As a convert to Catholicism, people often ask me two questions.
First, how is it that a girl who grew up Hindu came into the Catholic Church? The (very) short answer is the Eucharist. Jesus revealed himself to me in the Blessed Sacrament and it started a journey that will continue until my final breath. The second question I often get asked is: What do I love about the faith? While I am normally loath to choose favorites, I surprisingly have an answer. Aside from the Eucharist, it is beyond a doubt the communion of saints.
I love that we have a family of ancestors in the faith who have gone before us, who have lived “normal” human lives with extraordinary faith and shown heroic virtue even in the middle of some enormous messes. Having felt like a bit of a misfit through much of my life, I am drawn to the wideness of the communion of saints that honors each unique life lived in pursuit of Christ. That we honor these men and women with feasts and solemnities in our liturgical calendar demonstrates the importance their lives continue to play in our own.
As summer turns to autumn, we encounter some powerhouse saints (and those on the road to sainthood)! St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. Andrew Kim and the Korean Martyrs, St. Padre Pio, St. Vincent de Paul, St. Jerome, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, Blessed Carlo Acutis, St. Teresa of Avila and Pope St. John Paul II are just some of the names we come across on the calendar as we head toward the Solemnity of All Saints in November. It is a great time to challenge your family to consider what the lives of these holy men and women can teach us about our own call to discipleship and holiness, and how you can live that out together. Here are a few of our favorites!
FIND YOUR OWN CALCUTTA
St. Teresa of Calcutta: Sept. 5
Faced with multitudes of people who wanted to go serve with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, Mother Teresa encouraged people to begin by looking instead to their own communities — to find their own Calcutta. Pope Francis refers to families as a “vital cell to transforming our world.” Take time to reflect on how your family is called to be a living witness of Christ’s love to those in need. What spiritual and corporal works of mercy pull on your heartstrings? Who in your community can your family help to know the love and mercy of God?
GO DEEPER: Consider making a family commitment to support a local organization living out the works of mercy like the Catholic Charities Works of Mercy Center, the Pope Francis Center, Jail Outreach Ministry, Deo Gratias Ministry, Mary’s Mantle, Gianna House, Earthworks Garden, Capuchin Soup Kitchen and your own parish’s St. Vincent dePaul Society (who we celebrate on Sept. 26.)
SEEK GOD NOW
St. Andrew Kim & Korean Martyrs: Sept. 20
St. Andrew Kim Tae-gŏn was the first Korean-born priest, but the Catholic faith had spread through Korea before any priest had arrived in the country. Don’t wait for someone else to come along before you grow in faith. Take charge of deepening your family’s relationship with Christ, and don’t be afraid to invite others into it.
GO DEEPER: Start a Bible study together (and consider inviting a neighbor). Pray over one another and for one another. Watch The Chosen as a family. Use 52 Sundays to grow together.
St. Therese of Lisieux: Oct 1
When people think of St. Therese, they often think of roses. And yet, it is the Little Flower who reminds us that “if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” This is true among the saints as well. The beauty of our canon of saints lies in the tremendous diversity we find in their ranks — religious, priests, martyrs, children, married men and women, sinners who grew into heroic virtue, broken people who allowed God to work through them. They all inspire and encourage us to discover the unique call in our lives and our family’s mission in the world. Take time to learn about saints from around the world and create a saint squad that fits your family.
GO DEEPER: Learn about a new saint each week using Jennifer Fulwiler’s online Saint Name Generator. Read captivating stories from Saints Around the World by Meg Hunter-Kilmer and Lindsey Sanders. Shine a light on the saints to discover more about them with the interactive Light of the Saints book by Corey Heimann and Tricia Dugat. Add a few saint peg dolls to the action figures and LEGOs lying around the house (they don’t hurt as much when stepped on either).
PRAISE GOD IN ALL THINGS
St. Francis of Assisi: Oct. 4
In his Canticle of the Sun, St. Francis writes a beautiful hymn of praise to God, the creator of all things. His words give life to the way our very being cries out with the glory of God. In a busy world, we can become preoccupied with the tasks at hand and lose our sense of wonder. Take time to sit in awe of God and the works of his hand. Connect with creation. Gaze at the stars. Watch the birds and squirrels at play. Plant bulbs for the spring. Take the family on a hike and enjoy the changing colors of the leaves. Discover the interconnectedness of all creation and our place in it.
GO DEEPER: Consider a family trip to the zoo, a nature center or an observatory to explore God’s creative imagination.
LET YOUR CHILDREN LEAD
Blessed Carlo Acutis: Oct. 12
Blessed Carlo Acutis entered eternal life at the age of 15. In his short life, he befriended the poor and the bullied, served the homeless, created a website cataloging eucharistic miracles throughout the world and helped to inspire a traveling exhibit that we have likely seen in some of our own parishes! Help your kids embrace their personalities and interests to creatively use them for the glory of God.
GO DEEPER: Let your kids plan a faith-enriching activity centered on one of their hobbies. Guide and encourage, but let them take the lead!
John Paul II: Oct. 22
There are many lessons from the life of Pope St. John Paul II, but his lasting witness is that of suffering well. The adage of “offer it up” comes to mind, but with great tenderness in his example. His life was one lived in solidarity with the suffering. Challenge your family to unite their inconveniences and hardships in prayerful solidarity with those who suffer around the world.
GO DEEPER: Create a prayer board that focuses on a specific marginalized, persecuted or impoverished community around the world each week to center your prayer. Learn more about their hardships and offer intentional sacrifices for them.