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St. Bernadette Soubirous
Saints

St. Bernadette lived for the happiness of heaven

As a mom, I seek to use Mama Mary’s words as I parent. I figure that they are a pretty good model for what should come out of my mouth.

Recently, I shared a beautiful parenting moment with a couple of my teenagers. As they sat on the couch, late at night, at the foot of my bed, I begged God to give me the grace to stay awake and speak truth during this conversation. My husband and I often joke that teenagers are like gremlins – they thrive in the nighttime hours.

As they began to share their hearts, a common theme was echoed: happiness, or lack thereof. What is it really? How do you stay happy? Is it OK to not be happy sometimes?

Silently, I thanked the Lord for relationships that have been watered over time to get us to this point of trust. Then I smiled and gave a heart nudge to Mother Mary who always has my back. We mamas always have each other’s backs.

“I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next.” – Our Lady of Lourdes to St. Bernadette Soubirous

Mother Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858. Bernadette was from a large and very poor family. Her father was a miller operating his wife’s family mill until it was foreclosed. He then picked up day work. Bernadette’s mother was a hardworking, faithful woman who also picked up odd jobs from those better off to supplement the family income.

From an early age, Bernadette was sent off to a family friend to be a mother’s helper. Sometimes a shepherdess, sometimes a house maid, she maintained her kind demeanor despite suffering with asthma, which would be a struggle her whole life.

While away, Bernadette missed her family. She wrote to her mother that she was worried because she had not received her first Holy Communion and that desire lay heavily on her heart. Bernadette was brought home and enrolled in the nearby school where she was taught her catechism.

One morning, Bernadette and her sister were sent to gather firewood. It was during this errand that a beautiful lady dressed in white and blue appeared in the grotto of Massabielle. She smiled at Bernadette, made the sign of the cross with a rosary made of ivory and gold, and began to pray. Bernadette went to her knees and joined her.

These visits became more frequent and drew more attention. The culmination of her visits with the beautiful lady happened on the ninth one when she was asked to drink water from the spring. Not seeing a spring, Bernadette began to dig in a patch of muddy grass and water. From this began to flow water until a spring indeed appeared from which many healings have occurred over the years.

Many doubted St. Bernadette’s visions. She was scrutinized multiple times by officials, but her accounts stayed consistent. She did not like the attention directed at her. She became a sister in Nevers, France, and led a quiet life, which was often interrupted by visitors and sceptics wanting to hear the story of Lourdes. She visited with them patiently, and her face always shone brightly as she recalled her time spent with Mother Mary.

I reminded my children of this story as I listened and prayed. On one of St. Bernadette’s visits to the grotto, Mother Mary told her that she could not promise her happiness in this world, but in the next.

I love this quote and speak it often as to the importance of not living for this world but for the next. We must allow ourselves to be formed in this time so that we may enter heaven worthy and ready.

Happiness is fleeting. Joy is constant. Joy comes from knowing who we are and whose we are. I am so grateful that as a mother, I can constantly point my children to truth, and Mama Mary always gives me the words.

St. Bernadette lived for heaven. She had experienced a glimpse of the joy and peace that are not of this world. She endured and persevered through her suffering in kindness and humility. So, too, can we make this offering to our heavenly Father.

The feast of St. Bernadette is celebrated on April 16. St. Bernadette’s body lies incorrupt in the shrine at Nevers.

This article first appeared in the Catholic Times.

Image of St. Bernadette Soubirous, public domain.

St Maria Goretti
Faith Traditions, Saints

Walking with the Saints: St. Maria Goretti

A frequently quoted mantra in our home is that your story starts and ends with mercy. It is written on the white board that holds family announcements. It is brought out when mistakes are made, feelings are hurt and we desire to make amends with ourselves, those we’ve hurt, and especially with the Lord. Mercy is lived out in our home in very tangible ways. Without mercy, there can be no love, for we are all flawed as humans, and breathing mercy allows us continually begin again on our path to heaven.

How blessed we are to be part of a Church that preaches and lives a Gospel message of mercy; a Church which lifts up those within the Church as models and companions with whom we should strive to know more fully.  In a society where role models are frequently found from the front cover of a supermarket magazine, it is heartening to see the story of Maria Goretti shared and spoken of by so many of our youth. She is a relatively new saint in the church and a young one as well. Her virtues of purity, fortitude, and mercy are living examples of the power of forgiveness, and we hold tight to them in our everyday lives bearing witness to the grace that mercy can bring. 

St. Maria Goretti

Saint Maria Goretti was born into a poor Italian tenant farming family. She had no schooling and no ability to read or write. Her family shared a home with another family after the death of her father. She was at the age of twelve when one of the older sons came into the home and attacked her. Though she fought this attack, she also continually reminded the young man, Alessandro Serenelli, that this was a mortal sin and would send him to hell for his actions. She was stabbed repeatedly and died shortly after. Upon her deathbed, she forgave her attacker.

Serenelli was sentenced to thirty years in jail. While in jail, he received a vision of Maria in a dream, bringing him flowers, one for each wound he had inflicted upon her. From that point on, his life began a new course and his first act after being released from prison after 27 years was to go to Maria’s mother and beg forgiveness.

Devotion to this small but faithful martyr grew, and in less than half a century, on June 24, 1950, Maria Goretti was declared a saint. Her mother, sisters, and brother attended her canonization, along with her attacker Alessandro, who had joined the Capuchin friars.

Allowing ourselves to walk with Maria Goretti is akin to the hard task of learning to love Jesus like a child. In her, we see a strong and pure desire to love and serve the Lord. She is not a saint who was well catechized. She could not quote Scripture. Her witness of purity and mercy is simple and fervent. Reading her story, one can feel this, as from her deathbed she desires to be in heaven one day with her attacker. She pleads for him from heaven, teaching us that prayers go beyond death; that God can make all things new. Her mercy gives us courage to forgive the deepest wounds against us or our family and to trust that mercy can heal and redeem.

In Maria Goretti, we have a beautiful saint to whom especially our youth, but all of us as well, may seek intercession for pure hearts and minds. We also receive the gift of a saint whose life began and ended with mercy. Saint Maria Goretti, pray for us.

Saint Maria Goretti’s feast day is July 6. She is the patron saint of purity, victims of sexual assault, young girls, and mercy.

This article first appeared at CatholicMom.com

Image licensed via Adobe Stock.

Child peaking at Mom praying for Striving for Sainthood
Family, Life, Parenthood, Reflections, Saints

Striving for Sainthood: Saints Living Among Us

It is always good counsel to walk with a friend who brings you closer to the best version of yourself. Some people draw you to them in wonder, as you see the way they live their life and we seek to imitate them. Some people make you shift a bit in your seat at their outspoken nature in professing their faith. They live life intentionally with a laser-like focus on their mission.

I’ve shared often here about walking with the saints in our church: St. Monica, St. Andrew. St. Anthony, and St. Thérèse; there are so many examples of holy men and women in our church’s history.

This time however, I feel called to write about those striving to be saints among us and how we can have eyes to see them. Saint is an often-overused term. Webster’s defines it as a very virtuous, kind, or patient person. Surely, we encounter these people in our everyday lives, and yet there is more. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops define a saint as “the members of the Church who have arrived at perfect union with Christ, who join their wills to the will of God in praying for those in the Church. When we encounter someone who is striving for sainthood among us, we feel it in our soul. We are uncomfortable but drawn in. These “saints” among us live the everyday life as we do but do it with a joy that is palpable. They shine light amid the cobwebs that have gathered in front of our hearts and eyes. We see something in them that calls to us. That something is love. That love is Christ.

I have encountered numerous living saints on my journey and knowing them has taught me to examine my life and strive to be more in relationship with Jesus because of their example. Living saints make us both uncomfortable and aware of their passion and peace. We strive to walk with them and learn from them and then go out, like they do, on mission. For as Pope Benedict reminds us, “We are not made for comfort, we are made for greatness.” 

A few years ago, I met a young man who made me uncomfortable with his zest for Christ. He challenged me with his unbound zeal for missionary life. He was freer than anyone I have ever met! He spoke of freedom as something given not attained. This young man sang praise and preached mercy in coffee shops, at dinner tables, car rides, and grocery stores. He made and continues to make me uncomfortable in the best of ways. He laughs and cries purely. He gives and prays fully. He reminds me of John the Baptist in his quest to prepare the way for the Lord. He is an unending wick on a candle burning with love for Jesus Christ and he will never not be on mission. 

I have been blessed to know another soul with a missionary heart and a zest for the Lord, meeting him early on in my marriage. The Lord is his joy and stronghold and he has rooted his work, his vocation, his community and most importantly his heart upon this truth. Rarely does it seem that a decision is made without being in conversation with the Lord. His discernment is true. His efforts are motivated with love. His heart is sincere and while we may disagree from time to time, I know his heart to be true. He manages his time in such a way as to be very successful professionally and personally. He is humble and grateful for all blessings. He seeks to share his blessings because he knows they were gifts to him. James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift is from above.” 

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Another glimpse is of a woman who is a mother working outside the home. She is a lawyer on mission and a young mom of many. She raises her young children to love the Lord. She leads a praying home. Her children revere the Lord and dress up as priests on occasion. She comes from a faithful family. She and her husband are joyful and kind. Undoubtedly life gets messy and there are hardships, but they persevere. They continually give of their time, talent, and treasure as they are able. They live a just life and seek to carry on the mission of the Church. It seems ordinary but is daring in their quest to live the Christian life as a witness. We all need these witnesses. 

Carlo Acutis is a young blessed in our church; which means he is being considered for sainthood. He died in 2006 at the age of 15. He lived in Milan, Italy, and from the age of 7, after receiving his first holy Communion, attended daily Mass. He was outspoken in praying his Rosary and leading others to Jesus. He used modern technology in a way as to bring others to Jesus. Such outspoken words such as, “To be always united to Jesus is my program of life.” He lived life with an urgency saying that “Every minute that passes is a minute less to be like God.”

Carlo came from a home described as barely lukewarm in its Catholicism. His mother remembers going to Mass three times in her life; Baptism, first Communion, and Confirmation. Carlo is interesting and inspiring to me in his fervency for spreading the gospel with joy but also his desire to be in right relationship with the Lord and mother Mary. Here is an example of a modern saint in the making who lives by example, bringing others to Christ. 

We are all saints in the making. At least that is our call. That is our mission. Whether it be outspoken and counter cultural like John the Baptist or selfless and servant hearted in raising up a family like Saint Zélie, sainthood is achievable! This is truly our purpose here on Earth. Have you ever felt that tug on your life for something bigger? Has something someone said led you to search for more? May we all take a moment to reflect on the people who have challenged us by their words and actions to be better versions of ourselves. May we too strive for sainthood by being living examples of Christ’s light in the world. Our church needs us now more than ever.

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Copyright 2021 MaryBeth Eberhard
Images: Canva Pro

This article first appeared at CatholicMom.com