Saints on Our Side

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Bad cough? Vision problems? Headache? There’s a saint for that.

Working in the medical, arts, or education field? There’s a saint for that too.

Saints are souls who lived exemplary lives while on this earth. They were real people with real problems who, after their death, were recognized by the Church to offer us role models. We call on them to guide us along a righteous path as we travel through this life to the next.

Praying to saints—which actually is praying with them—is like asking a friend to pray our prayers. Scripture tells us that the prayers of the faithful are powerful. Saint Paul ended his letter to the Thessalonians with a request for prayers (2 Thessalonians 3:1-2).

Although the practice of asking deceased people to pray with us is ancient, the papal approval of one’s worthiness of sainthood, which is known as canonization, didn’t officially begin until the end of the first millennium. The process requires an in-depth and lengthy procedure with specific requirements. The object is to insure us these souls truly are with God.

The first person canonized was Bishop Ulrich of Augsburg. Pope John XV declared him a saint in the year 933. The number of saints canonized since then is undetermined but they consist of a diverse group. They all had their challenges and failings, because like us, they were human.

Many of the saints are patrons of causes. Whatever our need, there is a saint we can identify with to call on and pray along with us. St. Theodora’s first miracles included a man with vision problems and a woman with cancer. Both were immediately cured after prayers to St. Theodora (also known as St. Mother Theodore Guerin), so she is a good saint to call on for these illnesses.

The prayer on the back of one of her holy card reads:

Jesus, only source of truth and life, who taught the world the way of salvation, grant us the grace which we humbly ask through your faithful servant, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, who spent all her life to make you known and loved. May this grace be consolation for soul and body, and may it unite us ever more to you and to one another in life and in eternity. Amen.

We also can privately honor anyone who passed away who we feel lived a holy life. After all, as I wrote in Seven Principles of Sainthood,

“By baptism, all Christians are called to be saints. We are all to live our life in such a way that gives glory to God. Saints are people who are in heaven after living a life of charity and goodness. The Church recognizes some saints as such, but everyone’s life goal should be to strive for holiness.”

(Read more about sainthood, saints, and their causes in my books Seven Principles of Sainthood and Young in the Spirit.)

(Photo: Carving of St Theodora and three bones from her hand)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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Pilgrimage of Passion

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Saint Theodora wrote on her return voyage to the United States from France (1843-44):

It was not yet four o’clock in the afternoon and darkness had already spread over the horizon. If a storm is dreadful by day, it is still more awful by night. The lamps cannot be lighted, nor can anything be distinguished, save the white foam of the waves which seem greedy to devour us.

We assembled together for prayer. We looked no more for repose in this world and though we were covered with perspiration from the tossing of the ship, which trembled like a person in a nervous attack, we did not notice our fatigue. We had begun again the Way of the Cross, and offered anew to our dying Savior the sacrifice of our lives. In spite of the terrors of our weak nature, we could say to Him with confidence, “My God, into Thy hands I commend my spirit. “

Saint Theodora naturally turned to one of her favorite devotions in difficult times. The Way of the Cross, also known as Stations of the Cross, Via Crucis, and Via Dolorosa, is a devotional that focuses on Christ’s Passion. The prayers and meditations imitate a pilgrimage to places in Jerusalem of Christ’s suffering and death.

The Way of the Cross has been practiced in some variation since medieval times. The form we commonly pray today was approved by Pope Clement XVII in the 1700s. It consists of prayers and meditations surrounding the Stations of the Cross. When prayed in public, it also is customary to sing a stanza from the Stabat Mater.

The Stations may be viewed in a pamphlet or book or visited in a church or holy site that are painted, engraved, or sculptured from stone, wood, or metal. They also may be meditated upon using a chaplet–a string of beads and medals.

The Holy Father leads a variation of the Way of the Cross in the Coliseum on the evening of Good Friday that is more biblical in form. It omits stations that are not directly from the bible such as Jesus’ three falls and his encounters with his mother and Veronica. Instead, stations such as Jesus’ agony in the garden, the unjust sentence of Pilate, the promise of paradise to the good thief, and the presence of Jesus’ mother and disciple at the foot of the cross are added.

Following is the traditional form for praying the Way of the Cross with prayers from a pamphlet from the Basilica of the National shrine of the Immaculate Conception. After making the Sign of the Cross and praying the Opening Prayer, say the little prayer before each station, meditate on one of the stations, and then pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be. When you have completed the 14 Stations, pray the Closing Prayer and make the Sign of the Cross.

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Sign of the Cross

Opening Prayer

Lord Jesus, help me to be open to your closeness and presence as I begin this journey to Calvary with you. Help me to find in your Passion and Death the strength to take up my cross and follow you.

Prayer before each station:

I adore you, Lord Jesus, and I praise you because by your holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

The Stations of the Cross:

1. Jesus is condemned to death.
2. Jesus carries his cross.
3. Jesus falls the first time.
4. Jesus meets his mother.
5. Jesus is helped by Simon.
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
7. Jesus falls the second time.
8. Jesus meats the women of Jerusalem.
9. Jesus falls the third time.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
11. Jesus is nailed o the cross.
12. Jesus dies on the cross.
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb.

After each station, pray one Our Father, one Hail Mary, and one Glory Be.

Closing Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to walk with you each day of my life, even to Calvary. The sorrow and joy, the pain and the healings, the failures and triumphs of my life are truly small deaths and resurrections that lead me to closeness with you. Give me the faith and trust I need to walk with you always. Amen.

(Photo of the stone station on the campus of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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Change of Pace

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Change can be scary. No matter how difficult a present situation may be, we know what we are dealing with. When everything suddenly changes, the fear of the unknown takes over.

Saint Theodora’s life projected her in a different direction after her father’s death, when she contracted a serious illness soon after entering the Sisters of Providence, and certainly with her journey across the Atlantic to the American wilderness. She must have felt ill-equipped for the mission presented to her in a country where the language and culture was unknown to her.

She wrote in her diary, “It is astonishing that this remote solitude has been chosen for a novitiate and especially for an academy. All appearances are against it” (65).

No doubt, Saint Theodora would have been a fine sister had she remained in France. She would have evangelized and taught her own people. But God had so much more in mind for her. And Saint Theodora trusted and allowed the Lord to use her as a tool to reveal His greatness.

Change is inevitable. Favorite restaurants close and new ones open. We find new jobs and move to different homes and neighborhoods. Our children grow. We age. Loved ones die. Technology continuously alters the way we work and play.

Viewing changes as opportunities directed and supported by God, frees us from the fear of what might happen. Even situations that appear dangerous or intimidating have potential for good if we allow the Lord to work through us. We are never left to accomplish this on our own. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff—they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4).

The first young women who became Sisters of Providence in Indiana often became attached to Saint Theodora and also uncertain of their abilities to venture out beyond the motherhouse to found new schools throughout the Midwest. The daunting mission did not come without some concern for their success. But Saint Theodora encouraged them with the reminder that nothing could be accomplished if they did not leave the nest. This is true for us as well.

Scripture assures us that growth comes from these experiences when God is at the center of our thoughts, words, and actions. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

(Photo of the fountain and Church of the Immaculate Conception, St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.)

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

Posted in Catholic, Christian, Courage, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, Saint Theodora | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Three Awards

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Blog writer, Terry, from 8 Kids And A Business(http://8kidsandabusiness.wordpress.com/), passed on three blog awards to both Midwestmary.com and Saint-Theodora.com. The awards include the Sunshine Award, Semper Fidelis Award, and Best Moment Award. I’m very grateful for the recognition and suggest if you are interested in solid, Catholic content you check out Terry’s blog.

The acceptance rules require me to:
1. Post the award logo
2. Link to the nominating party
3. List 10 facts about myself
4. Nominate other noteworthy blogs
5. Notify those nominations via comments on their blog.I pass these awards on to:

And here are the 10 facts about myself:
1. One of my favorite hobbies is hand quilting.
2. As the second of five children, I sought quiet time in the church across the street.
3. I was a co-editor of the school newspaper when I was in junior high school.
4. I am proud of my German, Irish, and Italian heritage.
5. One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to put on my own oxygen mask first.
6. I still enjoy reading hardcopy newspapers.
7. You can contact me if you are in need of a source of information and experience on Alzheimer’s disease.
8. I am rich in children to love: my children, children-in-law, grandchildren, godchildren, step-children, step-children-in-law, step-grandchildren, nieces, nephews, and young friends.
9. I get lost in reading and writing.
10. I love blog writing.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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Love the Lord with Your Heart, Mind, and Soul

The Lord created us in body, mind, and spirit. We come to know God more fully when we seek and love him through all three of these aspects of our being, as Scripture tells us to do (Luke 10:27). Meditation can help us do that.

Meditation is an ancient form of prayer dating to the early Church. It is what prompted the writings of the Fathers and theologians. Meditation is a method by which we seek to understand and search for a deeper meaning of a thought, Scripture passage, or spiritual writing. Through this practice we personalize and ponder upon these things on several levels.

Scripture encourages meditation: “But their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night” (Psalm 1:2). The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that “Meditation engages thought, imagination, emotion, and desire. This mobilization of faculties is necessary in order to deepen our convictions of faith, prompt the conversion of our heart, and strengthen our will to follow Christ” ( 2705-2708).

Christian meditation is a form of prayer whereby we deliberately reflect on the revelations of God. We break down something into its many layers seeking truth, justice, love, and mercy. When reflecting on Scripture, it is a way in which the meaning of the Word deepens and enhances our personal relationship with the Lord.

You may begin by selecting a short spiritual passage. Read the words carefully and slowly. Think about what the reading means. What is the literal significance? What does it mean to you personally? Imagine witnessing the event first-hand. How would it feel to participate in the scene? How does it affect you emotionally?

Spiritual devotions such as the rosary and Lectio Divina are considered meditations. Saint Theodora would have meditated on the mysteries of Christ while praying the rosary that hung at her waist and is now displayed at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods. The rhythmic repetition of the prayers promotes a heightened meditation. The calming effect allows us to ponder Christ’s works more clearly. When praying the rosary, we pause at the mysteries such as the Annunciation, Transfiguration, and Crowning with Thorns. We visualize and reflect on how the scene makes us feel, what it signifies to us personally.

Lectio Divina is a Latin term meaning divine reading. Rather than dissecting a Scripture passage from a theological or analytical point of view, in Lectio Divina we read the Word slowly, contemplate, and pray upon it. And as with all meditations, the fullness comes when we end in stillness. When we quiet the mind and soul it is easier to hear what God is saying.

©2014, Mary K. Doyle

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Our Personal Calling

We are all created in God’s image with a unique calling. We each have our own special mix of gifts, talents, and limitations, and most of us spend the greater part of our lives trying to figure out what to do with it all.

Saint Theodora knew from the time that she was a young girl what she should do. On her First Holy Communion Day, she dedicated herself to serving the Lord and soon realized the best way to do that was as a religious sister. She patiently, but eagerly, waited until the age of 25 when her mother was well enough for her to leave home and enter the order of the Sisters of Providence in France.

Saint Theodora devoted her life to teaching children about our faith. She also taught young women how to teach. In spite of her physical fragility, she remained spiritually strong. She leaned on God and took on some major undertakings traveling across the Atlantic Ocean and half of America to the Midwestern wilderness of the 1800s. There, she endured drastic fluctuations of weather and nature, difficult and unsupportive superiors, and prejudice.

She met her challenges head on, trusting that when you follow God’s call you are well-supported. She did this in spite of her own weakened health because she knew the importance of passing on our faith to our children, our future. She knew how the world looks differently through the lens of faith and how it affects all factors of life—our actions and words, and therefore, the outcome.

The result of her efforts is impressive. She founded elementary schools across Indiana and Illinois, the religious order the Sisters of Providence of Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana, and the college now known as Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

The newly released children’s book, Saint Theodora and Her Promise to God. The Story of Mother Theodore Guerin, written by me and illustrated by Phil Veikan, tells the life of this saint and how she identified God’s calling for her. The book is bright and fun to read, and hopefully, inspires young readers to follow God’s call for them.

Published by the Sisters of Providence, the hardcover book is 34 pages long, and lists for $16.99 on:

Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Saint-Theodora-Her-Promise-God/dp/0989739708/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386348419&sr=1-1&keywords=saint+theodora)

And through the sisters at: http://store.spgiftshop.com/st-theodora-and-her-promise-to-god-p14791.aspx

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

Posted in Catholic, Christian, Discernment, Religion, Saint, Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, Saint Theodora, trust | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Cheerful Heart

St. Theodora enjoyed all of God’s creations – the people and wildlife around her. She took her troubles in stride and found humor in the little things of daily life. Her diaries are sprinkled with evidence of her sense of humor and lightheartedness. She once joked that she and Sister Francis were so feeble that together they didn’t amount to two cents. It’s the way it was, and there was no reason to fret over it.

Sometimes the oddest things strike us as funny, like tripping over our own feet. If we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we can follow St. Theodora’s example and enjoy the moment and not get stuck in a disagreeable mood.

Tough times are easier to get through when we maintain a sense of humor. Proverbs says, “A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones” (17:22) and “A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken” (15:13).

In a homily many years ago, Father Max Lasrado said when he was a child in India his mother told him to thank God for everything and find the joy in it, even the hard tasks. In some way, everything is a gift from God. There is a lesson to be learned or a future outcome that benefits us from that particular situation.

Some periods of time are definitely tougher to get through than others, but as St. Theodora often reminded her sisters, “Trust in Providence.”   As Scripture says, there is a time for everything, “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). We will get through it, and better days are ahead.

In addition, in the midst of the most difficult times, God’s blessings surround us. One person may be making our life harder than need be but we must look beyond him or her and at all the other positive people and things. No doubt, this life is filled with challenges and disappointments. The advantage for Christians is that we know we don’t go through anything alone. The Lord always is present and loving us.

Repeatedly the Bible tells us not to worry. If we truly believe the Lord has our back, worry wouldn’t enter our psyche. The only thing to worry about for any of us who are conscious of our mortality, and the eternity we will spend in the afterlife, would be our salvation.

But we know God has us covered. Jesus took care of this for us. So there really is absolutely nothing to worry about. We can relax and be happy in the day the Lord has made.

“Yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation (Habukkuk 3:18).

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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