Saints and Angels

Below is a text exchange I had today with our teenage granddaughter. “Teenage granddaughter”. I still hold my breath a little when I say those words. That tiny baby girl who I held in my arms just moments ago is a teenager. But today I got a glimpse of the woman she is becoming: strong and smart and loving and faithful.

Here’s our exchange:

Me: We honor Mary’s parents, Anna and Joachim, as saints. We celebrate the joint feast day of Jesus’ grandparents on July 26th. Their love for one another and for Mary is an example to us of how God calls us to live. They also remind us to honor our own grandparents and to thank them for the blessings they have passed down to us in love. Happy Feast Day Anna! (I have to admit that part about honoring your grandparents was blatantly self-serving but I sent it anyway.)

She: I am greatly blessed to have you and Nana as my grandparents and today I am especially reminded of that. I love you.

Those words: I am greatly blessed… and I love you.

Just when the world seems to be too much to bear. Just when I’m not sure if I’m even fit for humanity. Just when I can’t seem to find a kind word or a kind thought, there she is. My girl. My teenager. She softens my roughness. She calms my restlessness. She looks past my ugliness. She ignores my mean-spiritedness. She digs deep and finds the love and beauty and truth that I sometimes keep buried deep under the angst of everyday living. But she finds it! She lifts my spirit and she soothes my soul.

And I am greatly blessed. And I am loved.



Saints and saints

Today our Church celebrates All Saints Day. Yesterday was All Saints Eve or All Hallow’s Eve which in turn has become Halloween. Tradition tells us that many years ago folks dressed up to honor their patron saints. That may well indeed be the origin of Halloween costumes. Most European towns and many American cities have Patron Saints. Many towns and cities are even named after saints – Saint Louis, Saint Paul, San Francisco, to name a few. Even today most Catholics of a certain age bear a saint’s name. There are also patron saints of occupations, afflictions, animals, hobbies, students, mothers, fathers, soldiers, even pawnbrokers.

Why this obsession and fascination with saints? Maybe it’s just hero-worship but I suspect it’s something more. Saints give us an example to live by. Saints give us hope. Saints remind us that we can be “saintly” too. Some saints weren’t always so saintly – Paul for instance or Augustine. Some were poor and simple – San Juan Diego and some were rich and powerful – King Louis of France. But all saints followed the call of Christ. Each in their own way. We can too.

IMG_8629Of course the Church has officially recognized thousands of Saints but what of those who have passed before us that we know in our hearts to be saints? Many of us have beloved parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and cousins who have walked with Jesus and have been a shining example of His love. Catholic tradition tells us that we can (and should) ask the saints to pray for us; to intercede on our behalf. I find tremendous comfort in knowing that a loving aunt or grandparent might pray for me; might actually be in the presence of God and speak my name.

I honor the Saints today – my patron Denis and Joseph the patron of fathers but mostly I ask the saints with whom I’ve shared my life; those whom I’ve loved; to remember me on this day and every day.

This week our granddaughter’s first grade class held a special prayer service in honor of All Saints Day. Anna was Saint Anne, mother of Mary, grandmother of Jesus. Watching her process down the aisle with all the other “saints” in her class was nothing short of miraculous – a beautiful reminder of the bounty of love and faith in our midst. And once again I was blessed…