St. Gina, Patron of Nominally Catholic Spouses

Sometimes – quite frequently – I ask myself the following two questions:

  1. What would have to do, in my particular circumstances, to become a saint?
  2. Which living Catholics do I think should become saints?

The answers to both questions tend to lead me to the same answer, but unfortunately it’s one that I seem to forget even more often than I think about it. I think the answers are something like this:

  1. Seize every opportunity in my life that defines my life as my life to turn towards God.
  2. The people who seize every opportunity in their lives that define their lives as their lives to turn towards God.

Essentially, if I ever want to become a saint, I need to stay in my own lane and focus on getting holy right here. I think that many of us among the “non-(practising)-Catholic-spouse” crowd feel like we have somehow already excluded ourselves from the possibility of sainthood. The saints will be the ones who waited and waited until God provided them with the Perfect Catholic Spouse to raise the Perfect Catholic Family, we tell ourselves.

And for some people, that is their path to sainthood. I am not undermining the goodness and holiness of spurning the ‘wrong’ men in the patient and unknowing wait for the ‘right’ one. Nor do I wish to undermine those Catholic families we all see on Instagram who celebrate several feast days per week, wear coordinating outfits for all the major Holy Days, and seem to have their entire existence infused with Catholicism. Those people do a genuine, holy service for many people by exemplifying how beautiful a devoutly Catholic family life can be.

But, God is not asking me to be one of those people. He genuinely isn’t. Nor does He think “well, you’ve made some wrong choices so I’ll just do my best with an already messed up attempt to be holy.” My capacity for holiness is no less than that of Mrs. Daily Mass with 12 Kids (that’s not meant to be aimed at anyone in particular!). My capacity for holiness lies in my willingness to trust God with the life He has given me, to turn towards Him especially in the moments where I can’t see Him, and to pray for the holiness of everyone around me, regardless of where I think they relate to me on the scale of sanctity.

As a young Catholic woman, wife, and mother – early in her journey of each of those three things – what can I be doing to become holier than I am now?

  • Above all, praying for greater trust in God
  • Praying that I will be a good wife and mother
  • Praying that my husband and kids will see God’s light shine through me
  • Love and serve my husband and kids, even when I don’t feel like it
  • Prioritise prayer and Sacraments, avoiding excuses about why I don’t have time
  • Pray that I’ll be attentive to opportunities to grow in holiness
  • Love everyone I encounter to the best of my ability

That’s just an “off the top of my head” list, which could very easily be several tens of pages long. Many of the things I should be doing are the things that we should all be doing, and others are of particular importance in my life and situation. The point is, I mustn’t throw my hands in the air in despair and say “well I don’t have any chance anyway, so what’s the point?” I should be living my life as though my chances of making it to Heaven are just as good as anyone else’s – which they are.

I like to think that if I make it there, I’ll be interceding for people struggling with being the sole carriers of faith in their families. I would like to continue the work started on this blog once I have actual access to Jesus! What about you – what will you be patron saint of?

 

Pope St. John Paul II: Free, Total, Faithful, and Fruitful

When I chose the name for this blog – Faithful and Fruitful – it was simply because these adjectives expressed how I want to live my vocation to marriage:

Faithfully, to my spouse and to this sacrament;

and fruitfully, meaning that I want my marriage to bear fruit in terms of children and virtue, but also that I want my marriage to bear fruit for my spiritual life, even if that spiritual life is not shared with my spouse.

But would you believe, I had no idea that this quote is often attributed to Pope St. John Paul II, famed for his beautiful theology of marriage:

“True love is free, total, faithful, and fruitful.”

Now, I have to be honest. After scouring the Internet and consulting a group of highly knowledgeable Catholic ladies, I cannot find the original source of this quote. It has been suggested that it may be some kind of paraphrasing of some section of Pope St. John Paul II’s extensive (and somewhat dense) Theology of the Body.

Even if that is the case, it seemed to me rather providential that these two words – “faithful” and “fruitful” – that I completely unknowingly chose for the name of this blog, should be words that Pope St. John Paul II likely used to describe a holy marriage.

For me, it was a timely reminder that this is truly our call, and our vocation, despite the difficulties that many of us face in not sharing our faith with our spouses. God has called you to holiness through this most holy sacrament. Your call to holiness is not any less because your spouse doesn’t understand the holiness of the vocation to marriage. If anything, it is even greater – you are the spiritual leader of the family, and your commitment to living a Christ-centred life bears even more weight.

I hope you feel encouraged, and renewed in your desire to be the home of prayer and peace within your family!

Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us!

Lessons from Elisabeth

The Secret Diary of Elisabeth Leseur was one of those books I read where more of the text was highlighted than wasn’t once I reached the end. Whilst this is testament to the beautiful wisdom, encouragement and spiritual insight contained within the pages, it makes it a little tricky to flick back through the pages to find the particularly useful or interesting passages. So many of them are useful and interesting!

So, I decided to compile the key takeaways from this spiritual powerhouse. I also hope this will be a useful resource for those who don’t have time to read it themselves.

  1. Prayer is the most humble and effective act of charity

This is perhaps the most spiritually transformative lesson I learned from Elisabeth. She talks constantly about the importance of both charity and humility in the Christian life, and tells us that prayer is the most humble and useful act of charity that a Christian can do. How so? Well firstly, it is a private act, maybe even completely silent, so it will not attract the praise and affirmation of onlookers. But even more importantly, we may not get the gratification of seeing the answer to our prayers. Whilst we know with certainty that God hears and answers all our acts of petition or prayer, we do not always see how. Perhaps He has breathed peace into the heart of a suffering loved one; maybe He has spoken words of comfort through one friend to another; or it could be that a small sacrifice offered for His glory has brought a suffering soul in purgatory a little closer to Heaven.

Don’t be mistaken. Elisabeth is also clear that more tangible acts of charity are essential when circumstances allow. However, her words remind us that wherever we are, whatever our circumstances, we can offer the most important act of charity simple by offering our prayers to the Lord.

2. Love unbelievers wholly, entirely, without restraint

Many people, myself included, are initially drawn to Elisabeth’s writings because of her marriage to Felix, an atheist until after Elisabeth’s death when he not only converted but became a priest! Elisabeth writes a lot about her deep desire for Felix to know God and to share her faith. She speaks frankly about the loneliness and isolation she feels at not being able to share the deep, unshakeable love and joy she has in the Lord. She longs for Felix to know his Creator, to experience faith in a deep, personal way as well as to understand it intellectually.

But what is especially striking is that she has no sense of superiority, or frustration with her husband – in spite of the fact that Felix could, reportedly, be very cruel to her about her faith, going so far as to try to prevent her from participation in the sacramental life. Having a husband who doesn’t share my beliefs myself, I know all too well the inclination to feel exasperated by his lack of interest in learning about Christianity, and can so quickly become rigid and cold and defensive when matters of faith (or lack thereof) and family life arise.

Elisabeth shows us that we should pray unceasingly for our unbelieving loved ones, but that we should be soft, gentle and loving towards them. We must never view them as deficient because of their unbelief. We must be willing to learn from them, rather than believing that they must learn from us. And this should be done in a spirit of true love and devotion to them – not simply in the hope that we can charm them into coming to faith.

3. We should educate ourselves about faith 

This point was intriguing to me, as I consider myself too much ‘head’ and not enough ‘heart’ when it comes to faith. I can read and read, but I struggle to sit down in silence and talk with God. Of course, Elisabeth is not telling us that ‘heart’ doesn’t matter; she has a beautiful interior spirituality which we learn about in her diary. But she’s making the case that especially for those of us who find ourselves surrounded by non-believers, it is a duty to ensure that we are well grounded in theology, doctrine, writings of Church doctors, and of course Scripture, so that we can feel secure and confident when expressing our beliefs in a way that is communicable to those who cannot understand the ‘heart’ aspect of faith.

These are my main takeaways from Elisabeth’s diary, but there is so much depth and richness in the book that I encourage everyone to read it! In the meantime, I am keeping all those who pray for the conversion of a loved one in my own prayers, and asking for Elisabeth’s intercession.

Servant of God, Elisabeth Leseur, pray for us!