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IN A NUTSHELL
Saints can shed light on our journey.
During the season of Lent, there are a number of saints'
feast days the church remembers.
We can look to these saints to teach us how to live Lenten
lives of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
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Three pillars, three
By Effie Caldarola
Catholic News Service
The three pillars of Lent -- prayer, fasting, almsgiving --
enrich our spiritual life during this penitential season. But they can also be
Saints can shed light on our journey. So let's begin with
almsgiving and look to St.
Katharine Drexel as a profound example of the depth to which this
practice calls us.
In many ways, Drexel is a saint for our time. She died in 1955 at the age of 96, and her feast day of March 3 stands like a beacon
at the beginning of Lent.
Philadelphia into great wealth, Drexel was a debutante, a world traveler, a well-educated girl
who made the society pages. Using the jargon of the Gilded Age, when
extravagant displays of wealth marked success, she had every opportunity to
But Drexel heard a different call. Like a page out of
today's news, the plight of
people of color in the U.S. troubled her. On a European tour, she met Pope Leo XIII and
encouraged him to send more missionaries to serve Native Americans. The pontiff replied by asking her
why she didn't become a missionary.
Eventually, Katharine forsook her status to found an order
of missionary nuns and dedicate her life and fortune to serving Native and African-Americans.
Reportedly, this prompted a late
19th-century headline that could have been ripped from today's tabloids:
"Gives up Seven Million."
Among Drexel's achievements: the founding of Xavier University in New Orleans,
the first Catholic university
in the U.S. for African-Americans; 145 missions for Native Americans; and a system of black Catholic schools.
Drexel battled segregation until a heart attack forced her retirement in the 1930s.
Drexel's sanctity had its roots at home: Her father and
stepmother were pious and generous, reminding us that the example we give our
children makes a difference. Another lesson: Unlike Drexel or the rich young
man of the Gospel, we may not be called to give up everything, but our faith challenges
us all to give sacrificially and to reject the false idols of status and
All saints are examples of intense prayer, but St. Ignatius of Loyola is an
outstanding guide to deeper prayer during Lent. Despite being born in the
Basque country in 1491,
he has great relevance today. The Spiritual Exercises that he developed are
considered one of the most influential books on spirituality ever written, and
they have experienced a huge burst of popularity since the Second Vatican
Numerous books are available to guide ordinary people in the
Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and a quick online search of
"Ignatian spirituality" can lead to a wealth of help for Lent.
Like Drexel, Ignatius was born into wealth. A product of his
era, he was infatuated with romantic ideals of chivalry and warfare that he
believed proved one's manhood and won women's hearts.
But after his leg was seriously injured during combat, the
young nobleman was forced to spend weeks in bed recuperating, where he hoped to
read the romantic
literature of the era. Instead, the lives of the saints were available.
Ignatius began to discern the difference he felt in his
interior life after reading of saints versus reading of romantic heroes. It was the beginning of his
journey into understanding God's way of speaking to us in our own lives, a
journey he eventually shared with his followers, who became the Jesuits. Today,
he shares that journey of discernment with all who explore the treasure of his
During Lent, Catholics are asked to go beyond the fasting
proscribed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and "fast" in some way meaningful
to our unique faith journey. In a culture besotted with self-care and
self-indulgence, we often question whether ascetic practices like fasting are
Matt Talbot provides an example of someone who used asceticism to help
him on his journey from addiction to wholeness. Born into a large family,
Talbot lived in poverty-stricken, post-famine Ireland. He began work at age 12, and that's when a soul-consuming alcoholism took
At the age
of 28, Talbot, with the help of a confessor (and the Spiritual Exercises
of St. Ignatius!) began his journey of sobriety. His abstinence was accompanied
by a radical conversion. A laborer and a union man, he joined the Secular Franciscan Order, gave up another addiction
-- smoking -- and began to lead his ordinary life with extraordinary penance
Talbot is at the second rung of a four-step ladder to canonization. A miracle
attributed to his intercession could lead to him being declared "Blessed." But
in the meantime, thousands believe he has helped them in their struggle with
All of us are attached to something that impedes spiritual
growth. During Lent, fasting from a behavior -- drinking, gossiping, addictive
screen time -- that interferes with our relationship with Jesus can lead to
conversion. An attribute of Talbot was that people described him, despite his
self-denial, as a very happy man.
May the discipline of fasting, the discernment of prayer and
the justice of almsgiving bring us joy this Lent.
(Caldarola is a freelance writer and a columnist for
Catholic News Service.)
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Saints to know during Lent
By Maureen Pratt
your favorite saint?
what a simple, yet very complicated question!
child, I learned about saints from mostly secondhand sources and had no clear "favorite" of my
own. My first childhood religious book, whose tattered red cover and well-worn
pages show just how much I enjoyed it, was laden with illustrations and stories
of several saints, including St. Elizabeth, St. Bernadette de Soubirous and St. Joan of Arc --
too many amazing examples to choose just one.
adult relatives and teachers also told stories of the saints, and their
enthusiasm was contagious. I enjoyed learning and listening, but skirted overt
favoritism because I felt sometimes there was some friction, too, when
important decisions such as selecting a confirmation name arose or "St. ---"
was going to play "St. ---" in a hotly contested tournament!
left home for college, I still had no favorite saint. But I wanted to know
these holy men and women better, and no better way than to read what they
to read St. Thomas Aquinas' "Summa
Augustine of Hippo's "The
Confessions of Saint Augustine,"
and "The Passion of St.
Perpetua, St. Felicitas, and their Companions" (St. Perpetua's was the first woman saint's account
of her faith journey and martyrdom), and other original works by the saints.
learned the historical context of when and how they lived. And I learned more
details of their lives, struggles, hopes, faith and how they influenced one
another, too (St. Francis of
Assisi and St. Clare, for example).
No sound bites, these volumes!
It takes more time and effort to read through and understand a book penned by
someone who lived centuries ago or was from another culture. But the wisdom and
beauty of their words carry faith and God's grace straight from one heart and
soul to another like no abridged version can.
reading these classic works, I have deepened my personal connection with each
saint and found inspiration with these examples of holiness that strengthens
with each passing year.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's letters, available online
through the Vincentian
Heritage Collection (http://via.library.depaul.edu/vincentian_ebooks/9/),
give amazing insight into a woman guided by God but still in deep mourning for
profoundly human losses -- an inspiration for anyone who is also suffering.
"The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila" by St. Teresa of Avila is a stirring
account of her devotion to God, even, at times, in the midst of great physical
pain and external challenge.
St. Francis de Sales' "Philotea" (or
"An Introduction to the Devout
Life") gives constructive, practical guidance for living in the world,
but not of it (and allows glimpses into his sense of humor, too, which helps us
get to know him all the more).
to our time, St. John Paul II wrote many books and other works that inspire and
instruct us today (his papal letters and other works can be read for free on
his website: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en.html).
St. Teresa of Kolkata (Mother Teresa) also left us a
treasure of written work that allows us to "meet" her at any time, especially
Lent, when our thoughts and prayers turn to renewal of our lives and work for
just developed another and very painful manifestation of lupus -- autoimmune
The symptoms and the medication to treat them have limited my ability to move
about, so this Lent, I'll be much more isolated. But I won't be alone.
Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Teresa of Kolkata, St. Francis De
Sales and others are right at hand.
blessing that I don't have a "favorite" saint -- with each one I "meet," I
discover more about what it means to live with courage, love and faith. Put
another way, I can't think of one I'd ignore!
(Pratt is a columnist for Catholic News Service. Her website
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Saints with feast
days this Lent
By Paul Senz
Catholic News Service
The lives of
the saints are presented to us by the church as exemplars of a Christian life.
We look to their example for instruction on how to live our faith, how to guide
ourselves into a life in Christ. During the season of Lent, there are a number
of saints' feast days that can be particularly instructive.
date of Easter is not fixed -- it is celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal
(spring) equinox -- the dates
that fall under Lent change from year to year. This broadens the potential for
different saints' feast days to fall during this holy season.
We strive to
commemorate the feasts of these holy men and women while maintaining a reverent
and penitential disposition. This does not mean we must be somber-faced.
contrary: This means we should look at how these saints can help us live Lenten
lives. Here are a few examples of saints whose feasts fall during Lent this
year, and how they can help us in this way.
March 7 is the feast of Sts. Felicity and Perpetua. These holy women and their companions were
martyred in Roman Carthage around A.D.
203. Perpetua was a woman of noble birth,
and Felicity her slave; not even yet baptized, the women were catechumens, so completely taken
with the Gospel of Jesus Christ that they willingly gave their lives for the
sake of their faith.
Katharine Drexel is another figure who has left us a wonderful example of the
self-sacrifice that is part and parcel of authentically living Lent, emptying
ourselves for the sake of others.
in 1858 in Philadelphia,
grew up quite wealthy, but with the understanding that the family's wealth was
to be shared with others.
inherited the family fortune, she dedicated herself to caring for Native
Americans and African-Americans. Pope Leo XIII encouraged her to become a
missionary during an audience, and she eventually founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.
After starting more than 60
Xavier University in New Orleans), St. Katharine Drexel died in 1955. We celebrate
her feast on March 3.
There is one
more saint I would like to look at, whose feast falls during Lent: St. Joseph.
This solemnity is
typically marked on March 19,
but in 2017 the feast is moved
to March 20. (March 19
is the third Sunday of Lent this year.)
great exemplars of a Christian life, St. Joseph stands out as a particular
model. As husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, St. Joseph dedicated his
every moment and effort to the well-being of those in his charge -- true
many more saints whose feasts fall during Lent this year, whose stories provide
guidance for us today; and there are a great many more beyond that who can
serve as examples of how to live Lenten lives.
(Senz is a freelance writer living in Oregon with his family.)
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FOOD FOR THOUGHT
This year, St. Patrick's feast day, March 17, falls on a
Friday during Lent. When this occurs, some diocesan bishops grant dispensations
from observing the norm for abstinence from meat on Fridays in Lent. Instead, bishops often recommend
another form of penance or charitable work to continue the spirit of Lent for
The Code of Canon Law states that "for a just cause and
according to the prescripts of the diocesan bishop, a pastor can grant in
individual cases a dispensation from the obligation of observing a feast day or
a day of penance, or can grant a commutation of the obligation into other pious
works" (Canon 1245).
Although the code allows for individual dispensations,
bishops are able to grant dispensations to all members of his diocese. Irish
Catholics, all those devoted to St. Patrick and all Catholics can look to their
diocesan website or call the diocesan office to find out if a dispensation has
been granted in their diocese.
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