What St. Margaret of Cortona Can Teach to Women

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In recent months, I discovered a saint that I never met before: St. Margaret of Cortona. I first learned her name while I was browsing my parish’s Lighthouse Catholic Media kiosk. There was a CD about her paired with Saint Augustine as a saint for sinners. Given how familiar I was with Augustine’s story, I had to wonder how this other woman could’ve compared in terms of flagrant sinning and heartfelt penance.

It’s a brand new year and in the story of my life, I begin a new chapter as I turn 27 years old. When people reach their birthday, they often reflect on the previous year. In many ways 2016 to me was a year of friendship. I came to value my friends in Heaven, in the city that I call home, in my old hometown, and online. St. Margaret of Cortona became one of these new friends. At the same time, my friendship with two other ladies fell apart. These friendships were with Rory Gilmore and Taylor Swift.

I know what you’re thinking. Rory Gilmore is a fictional character and Taylor Swift is a celebrity. I’m not actually friends with either of them. That is true, but for the longest time, I felt like these two females were like best friends to me. Rory Gilmore was the friend I had in middle school, back when Gilmore Girls was on TV. I related to Rory because she liked to read, she went to a school where everyone wore uniforms like I did, and she wanted to go to college and be a journalist, which were my dreams at the time. Taylor Swift felt like my best friend when I started living in Texas. Her songs of the boys who broke her heart resonated with 16-year-old me and she stayed with me as I transitioned from high school to college and from college into young adulthood.

2016 changed all that. I started binge watching Gilmore Girls in anticipation of the new mini-series revival coming to Netflix in November. (Incidentally: Spoilers ensue for Year In The Life.)

Initially, I felt nostalgic, seeing Stars Hollow and watching Rory survive Chilton and make her way to Yale. When she got started at Yale, though, I started feeling disappointed in her. She was still in love with Dean to the point that she slept with him, even though he was married. She hooks up with Logan in Season 5 and decides to drop out of Yale when she steals a boat as a reaction to Logan’s father telling her she’s not cut out to be a journalist. I skipped Season 7 and jumped straight into Year In The Life in the hopes that things would get better, but the mini-series turned out to be a mixed bag. Rory’s character regressed from bad to worse.

She was perfectly happy being Logan’s mistress until she realizes that he was going to honor his “arranged marriage.” And mind you, I actually liked Logan for a while. I also didn’t like her “struggles” in making a living as a freelance writer. She didn’t put much effort into chasing stories that would land her a byline. The only story she did pursue bored her to death and she slept with a guy dressed as a Wookie in the process. There was a website that wanted her to write for them, but she showed up to the interview completely unprepared and later lashed out at the website’s owner when she gave the job to someone else. Then, of course, was the end of the mini-series. I don’t want to spoil for those who didn’t watch. All I can say is I rolled my eyes and went “Here we go again.”

As far as Taylor Swift went, she started 2016 off well, but the pedestal I had for her shook when she broke up with Calvin and started having a feud with him. Bad news in regards to Taylor Swift kept coming. I hated that she dated Tom Hiddleston and felt happy when they broke up. I was hoping she’d start making a new album, as she did every two years, but instead, towards the end of 2016, she released a song she did from former One Direction band member Zayn for the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack.

It felt like a stab in the back. I looked the other way when she became friends with Lena Dunham and tried to make peace with her removing her songs from Spotify. But for someone who claimed to be a feminist, contributing a song to a movie that continue to glamorize an abusive relationships was the last thing I wanted her to do. What’s worse is that the lyrics are sad, and not in the sad, beautiful, tragic way some of her other songs were. “I Don’t Want To Live Forever’s” lyrics capture a state of despair and co-dependent tendencies. I wanted Taylor to be happy and thought that she was after releasing 1989 and being in a relationship with Calvin. The Taylor I knew doesn’t exist anymore.

So back to Margaret of Cortona. What does she have with these two ladies? Well, like Taylor Swift, her life was sort of like the beginning of a fairy tale. She had a tumultuous relationship with her father and a stepmother who could give Lady Tremaine or Regina Mills a run for their money. Margaret, however, had an independent spirit, which gave her the strength to stand up to her wicked stepmother. Unfortunately, she was also “by nature one of those women who thirst for affection, in whom to be loved is the imperative need of their lives,” according to Fr. Albert Goodier. She became willful and reckless and eventually left her family.

Starved for love and being a woman who was quite beautiful, Margaret eventually became the mistress of a wealthy nobleman and ends up having his child. It’s not unlike how Rory Gilmore spent almost a decade being Logan’s mistress and feeling complacent in that relationship until he honors his marriage to someone else. But unlike Rory Gilmore, whose story arc in Year in the Life can be summed up as being the Poor Little Rich Girl, Margaret actually tried to make something of her life even after she leaves her love her and her family disowns her.

St. Margaret of Cortona went to live with an order of Franciscan monks who helped her take care of her kid. She dedicated the rest of her life to atoning for her former sinful life. Like Saint Francis, she worked for her meals and took whatever her employers paid her. Eventually, she would give her wages to those who needed it more. She founded a hospital, created a confraternity so that the hospital would always have employees, and eventually helped to restore a church.

So why am I writing about St. Margaret of Cortona now? According to Fr. Goodier, St. Margaret had her change of heart around the age of 27. As of right now, I am the same age as Taylor Swift and five years younger than Rory Gilmore. If there’s one New Year’s Resolution that I want to keep this year, it’s that I pick some better role models. I think St. Margaret of Cortona would be a good one for me, as well as for single moms and any other woman with relationship issues.

St. Margaret of Cortona, pray for us.

Free Lent Bible Study And Journal!

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This year on Heart of Mary Women’s Fellowship, my fellow Bible study writers and I have all collaborated for the awesome Lent Bible Study which focuses on the Stations of the Cross and saints that “give witness” to each particular station. On Saturdays, there will be a meditation on some Catholic hymns.

To quote today’s introduction by Christine Cooney:

Does this sound like a lot to you? Because it’s not. We’re taking it all day by day, and to help you, we’ve put together a downloadable guide to work through right along with us. It’s perfect for private and personal study, but will also provide plenty of contemplation for small group discussions.

Join us as we contemplate the cross. For, as Pope Francis says,

“The Cross of Christ contains all the love of God; there we find his immeasurable mercy. This is a love in which we can place all our trust, in which we can believe…Let us entrust ourselves to Jesus, let us give ourselves over to him.” 

Download the study journal here!

Also, feel free to follow the Spotify playlist!

7 Quick Takes on Seven Saints for 2016

 

 

One tradition that Catholics have in the new year is that they pick a saint to be their patron for the year. Usually, it’s done using Jennifer Fulwiler’s Saint Generator. However, one of my New Year’s Resolutions is to get to know more than one saint. So for today, I’m gonna do a Seven Quick Takes on seven saints that I want to get to know this year.

 

— 1 —

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The Saint Generator gave me Saint Zita. I first read about her in an A-Z book of saints from my local library. Saint Zita is the patron saint of homemakers, housekeepers, servants, domestic workers, etc. Basically, she’s the patron saint for the downstairs half of Downton Abbey. She was born in Lucca, Italy around the time that Saint Francis was beginning his ministry, so it’s no surprise that she dedicated her life to helping the poor, sick, and imprisoned. It’s not certain whether she was married, but she didn’t enter a religious order either, so she’s a great saint for single women who work on the grind. Plus, if you ever have to deal with flack from co-workers, Zita understands that struggle all to well, so ask for the patience that she had with her fellow servants.

Also, she’s one of the incorrupt saints. That’s something I consider majorly cool.

— 2 —

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Another saint that I want to get to know this year is Saint Teresa of Avila. She was the Teresa that inspired St. Therese of Lisieux and helped reform the Carmelite Order. I’m reading bits and pieces of her autobiography, The Way of Perfection, and The Interior Castle. I love how she describes the soul as a castle made out of a single diamond with many rooms inside. I feel like that’s how I see my own identity. I also love her prayer of “Let Nothing Disturb You” because it feels more like a meditation or a grounding mantra. Just thinking of it right now makes me feel at ease.

— 3 —

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I’ve already written about Mother Teresa, so without repeating myself, I just want to say that out of all the saints I’ve been reading and admiring, Mother Teresa is the one that I want to emulate the most. I want to be able to go out into the world and show God’s compassion to everyone, regardless of whatever faith or social class they’re in. I want to have her compassion for the sick, the poor, the dying, as well as for those who are spiritually bankrupt. I hope I get to watch her canonization in September.

— 4 —

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Mary Magdalene continues to be an enigma for me, even with the headcanons that I have for her. But instead of trying to speculate over who she was, I’m gonna start by going with what I do know. She was a Jewish woman. She was a leader amongst the disciples, especially with the female faction. She had seven demons exorcised out of her. She was there for Jesus during his crucifixion, burial, and was the first to see Him in his resurrection.

Many saints looked to her as a model for constant penitence because of her reputation as a fallen woman. She can be seen in a feminist subtext as someone who stood out amongst the norm by being a female leader without any husband with her. But what I admire most about Mary Magdalene is her loyalty. To stay with a friend when everyone else has gone away, to watch them die…It takes a lot of courage and loyalty. It’s that kind of loyalty and faithfulness to Jesus that I want to emulate.

— 5 —

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Even though I learned a lot about the life of Saint John Paul II, I’ve only skimmed the surface when it comes to his writings. One book that I want to read this year is Theology of the Body. I found a copy at my local secondhand bookstore (best place to find almost anything really) and I have other books that give commentary on the Theology of the Body. Since it’s highly unlikely that I’ll be going to Poland for World Youth Day (unless I win the lottery), I want to get to know the wisdom of this particular saint.

— 6 —

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For the past week or so, I’ve been praying the 30-Day Saint Joseph Holy Cloak Novena. It’s a long one, but I’ve already experienced some great graces from praying this. And given how I credit Saint Joseph for helping me out during my Lenten retreat last year, I have faith that he will help me out with whatever I decide to do this coming spring. He’s also been a big help when it comes to my writing, which I consider to be both my work and my passion.

 

— 7 —

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I think everyone out there has a favorite Marian title. Our Lady of Perpetual Help has been with me ever since I was a kid, when I went to a school that bore her name. The school has closed down, but the church is still there and it hasn’t changed much since I last saw it. But I want to know more of the devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Help beyond the image I’ve seen throughout my life. I learned that it has Czech origins, but nothing beyond that.

 

So those are my 7 Saints for 2016. Feel free to comment about which saints or devotions you feel like focusing on this year!

A Retreater's Poem and Litany

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So for the past few days, I’ve been away on retreat. It was an amazing, wonderful experience. I wanted to share a poem I wrote while I was praying at Adoration during the retreat.

Trust Fall

How did this happen?

My body was so weary

My spirit so weak

I just wanted to fall

And I wanted you to catch me

So I ask You to catch me

And into Your arms I fell

All of a sudden, I am awakened

Getting a second wind from the song of the Spirit

All of a sudden, I find myself strong

In your presence I find my life, my joy, my strength

Thank You for making me strong

 

Also, since the retreat ended on All Saints Day, I want to thank the saints in a litany of gratitude.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Bernadette, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Catherine of Bologna, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Paul, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Maria Goretti, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Augustine, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Cecelia, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Mary Magdelene, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Veronica, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Therese of Lisieux, thank you and pray for us!

Blessed Mother Teresa, thank you and pray for us!

Saint Faustina, thank you and pray for us!

Saint John Paul II thank you and pray for us!

Saint Joseph, thank you and pray for us!

Blessed Mother, thank you and pray for us!

All you holy men and women, thank you for your prayers. Keep praying for us retreaters as we return to our lives.

Amen

The Imitation of Mary in the 21st Century

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Today is the feast of the birth of Mary. Something I remember from my Catholic school days is something called The Imitation of Mary. It’s an actual book by Thomas A. Kempis, but the idea of imitating Mary is honestly intimidating. She was born without sin and she has so many miracles attributed to her. How the heck are we ordinary, flawed, imperfect humans supposed to be anything like her?

It starts by remembering that aside from being born without sin, Mary was just as human as the rest of us. She felt pain, she felt fear, she felt loss just like the rest of us. She was a mother and a wife and a daughter and a cousin. I imagine her as a short and sassy woman who wasn’t picture-perfect in looks, but still beautiful in heart. Once we remember that Mary (and the rest of the saints) are as human as the rest of us, it helps us on the path of relating to her and imitating her.

One way that we can imitate Mary is to practice The 10 Virtues of Mary. This list was written by St. Louis de Montfort. They are as follows:

The 10 Virtues of Mary

  1. Ardent Charity: Letting her love for God be the driving force behind every decision
  2. Profound Humility: Knowing who she is before God, nothing more and nothing less
  3. Universal Mortification: Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment
  4. Constant Mental Prayer: Always being aware of God’s presence
  5. Blind Obedience: Following God’s call without counting the cost
  6. Divine Wisdom: Always begging for God’s Spirit to guide her
  7. Surpassing Purity: Having a heart immaculately clean and unstained by sin
  8. Angelic Sweetness: Radiating joy and peace to everyone she encountered
  9. Lively Faith: Constantly seeking God’s will and never settling for complacency
  10. Heroic Patience: Always trusting that God was on the move; having more faith in His plans than her own

(Thanks to LifeTeen for introducing me to this list!)

The list seems daunting at first because we struggle with humility and patience. Not all of us see ourselves as sweet or wise or charitable. Being obedient is scary because we’re so used to asking questions about everything and being mortified is equally frightening because we are so used to doing what we want.

But there are real-life examples of people practicing these virtues. They may not have all these virtues, but if we start with imitating one, it takes us that much closer to becoming like a saint. So let’s break down these virtues and see how people of the 21st century can live them.

1. Ardent Charity: Letting our love for God be the driving force behind every decision. 

We may not always make the best decisions for the right reasons. Everyone always seems to have an ulterior motive for their actions, some kind of personal gain. But when we put God first in our decision making, we can give our hearts into our actions freely, even when we don’t stand to gain anything from doing something.

I can’t help but think of Saint John Paul II when I think of this virtue. He was a great example of someone who was driven by love. He lived his life with a great devotion to Jesus and Mary and he showed his love to the world, even to the communists who dictated his homeland and the assassin who shot him. All of his actions were motivated by unconditional love, acting with great justice and mercy. Communism fell thanks to his influence and a whole generation of people are inspired by his actions.

2. Profound Humility: Knowing who we are before God, nothing more and nothing less.

Humility is a balancing act. On the one hand, we can’t be divas and think that we’re special snowflakes entitled to whatever we want just because we want it. On the other hand, we can’t go around acting like emo kids who think that we’re worthless wastes of space. Humility is knowing your own value and understanding that you don’t need anyone else’s approval or love outside of God’s.

There are two instances that come to mind when I think of having humility. A good example from fiction can be seen in the ABC series Agent Carter, in which the titular character goes through many instances of personal humiliation as she tries to clear Howard Stark’s name. She loses her job, her apartment, and almost loses her friends, but manages to save the day in the end. When Agent Thompson ends up taking the credit, she doesn’t speak out against his lie or beg for approval. She says outright: “I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”

Another example is found in one of my favorite songs “He Knows My Name” by Francesca Battistelli. In a behind the scenes video, Francesca says that the song came from her struggles of believing what other people think of her, for better and for worse. The song itself tells the story of a person who sees herself as less than perfect, but at the same time, knows that God is calling her to live for Him and marvels in the love that God has for her. The music video shows four women who’ve all had hardships in life and overcame them through God’s help and have turned their lives around for the better.

3. Universal Mortification: Seeking to lay down her life and her will at every moment

You wanna know why Police Lives Matter alongside Black Lives Matter and All Lives Matter? Because the true job of a cop, of a soldier, of anyone who works in public service is to be willing to lay down their lives for the ones that they love. The duty of all public servants is to protect and serve everyone, even to those who hate them. Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth is being honored in Houston for the life that he lived. The fact that there hasn’t been any reports of violence in retaliation to his death says a lot about everyone else as well. Like public servants, the people who are honoring Darren Goforth’s death are laying down their desires to seek vengeance. Instead of rioting, the people are rallying, asking the world to “Love Thy Neighbor.” I wish other cities can learn from this.

4. Constant Mental Prayer: Being Aware of God’s Presence

Something I recently learned is that we take the Holy Spirit with us wherever we go and in whatever we do. It’s not always easy because there are times that we wish God was far away or we don’t feel like he’s there when we need him. But like that infamous Footprints poem, God is there carrying us through the hard times.

Stephen Colbert, who is going to start his stint at late night network comedy tonight, had an interview with GQ Magazine in which he talked about how God was constantly present in his life. He was grateful for the losses that he endured as a child, first by losing his father and brothers in a plane crash and then losing his mother later in life.

“I was left alone a lot after Dad and the boys died…. And it was just me and Mom for a long time,” he said. “And by her example am I not bitter. Byher example. She was not. Broken, yes. Bitter, no.” Maybe, he said, she had to be that for him. He has said this before—that even in those days of unremitting grief, she drew on her faith that the only way to not be swallowed by sorrow, to in fact recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy, is to always understand our suffering, ourselves, in the light of eternity. What is this in the light of eternity? Imagine being a parent so filled with your own pain, and yet still being able to pass that on to your son.

“It was a very healthy reciprocal acceptance of suffering,” he said. “Which does not mean being defeated by suffering. Acceptance is not defeat. Acceptance is just awareness.” He smiled in anticipation of the callback: “ ‘You gotta learn to love the bomb,’ ” he said. “Boy, did I have a bomb when I was 10. That was quite an explosion. And I learned to love it. So that’s why. Maybe, I don’t know. That might be why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons onstage. It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.

I asked him if he could help me understand that better, and he described a letter from Tolkien in response to a priest who had questioned whether Tolkien’s mythos was sufficiently doctrinaire, since it treated death not as a punishment for the sin of the fall but as a gift. “Tolkien says, in a letter back: ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” Colbert knocked his knuckles on the table. “ ‘What punishments of God are not gifts?’ ” he said again. His eyes were filled with tears. “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude. It doesn’t mean you want it. I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”

He was 35, he said, before he could really feel the truth of that. He was walking down the street, and it “stopped me dead. I went, ‘Oh, I’m grateful. Oh, I feel terrible.’ I felt so guilty to be grateful. But I knew it was true.

“It’s not the same thing as wanting it to have happened,” he said. “But you can’t change everything about the world. You certainly can’t change things that have already happened.”

Consider that this is coming from a man who millions of people will soon watch on their televisions every night—if only there were a way to measure the virality of this, which he’ll never say on TV, I imagine, but which, as far as I can tell, he practices every waking minute of his life.

5. Blind Obedience: Following God’s call without counting the cost.

There’s something about doing what someone says without asking questions that scares me. It calls to mind a hell that consists of shades of grey, military dictatorships, Big Brother. UGH! No thank you!

The difference between that kind of obedience and following God’s will without counting the cost is that God does allow us to ask questions. In the Annunciation, Mary was initially confused at the angel’s greeting and asked “How can this be? I have known no man.” Gabriel gives Mary an explanation and proof of God’s power. After receiving that explanation, Mary accepts God’s will. If we were in Mary’s place, we’d probably ask more questions, to be honest, but God gives us enough knowledge to help us understand the present because the future is in His hands.

One example of this is from the soon to be Bishop Robert Barron, whose ordination into bishophood takes place today. He posted a video explaining his coat of arms.

One particular thing I love about his coat of arms is the motto he chose: Non nisi te Domine. The motto came from Thomas Aquinas who said this to God after presenting his works on the Eucharist in a private altar. Bishop-Elect Robert Barron said “If you have Christ, then you know what to do with the wealth, pleasure, power, and honor that come your way or you’ll know what to do with the lack of wealth, pleasure, power and honor which is why the one thing you should ask for is Christ himself.” As someone who’s also an Aquinas fangirl, I can’t help but totally agree with him.

Follow me on the next page to learn about how we can practice wisdom, purity, sweetness, faith, and patience in our lives.

What Millenials Can Learn From Saint John Vianney

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The first time I heard of St. John Vianney’s name, it was back when I was in Catholic school and some students from St. John Vianney high school came to visit and showcase the school for us. In college, one of my friends in a Bible Study class had a devotion to him. If there’s one word I can use to describe St. John Vianney it’s “fidelity.” Not just his fidelity to the Blessed Virgin or to Saint Philomena (his favorite), but also to his job as the Cure of Ars.

It takes fidelity to persevere in one’s studies even when you’re not book smart. I think a lot of student can understand. St. John Vianney’s struggles to pass his classes. Some students even asked for St. John Vianney’s intercession for passing exams.

It also takes fidelity to listen to so many people give confessions for such a long amount of time. If I had a TARDIS, I would’ve loved to have gone back in time and have him hear my confession. He was gifted with the ability to read hearts, which meant he understood people on a deeper level than most.

He also knew what was most important to him: being God’s servant. He spent so much time in prayer the night before he was to leave to join Napoleon’s Army that he completely forgot to leave. He hid out until deserters were granted amnesty. He kept on being a priest even when being a Catholic was considered illegal.

In these days when I hear news reports of celebrities with long marriages suddenly filing for divorce, St. John Vianney’s fidelity to his life as a priest give me a sense of relief. He never considered retiring or giving up on his job, even though he did on little sleep (constant attacks from the devil). Although he attempted to run away to live as a monk, he never succeeded. While running away to live as a monk may not seem like a sign of fidelity, I interpret that as him trying to escape the near occasion of pride. He was becoming a world-renowned priest and he saw isolation as a way to increase in humility. God, of course, had other plans. St. John Vianney stayed in Ars in his final years. His incorrupted body is on display there today.

I also feel like millenials can learn some things about St. John Vianney about leadership. Being a parish priest is a literal lifetime job. You can’t clock out of it like you would at a normal everyday job. St. John Vianney led his parish with humility and discipline and care for others. I hope that us young adults can do the same with the same fidelity towards the church and to each other that he had for his church and his flock.

St. John Vianney, pray for us!

Mary Magdalene : Saint Headcanons

Headcanon: (according to urbandictionary) “Used by followers of various media of entertainment, such as television shows, movies, books, etc. to note a particular belief which has not been used in the universe of whatever program or story they follow, but seems to make sense to that particular individual, and as such is adopted as a sort of “personal canon”. Headcanon may be upgraded to canon if it is incorporated into the program or story’s universe.”

Mary Magalene is a saint with a lot of different headcanons. Some see her as a prostitute, others think she was Jesus’s wife, Liz Curtis Higgs speculated that she was a wealthy independent woman (a rarity at the time) and my friend Sarah from college created a play that portrayed Mary Magdalene as a poet and Lazarus’s other sister. I have my own screenplay in the works called “The Longest Night In History” which portrays Mary Magdalene as an emotionally distraught woman who, in spite of her grief, is trying to keep the apostles from losing their tempers with each other.

But this headcanon, submitted anonymously to Catholic Teen Posts on Instagram (@catholic_teen_posts) takes the cake!

I think that—underneath centuries of Da Vinci Code style-conspiracy theories, being labeled a prostitute or a mystic, exalted above the disciples or placed beneath them, conflated with the other Marys or vilified in comparison with them or ignored entirely or reduced to an archetype, a symbol, something gold-leafed and enshrined or rebellion given flesh—underneath all that—I think she was just a Jewish woman.

She might have been married or not, wealthy or not, educated or not; she might have had children or sisters or brothers or run a business or been a beggar or none of the above. All we know—for a given value of “know”—is that Jesus expelled seven devils out of her (Luke 8:2) and that she was present at the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection (Matthew and Mark, and all four Gospels portray her as among the first to witness to the empty tomb and Jesus’s comeback tour.) Whenever Jesus’s female followers are listed, Mary Magdalene is at the head, which would at least seem to imply that she was prominent among them, in the same way that Peter is always listed first among the disciples.

I think she must have been fearless. A woman never described with any man in attendance; a woman who is listed first among women and who led them to the foot of the cross, to the tomb, who was unflinching witness in the face of Roman cruelty and oppression; a woman who had demons cast out from her (neuroatypical? epileptic?) and still did not choose “normal” life, but followed a prophet out into the wilderness—I can’t imagine how driven she must have been.

I like to think she and Peter got into fights because he was better with the day-to-day details of their journey and their finances, and she was all big picture, transcendence, the Kingdom of God, Petros, imagine it—and Jesus was sitting off to one side, massaging his feet and smiling faintly. I like to think that she played older sister to John, who had the same taste for the lofty and godly.

I like to think that the other women in Jesus’s retinue were a little afraid of her and her terrifying insight into the divine, but they also felt incredibly motherly towards her: “Magdalene, you forgot to eat at noontide, here, I brought you some stew; Magdalene, stop making excitable noises in Ya’akov’s direction and come to bed, you haven’t slept in two nights.” 

I like to think that she was dry-eyed and furious at the foot of the cross, holding Jesus’s mother as this old woman (not old enough to lose a son) wept. I like to think she didn’t cry that night, when they were waiting for the mangled body to be taken down off the cross; or the next, when there were funeral preparations to make; or the next, when there were Shabbat rituals to carry out.

I like to think that when the resurrected savior announced himself to her on the third day, she slapped him. And when he protested that she never really believed him dead (because he basically spent forty days foreshadowing it, I mean, c’mon Miriam) she answered, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t scare me like that.” And that’s when she started crying.

I like to think that she was instrumental in the early church—the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world, and it isn’t as though the Twelve are welcome in spinning circles or standing around wells or in the kitchens where all real decisions are made. I like to think that she was there with Peter and James and John and Simon and all the disciples as they struggled to find the right words, to tell the story the right way, to follow in the footsteps of a man who had been God.

I like to think that when she became to old to wander, she had a house in Magdalene with her niece, who was her nurse and housekeeper. And the gate was always open and bread always on the table, candles lit for each of the Twelve who had been lost to them. I like to think that Christians came many miles to speak with her about Christ and the transcendence and how to be rescued from demons.

And her mouth was full of parables and her eyes lifted to God, and it was her small piece of the Kingdom, because Yeshua had promised it to her.

 

I can totally see Mary acting motherly to Magdalene, seeing her as the daughter she never had. Magdalene being everyone’s big sister and yet Jesus’s little sister, regardless of however old she was. One other thing from my screenplay came from something Diana Von Glahn said in the episode of The Faithful Traveler when she went to the Holy Land. It’s said that Jesus appeared to his mother first before appearing to Mary Magdalene. It’s never said in the Scriptures, but it’s interesting that Jesus’s own mother didn’t go with Magdalene to the tomb. So in my screenplay, I imagine what it would’ve been like.

Jesus appears quietly in the Upper Room and wakes his mother up. The two embrace but their talk is all pantomime. Jesus knows the dawn is coming soon, so he can’t stay long. He goes over to Mary Magdalene and fills her mind with a dream: a dream of the tomb opening, revealing the empty space within. Magdalene wakes up as the dawn rises and Jesus is nowhere to be found. She sees Mary, seemingly asleep, and gets ready to go to the tomb. In her hustle, she wakes Peter up and tells him, big sister that she is to him, to hold down the fort while she goes to the tomb with her friends. When Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene, she hugs him. She returns to the Upper Room screaming with joy and surprise and the rest, you can say, is history.

A Review of Matt Maher's Saints and Sinners

I first heard Matt Maher’s music during a retreat. We sang a few of his songs as part of praise and worship ceremonies. And when I looked more into his music, I was surprised that he was a Catholic because his music could be heard on the Protestant Christian radio station.

When I heard about Matt Maher’s latest album, I got excited, even more so when I saw the title: Saints and Sinners. After all, it was Oscar Wilde who said “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” It’s quotes like that and the stories of the saints that remind me that I don’t have to be perfect.

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The album opens with a prologue called “The Field of Stars” which is a great intro, because the music sounds like a beautiful meteor shower. And, of course, the saints are as numerous as the stars in the sky, so the simile totally fits.

1) A Future Not My Own. According to Tony Rossi’s interview, this song was inspired by Archbishop Oscar Romero and on Matt Maher moving from Arizona to Tennessee. It’s safe to say that I relate to this track a lot, given my current circumstances. But it’s nice to know that even full-time grown ups like Matt Maher have their own changes to go through and face their own types of uncertainties. Fave lyric: “We see the start but You see the end/We see in part but Your love sees everything.”

2) Deliverer Deliverer starts out like a rock ballad but builds up with the bridge and rocks out towards the end. I wonder if St. Augustine was the inspiration for this particular song because it takes the point of view of a prodigal son returning to his faith after being delivered by God. It’s a pretty straightforward track and I feel like doing a major air guitar at the bridge. Any song that provokes that particular rock-out emotion is always of the good. Fave lyric: “I’m not afraid, I’m running wild/For everything that will be done/I am yours and you are my Deliverer.”

3) Glory Bound Glory Bound is a catchy Springsteen-sounding track that got my toes tapping and my hands clapping as soon as I heard it. I love the inclusiveness of this song, the fact that this train is for everyone: the broken hearted, the thieves, liars, the lost, and the found. But in spite of where the people started, all the passengers are on the same journey. Fave lyric: “Come on make some room for a little grace/Come on make some room for the sinners and the saints”

4) Land of My Father This is a more traditional sounding praise and worship song, not particularly lyrical, but it has that uplifting melody and rhythm that praise and worship songs live and breathe on. And yet, there’s a bit more to this track, too, because it brings in a bit of the Sanctus into it. Fave Lyric: The Chorus.

5) Everything Is Grace. My jaw dropped as I read the title to this song and I was even more shocked when my suspicions were correct. This song was inspired by none other than Saint Therese. Needless to say, I fell in love with track fast and relate to this song a lot. My love for Saint Therese aside, this is a wonderful song about having faith and praising God in the bad times. Plus that line about walking through the flames makes me recall another wonderful song about walking through the fire. The beat is really good, too. Fave Lyric: Also the chorus.

6) The Invocation. The Invocation is an interlude, a solemn prayer about discernment, calling upon the Holy Spirit for guidance. It gives me chills as the solemn song turns into a cry.

7) Sons and Daughters. This song starts out and ends with sound bites from Martin Luther King Jr. This song is a “stand together, work together” kind of song. I so wish the darker side of the internet could hear this song because all their hashtag activism doesn’t really add up to all the bile they spread. This song is a balm and an example of a more motivating song about working together to overcome obstacles. Fave lyric: “We are marching on, but there’s a price we have to pay/For love meaning taking on, the weight of what was won.”

8) Firelight. The fact that this song was inspired by Mother Teresa already makes this song awesome. It starts out like a country song and goes towards a hard rock beat towards the end. The lyrics speak about needing an increase of faith in a time of darkness. Having faith isn’t always an easy thing and this song speaks about that desire for God’s presence, or at least the desire to have that desire. Fave lyric: “All of my memories are turning into scars/Oh my God put back what’s been torn apart.”

9) Instrument The lyrics of this song inspired by the prayer of St. Francis. The melody of this song is ballad-like, a peaceful song compared to some of the other intense tracks. It’s a wonderful prayerful song, reminding me of Danielle Rose or Audrey Assad’s prayer songs. Just be careful when you listen to this song during Lent because it says “Hallelujah.” Thankfully we’re in Easter, so we don’t have to worry about that anymore.

10) Abide With Me The title comes from an old traditional Christian song, but the song has a very Lenten feel to it. The lyrics speak about a broken world and mention Gethsemane. This is a song to listen to when you really need Christ by your side, a song for the bad times. The most reassuring lyric is that Love won’t let us go. God’s love is a love that doesn’t smother, but tethers us to a safe haven.

11) The Waiting. The Waiting is another short interlude, talking about the evening. It’s a prayer of rest and recalls the Easter Vigil.

12) Because He Lives (Amen) This song is uplifting, a perfect song for the Easter season. It resonates with repetitions of “Amen” and the melody is powerful and moving. My favorite part of the song is “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow/Because He lives, every fear is gone/I know He holds my life my future in His hands.” Given what happened to me and what I’m going through, I am reminded that Jesus, the perfect love, casts out all of my fears.

13) Rest. This song takes inspiration from Psalm 23. This song can be easily played on acoustic guitar and is an intimate sounding song compared to the concert hall crowd pleasing tracks. The lyric that resonates the most from this song is “I trust in You.” It might just be because I’ve been praying the Divine Mercy Novena, but faith and trust go together like peanut butter and jelly, so the repetition of “I trust in You” is always a wonderful thing.

20 Obscure Female Saints

  1. St. Elizabeth of Portugal also known as Elizabeth of Aragon. Patron saint of people in difficult marriages and of peacemakers. She was married to Denis who was unfaithful to her and acted as a peacemaker between Ferdinand and his cousin, James. She retired as a lay Franciscan to the monastery of the Poor Clares after the death of her husband.
  2. St. Catherine del Ricci: patroness of the sick. Devoted to the Passion of the Christ and entered a cloistered community of lay Dominican Sisters. It was said that she was able to bilocate.
  3. St. Teresa Margaret Redi: Italian Carmelite nun who was devoted to the Sacred Heart. Her body is incorrupt and lies in the church of the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Florence.
  4. St. Joan of Valois, wife of King Louis XII. After she had her marriage annuled, she founded the Sisters of the Annunciation of Mary.
  5. St. Catherine of Genoa wrote “Dialogues of the Soul” and the “Treatise of Purgatory.” Patron saint of brides and people ridiculed for their piety. Entered into an arranged marriage that didn’t turn out so well, but she eventually converted her husband.
  6. Saint Dwynwen: Welsh saint, patron saint of lovers. She has a legend of her and a young man named Maelon but the romance turns into a tragedy.
  7. St. Gertrude of Nivelles: Patron saint of cats. Refused to marry nobility and became an abbess. Known to have visions and was attributed to a miracle of sailors being attacked by a sea monster.
  8. Saint Mary of Egypt. Patron against skin diseases and spiritual warfare against chastity. Used to be a nymphomaniac until she went to Jersualem in the hopes of seducing pilgrims and made a conversion there.
  9. Saints Agape, Chionia, and Irene: Sisters who were for refusing to eat food sacrificed to the gods in Thessalonica. Agape and Chione were burned alive. Irene was placed into a brothel but nobody touched her, so she was eventually sentenced to death as well.
  10. St. Margaret of Clitherow: One of the 40 Martyrs of England and Wales. Wife and mother. Her brother-in-law was a priest although her husband was Protestant. Her son went to seminary and created priest holes in her house.
  11. St. Rafqa. Saint from Lebanon. Became a sister with the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception. Her order merged with another one and eventually became the Lebanese Marionite Order of St. Anthony. Her final vows, however, were with the Baladita Order. Said to have interceded for curing someone of uterine cancer.
  12. St Frances of Rome, patroness of car drivers. Entered into an arrange marriage in spite of wanting to be a nun, but had a happy marriage with her husband, who was often away at war. Eventually founded a monastery and nursed her husband during the last years of his life.
  13. St Hermione of Ephesus For you Harry Potter fans who plan on naming their kids after the characters, yes there is a Saint Hermione. She was a martyr, a deacon’s daughter. She’s even mentioned in Acts as a prophetess.
  14. St Hedwig of Silesia. Another saint for the Potterheads. St. Hedwig was a count’s daughter. Patron saint of orphans. Married Henry I the Bearded and became a duchess consort, but lost her husband. However, she had seven kids before her husband’s passing. She lived in a monastery, but never took vows.
  15. St Lucy Yi Zhenmei. Chinese saint and martyr. She had a love for reading and study and even pursued higher education up until she became ill. Stayed in a convent of lay virgins up until there was a rising against Christians in China.
  16. St. Margaret of Cortona: Italian penitent of the Third Order of St. Francis. Patron saint of the homeless and mentally ill among other things.  Started out as a reckless teenager who ran away at the age of 17 and lived with her lover for ten years until her lover was murdered. Her illegitimate son became a friar while she joined the Third Order of St. Francis.
  17. St. Louise de Marillac: Foundress of the Daughters of Charity with St. Vincent de Paul. Born out of wedlock. Known as a mystic. Patron of people rejected by religious orders and social workers.
  18. St. Emily de Vialar. French nun who founded the missionary congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition. Patron saint of single women.
  19. St. Barbara Martyr, associated with early Church saints. Patron of architects and mathematicians. Attributed with a three-windowed tower.
  20. St. Maria Bertilla Boscardin. An Italian nun and nurse who helped heal sick children and victims of air raids in World War I.

I’ll be posting more about some awesome female saints and women from the Bible this week. Happy International Women’s Day!

Superheroes and Saints: The Ordinary and the Extraordinary

What exactly do saints and superheroes have in common? For the most part, saints are ordinary people who eventually went on to do extraordinary things. Not all superheroes fall into that category, since Superman is an alien and Thor is a mythological figure. But what saints and superheroes have in common is that they inspire and help people. And oftentimes, they are also misunderstood from those who don’t really know them.

One thing saints and superheroes also have in common is that in spite of how out-of-reach or how hard it may be to relate to them at first, there’s always little things that makes us identify with them. I’m not just talking about whatever flaws they might have like St. Augustine’s struggles with chastity or Batman’s chip on his shoulder, but little ordinary things that make the saints and superheroes human. It can be something as small as the fact that Peter Parker is a photographer or the fact that St. Therese of Lisieux got lost in a daydream of being in a ballroom with people in fancy clothes. It can be a certain flaw like Thor’s belligerence or St. Thomas Aquinas’s horrible handwriting. I’m still fascinated by the fact that one sample of St. Thomas Aquinas’s writings included a picture of a doodle. As a college student, I can definitely relate to doodling in the margins.

I always ask people in my interviews who their go-to saints are because I have this fascination with people who are devoted to saints. I love hearing about how a certain saint interceded in someone’s life or how imitating a certain saint changed the life of a person. I think of Fr. James Martin’s “My Life with the Saints” and Colleen Carroll Campbell’s “My Sisters The Saints.” And then I think of the saints who’ve influenced my life.

Back in my childhood, I loved reading about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Kateri Tekawitha. Nowadays, my go-to saints are St. Monica, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Therese of Lisieux. At the start of this year, I also used a couple of saint generators to find my patron saints for this year. I got St. Francis from one and St. Augustine from the other. I’ll go more into all of these saints later on my blog, but for now, I want to talk about my 3 go-to saints and summarize why I love them so much.

St. Monica was my Confirmation saint. Although I don’t ask for her intercession often, I know that she is praying for me a lot. I attribute her from saving me from some really bad relationships. My love for St. Thomas Aquinas came from spending four and a half years at the University of St. Thomas (the one in Houston, TX). I loved his intellect, his devotion to the Eucharist, and how he challenged the naysayers of his day. St. Therese is my current favorite saint because I relate a lot to her. She and I both have a “still waters run deep” going on and I identify with her Little Way so much.

I also feel like St. Therese has a big influence on who I am now as well. Through learning more about her life, I found a lot of stuff that applied to my own life, even though we live centuries apart. She and I both acted as Joan of Arc in a theatrical context (I did a monologue, St. Therese wrote a play), we both wrote poetry, and we both struggled with a lot of scrupulous thoughts and a lot of interior temptations. We also were deceived by people of malicious intent, but found the strength to carry on. St. Therese’s devotion to Joan of Arc is also similar to my love for Buffy because at the time, Joan of Arc wasn’t canonized. Even though Therese couldn’t fight a war and I can’t actually do the cool stunts done on the show, but we both wanted to imitate the courage of the women we admired.

So if St. Therese is my current favorite saint, who exactly is my favorite superhero?

Well, she’s somebody who isn’t exactly a traditional superhero per se. She has super powers, though. In fact, she alone can stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of evil. She is the Slayer.

Screenshot copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and is used for editorial purposes only.

Screenshot copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and is used for editorial purposes only.

While I was scrolling through my Tumblr feed, I came across a psychological analysis of Buffy from The Mary Sue which mentioned something called Superhero Therapy in which psychologists use characters from fiction as part of a process to help their patients go through their problems. The process involves finding a character that the patient identifies with and paralleling a character’s problems with the patient’s. It astonished me, when I read both articles, that I wasn’t the only one who saw Buffy as a catharsis for my personal problems. Fr. Roderick Vonhogen had a similar experience that he describes in his memoir Geekpriest, in which he identifies many heroes such as Luke Skywalker and Spiderman having an influence on his life growing up and using superheroes and other fictional characters as a way to evangelize as a priest.

In a way, Superhero Therapy and having devotions to the saints results in the same thing: finding someone who can understand our problems and carry us through them. Buffy and its titular character played a big role in helping me overcome an anxiety attack I had in October that was triggered by my so-called best friend. I identified with Buffy’s vulnerability, how often people manipulated and used her, and how she overcame so much.

As much as I hate Season 7 of Buffy, a few of my favorite episodes are from this season, one of which was when Buffy said this:

From now on, every girl in the world who might be a Slayer, will be a Slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

In that moment, even though I knew that vampires weren’t actually real, I felt that I became a Slayer myself.

Just like how all the Potential Slayers gained power from the essence of the scythe, each one of us has the potential to become saints, using God’s grace. And the more you look into it, the more you’ll see that saints and superheroes have a lot in common.