, and it is an expression of who we are and reminds us of our mission in life. It helps us to remember to pray for others and to keep Our Lady very close to our side as she is our best advocate and example of sainthood and heroism.
Salutation to the Blessed Virgin Mary by St. Francis of Assisi
Hail, holy Lady, most holy Queen, Mary, Mother of God, ever-virgin; Chosen by the most holy Father in Heaven, consecrated by Him with His most holy and beloved Son and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. On you descended and in you still remains all the fullness of grace and every good. Hail, His palace. Hail, His tabernacle. Hail, His robe. Hail, His handmaid. Hail, His mother. And hail, all holy virtues, who by the grace and inspiration of the Holy Spirit are poured into the hearts of the faithful so that, faithless no longer, they may be faithful servants of God through you.
“Be joyful in love, be firm in hope and be constant in effort.”
This is where my book flew open, when I prayed for guidance one day as I picked up a book in my office that I had never seen before. That quote became my mantra at work and at home. After reading it I signed up to compete in the longest Triathlon that I had ever done, the Malibu International Triathlon on September 16, 2017.
Training: One Our Father and Hail Mary at a Time
The most beautiful part of my training is that I paced myself with the Rosary. I would push a bit harder during the Our Fathers, and then settle into my rhythmic pace during the Hail Marys. The meditations allowed me to be mindful on prayer with every step. Praying helped me to keep going, to believe in my growing strength, and to trust. It also created this incredible sense of gratitude for my ability to train, swim, bike, and run, and my ability to reach beyond what I thought was possible.
When Race Day arrived, it felt different than any other one I’ve experienced before. We arrived in Malibu while it was still dark. As the sun began to rise and we were about to start the race with our swim, I glanced out among the waves to see a pod of dolphins. It was as if they were reminding us of all the ease and grace of swimming. In that grace and gratitude, we stepped into the cold water and began our swim. I had 1 mile to swim down the coast and I began to pray, my strokes and breath coming into alignment with the rhythm of my prayers and before I knew it I was passing the second (out of 6) buoy! As I swam and lifted my head to breathe, I caught the rays of the rising sun on the water and saw that its rays illuminated a school of tiny silver fish swimming right under me!
Continuing the Good Fight
As I finished the swim and put my feet on the sand I realized my legs were wobbly; I sank back in the water. I began to pray for balance and strength, took a deep breath, and tried again. This time my legs held me up as I slowly jogged to the transition to get on my bike. It was in that moment that I handed my race over to God. I simply asked for Him to allow me to finish. I was no longer racing, I just wanted to keep my legs from shaking and finish the next segment. I jumped on my bike and tried to clip in, it didn’t work and I almost fell over… now I was really shaking… I told myself: try again, get your balance, breathe, pray, and on they went, I was clipped in safely and ready to ride the 26 miles up the coast of Malibu! This is the part I trained hard for: this was between me, my strength and the hills! The Our Father became my go-to prayer, where I exerted the most energy to make it up those hills! As I neared the last mile of the bike ride, I noticed so many of my fellow racers began slowing down. I decided that this was my time to speed up! I told myself, “Race with all everything you have to the finish line, don’t stop early!” I was praying, pedaling and passing others… WOW! I got to the bike rack, put on my running shoes and the rest was home free.
The Final Stretch
It was just me and the road and finally time to pray my Rosary, and have fun! I was no longer trying to win, I just wanted to finish. Six miles seemed really far, but I took it in two mile increments and one Rosary at a time. I ended up praying two Rosaries and once again as soon as I saw the finish line I began to sprint, this time I did not pass anyone. Rather I cheered them on along with me and together we ran the race all the way to the finish line.
Crossing the Finish Line
I did it! I finished the longest race I have ever done and I did it as I was turning 50 years old! Thank you JESUS!!! I couldn’t help but reflect on the verse, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us!” It was a simple message to be joyful in love, firm in hope, and constant in effort. It spoke to me, challenged me to go beyond my comfort zone, and taught me the effort is joyful when done in love and prayer!
As I was leaving the race zone and the medals were being awarded, I heard my name being called. I was so excited that I ran up on stage, stood on that podium and raised my arms to heaven in thanksgiving.
When was the last time a certain song played over the radio and it was like you were instantaneously transported back to a specific time or place in your life? Perhaps it brought you back to your college days? A fun dance off or karaoke moment at a party? That first date? The first time you drove alone in your very own car? A flood of emotions stirred within you and all these memories and feelings seemed to be so present, right there in front of you. It’s a strong yet involuntary reaction that can change our mood and affects us. Certain sights, smells and sounds that are powerfully linked with our memories have the incredible ability to move us and remind us of certain times, things, and people.
“For more than a thousand years, church bells have rung out throughout the world to call Christians to prayer. At midday and a few minutes before every mass, bells ring out from tiny villages, to mission churches, to the skyscraper-filled cities. Bells also ring inside the churches – at the sacred moment when Christ becomes present again. And now, with this necklace, a bell rings for you too.
Your personal story is a unique and essential part of a much bigger story. You are a vital part of God’s divine plan. You are a beautiful chime in the harmony of life. Listen to the ringing of the bell, imagine all the other bells, and smile: the Good Shepherd will never let you wander beyond the reach of His care.”
-Fr. John Bartunek, LC ThD (RCSpirituality.com)
Awaken and Listen
The ringing of bells makes us stop and listen, if only for a moment, and it tells us that God is present very near, within ear shot. It is a sweet invitation to come visit Him, or in the least think of Him, and that in itself is a prayer, a simple “I love you” to Him.
Wear this necklace and let the gentle chime remind you that you are never alone. God sends you his company of angels and saints. His providence guides you through every struggle, sorrow, victory and joy. When you hear this chime, allow it to awaken your senses to the presence of the angels and saints.
You Are Not Alone
The chime of a bell will always remind me of the classic Christmas film, It’s A Wonderful Life. “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings”. Know that as often as you hear the chime of this bell around your neck, your Guardian Angel is beside you, protecting you, guiding you, and is your very own faithful friend from heaven. Find comfort that the Archangels: Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel, are your advocates. With the feast day of the Archangels on September 29th, and the Guardian Angels on October 2nd, we are surrounded with reminders that these powerful allies are ever present to help us on our journey to heaven.
The Awaken Angel Chime Necklace
The bell is inscribed with the My Saint My Hero logo; a cross and the intertwined letters A & M for Auspice Maria, meaning “under the protection of Mary.” This represents the saints as they walked under the protection of Mary and in union with Christ. The chain has seven crystal stones representing the seven archangels.
Designed with love, may you be blessed by the community of love and prayer at My Saint My Hero. Your purchase enables us to use the power of giving to help transform lives and make the world a better place.
Madi, our newest team member, shares her experience and reflections from the LA Prayer Breakfast that took place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Downtown Los Angeles, this past Tuesday, September 19, 2017. Many team members of My Saint My Hero were blessed to attend this event and be part of this beautiful movement of unity! We were proud to help sponsor this event by donating over two thousand One Nation Under God United in Prayer bracelets to everyone who attended.
Before the sun rose Tuesday morning, My Saint My Hero gathered with about two thousand other people of the church -from families to students, priests, sisters, bishops, normal people like you and me -to pray for our city and our country.
One Nation Under God United in Prayer Bracelets on those who attended.
We were welcomed by the angels and saints at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in the middle of Los Angeles, a place that, as you walk around, has you surrounded by the presence of the angels and the saints. And as one nation, one church, one family on earth and in heaven, we worshiped and interceded for our city & our country. We were encouraged by a great theologian and leader of the church, Dr. Scott Hahn, who led us deep into the heart of the Father with such a simple message: He is a good, kind Father.
United in prayer and blessing.
It is so easy to hear that and then just move on with our lives, for our mind to accept it and move on to the next worry, the next thing on the to do list. But do we let it reach our heart?
You are loved more in this moment by the Father than any other person could love you in an entire lifetime.
The love He has for you has nothing to do with your performance, your goodness, your success, how much you get done today. It has everything to do with His goodness, with His never-ending grace. Some of us may have bad experiences and views of our earthly fathers. But our Heavenly Father is unlike any flawed human father, some who may at times hide or run when things get hard. In contrast, He gives His whole heart to you at each moment. He holds nothing back.
So I encourage you today to rest, find yourself held by the Father at his throne. Let that love sink in into the deepest places of your heart to heal the wounds of this world.