In an effort to blog a little more, I thought I’d participate in some adorable blog carnivals for the fun of it. Top Ten Tuesday from Many Little Blessings is one of my favorites, so I thought I’d share our family’s Top 10 Favorite saints.
I dig saints. It’s like having a posse of the coolest kids in school as your best friends.
So I thought I’d share with you the saints I read about, look up, pray to and tell stories about most often. One of the things that drags me down is how somber and mournful the Catholic Church can be. Prayers that drone on, monotone hymns and bland, thoughtless promises in an effort to get some sort of redemption for your sins. Sometimes the Church — and your own prayer life — just needs a bit of zip, a bit of spark. And that’s when I turn to some of the awesome, kickass stories of the saints.
10. St. Francis of Asissi. Let’s start with my good buddy Frank. Frank is my best saint friend. We’ve been buddies for years and years. In fact, Mike and I didn’t know that we were both friends of Frank (he should’ve introduced us sooner!) until after we met and started dating. Frank has one of the most awesome conversion stories out there. See, Frank used to steal from his dad’s store and sell the items and give money to the poor. After his dad tried to publicly shame him in the town square, Frank dropped his clothes, handed them back to his father and told him that he no longer recognized him as his father, but that he was a son of God. While standing naked. In town square.
And that was just the beginning. Frank did all kinds of wild and wonderful things. He shared the Gospel with birds, he composed my favorite prayer, he convinced a wolf to stop attacking a village, he received the Stigmata (the first on record and one of the few men who’ve ever received the markings) and even attempted to become a martyr by going to Egypt and proclaiming the gospel to the Sultan (he failed to become a martyr, but he made a good friend in the Sultan).
9. St. Patrick. I absolutely love the story of Patrick. Now this guy had some gumption! Patrick was born in England and during a raid by the Irish, was kidnapped and taken back to Ireland where he was sold into slavary. He became a slave to a man who gave him the responsibility of being a shepherd and he spent many a day on the hills of Ireland watching over this man’s sheep. After awhile, he started seeing visions and was told by God that his “ship was ready”. When his master refused to give him his freedom, Patrick got up, walked out the door and walked for days through the woods and hills until he found a port and saw the ship God had told him about. He returned to England and his family.
Not long after that, Patrick had a dream in which hundreds and hundreds of letters appeared, and the whole of Ireland cried out to him to return to them. Patrick got up, packed up his stuff, and returned to Ireland! He actually went back to Ireland, to the people who had once enslaved him, in order to save them.
Among other things, Patrick is credited with chasing all snakes out of Ireland, with avoided an assassination attempt by rightly predicting there was poison in his cup, and of using the three-leafed clover shamrock to describe the Trinity.
Not all saints have wicked stories. Some are saints because of somber, horrible reasons.
8. St. Maria Goretti. This little lady has a sad tale to tell. Maria was a poor young girl who spent her days keeping house and watching her infant sister while her widowed mother and siblings worked in a nearby field. One day while she was busy at her chores, her 19 year old neighbor, Alessandro Serenelli came to the house and demanded her submission. His intention was to rape her. Maria denied him and swore she’d rather die than commit such a grevious sin. Alessandro then stabbed her 14 times before fleeing the house.
You might think that’d be the end of this sad tale, but it has a beautiful redemption. On her deathbed, Maria forgave Alessandro and prayed that he would go to Heaven with her. She passed away after having undergone surgery without anesthesia. Alessandro, unrepentant, went to prison for 30 years. By the time he was released however, his heart had greatly changed and he went to Maria’s mother and begged her forgiveness. Maria’s mother, who had pleaded for Alessandro to not be put to death for his crimes at the time of his trial, forgave him and attended Mass with him the next day. Alessandro even went so far as to become a Friar himself and attended both Maria’s beautification and her canonization.
7. St. Monica. If there ever was a person who had the proverbial patience of Job, it was Monica. Oh this woman had it rought for a long time. Monica married a foul-mouthed, abusive, unrelenting Pagan man who cheated on her and was not loving towards her at all (why again, did she marry him?). They had three children together, the eldest being a son they named Augustine.
Monica was one of the most devoted women in the town and prayed fervertently for her son and her husband’s conversion. Not only was her husband a troublemaker, but Augustine himself was lazy, beligerant and difficult to be with, and swayed away from the teachings of his mother’s faith. Monica prayed long and often, begging God for the souls of these two men. And as it turns out, her prayers won out. Shortly before his death, her husband turned around and became a Christian, and Augustine went on to become St. Augustine of Hippo.
“I’m sending you a saint.”
6. St. Andre Bessette. Brother Andre is a Canadian saint Mike told me about. We actually have a relic of Andre’s from his temple. He was a sweet, kind hearted man who was very close to St. Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father. He arrived to the Congregation of the Holy Cross with a note from his priest saying, “I’m sending you a saint.” Andre’s devotion to St. Joseph invoked the healing of many people, and during an epidemic in Montreal, Andre’s activities as a nurse resulted in no deaths while under his care. He steadfastly denied any part in the healings, saying “St. Joseph cures.”
Although his outward demeanour was one of quiet and kindness, he was not entirely serene. One one occasion a woman who had come to be healed by him was turned away as he chastised her for wearing clothes that were too provocative. Many people believed him a liar, a quack and a charlatan, and there was great concern when thousands of sick people flocked to him for healing. St. Joseph’s Oratory, where he did most of his work, is filled with crutches and canes from people who were healed.
5. St. Joseph of Cupertino. This is a friend of Mike and Frank. Joseph was not the brightest star in the sky. In fact he was originally rejected from the Franciscan order because he was too simple. But they took pity on him and eventually reinstated him to the easiest job they could think of for him — care of the order’s mule, earning himself the nickname “Brother Ass”. Joseph was a pleasant, happy fellow, although frequently absent-minded and forgetful. However, like Frank, he was skilled at speaking with sheep, even to the point of going through Mass a herd of sheep when all the villagers were too busy to attend Mass.
Let us take another story from the many that are found in the life of this servant whom God loved. Joseph had a special interest in the shepherds of the neighborhood; with people of that class he was always most at home. It was his custom to meet them every Saturday in a little chapel at a corner of the monastery grounds, and there recite with them the Litany of Our Lady and other prayers. His congregation was usually a large one, swelled by people from the village. One Saturday Joseph went to the chapel as usual, and found not a soul there. It was harvest time; shepherds and villagers were out in the meadows and had forgotten to tell him that that day they could not come. Joseph, knowing nothing of the reason, talked to himself about the fickleness of men in the service of God. As he spoke he looked down the valley in the distance. The sheep were in the fields, but there were no shepherds; only a few children to tend them. Joseph raised his voice.
“Sheep of God,” he cried, “come to me. Come and honor the Mother of God, who is also your Mother.”
Immediately the sheep all around looked up. They left their pasture, leaped over hedges and ditches, formed themselves into orderly companies, and gathered round Joseph at the chapel door. When all were assembled, Joseph knelt down and began:
“Baa,” answered the sheep.
And so it went on till the litany was finished. Then Joseph stood and blessed his congregation; and the sheep went back to their pastures as if nothing unusual had happened.
Oh come on, you know that’s funny!
Oh, and did I mention he could fly? Joseph would find himself in fits of ecstacy to the point that he would levitate off the ground and fly around. I bet the other “learned” Friars of his order couldn’t do that!
4. The Infant Jesus of Prague. This one has a special place in the heart of my family, for a very specific reason, and rather than relate the story of the Infant Jesus himself, I’ll tell you why we cherish him so dearly. When my brother was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Our father, terrified at the idea of losing his son, took me with him and went to see the priest that married he and my mother years beforehand. He told the priest that his son was sick and asked him what to do. The priest went back into his apartment and came out with a little statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. He told my father to put this statue at the head of my brother’s bed and he would be fine.
My father obeyed and after the surgery, my brother came through the surgery with no residual after affects. He is a healthy, strapping young man who has never been troubled with headaches, reoccurance of the tumor, or anything. And the statue was passed on to several other family members over the years who have gladly accepted it and come through their own health issues without problems. Our family credited the blessings of the Infant Jesus of Prague to the health and success of so many surgeries.
3. Naomi, from the Book of Ruth. Okay, so she’s not technically a saint. But Naomi is the namesake for my daughter. A fiesty woman whose name means “pleasantness”, Naomi submitted to her husband and moved with her family to Moab, a town that, at the time, was considered unclean by the Hebrews, as it’s origins were that of Moab, a son who was conceived from an incestuous union. Naomi’s husband and sons died while they were in Moab and she and her two daughter-in-laws were left in poverty.
Here’s why I love Naomi: Ruth, being the main character of the book, gets a lot of credit, but Naomi stands out to me as being such a brave, strong woman. She submits to her husband and follows him, and after his passing, she is strong enough to take on the responsibility of caring for her two daughter-in-laws while in Moab, then having the good sense to try to send them back to Moab when she decides it is time to return to Bethlehem. She is warm, caring and motherly, a woman who, despite the fact that she was dealt a poor hand, does not cower from it, and announces that God has dealt bitterly with her. She faces her challenges openly and reaps the rewards of trusting in God in the union of her beloved daughter-in-law, Ruth, to Boaz, and the birth of their son.
And then of course, there’s the Holy Family.
2. St. Joseph. How can you not love this guy? The warm, loving earthly father of Jesus. I really love to see a man who has the strength to not only care for his own children (like my own Handsome Hero) but who would also take on the responsibility of caring for some other man’s child. I once knew a man who refused to adopt children after he and his wife discovered they couldn’t have children because they weren’t his. I countered by saying, “Jesus wasn’t Joseph’s son! Look what he would’ve missed out if he hadn’t taken on that responsibility!”
I can imagine Joseph guiding and teaching the young child Jesus. Can’t you just imagine toddler Jesus hanging out in the woodshop with Joseph, babbling on as toddlers do while Joseph sands and cuts and whittles away? Or maybe a strapping young lad piling wood as his father chops it beside their house? How about the warm tender embrace as Joseph passes away, with Mary on one side and Jesus on the other? If you ask me, Joseph doesn’t get enough attention for the role he played in the upbringing and life of Jesus.
1. The Virgin Mary. This one should come as no surprise to anyone. Of course our family loves the Blessed Virgin — we’re Catholics! But the thing that I love most about the Virgin Mary? Naomi has chosen her as her patron saint.
We had a picture of her up in our room when Naomi was a little girl, and one day after I’d put her down in her crib for a nap, I heard her babbling away. I peaked in to see what was going on and discovered her standing up in her crib, starring intentedly at the picture, having a grand ol’ conversation! She also has several pictures and small statues that her grandmother and great grandmother have given her over the years, and she loves to take them to bed with her, talk to them, and talk about Mary. She frequently recognizes Mary when we’re out and about. “Look Mama! That’s Mary! That’s Jesus’ mommy!” It’s so sweet to see our daughter have such an innocent regard and love for the Holy Mother.