Therese, Faustina, and Mary: Ladies of Radiance

ladies of radiance

Photo courtesy of Melissa Clayton

From Radiance and Grace Magazine:

I’ll be honest. When I think of the word “Radiance,” I usually think of a pregnant lady first. But a few other things come to mind like the word “effulgent,” a synonym of “radiant,” the imagery of fireworks, and a bright, shining light. The beautiful thing about being a Catholic is that there are so many beautiful, wonderful ways to be a woman, to be a Catholic woman, and there are many unique ways to have radiance. Like light shining through a stained glass window, God shines through our lives in a multifaceted way, giving us His radiance. You can have radiance just by doing little things every day, as St. Therese did. You can have radiance by trusting completely in God like Saint Faustina did. Most of all, you can have radiance by being active, just like the Blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Read the rest here!

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.

Lent Day 18: Saints Past and Present

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Meditation goes into the diversity of the saints. Despite what you may think, given the flatness of the stained glass windows, saints are not cookie cutter clones. The saints in Heaven are as varied as the flowers on earth. St. Therese of Lisieux says this a lot better, though:

“I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our lord’s living garden.”

Here’s something I bet you never thought about: YOU are called to become a saint!

“But I can’t be a saint!” you say. “I’d have to be a priest or a nun or something like that.”

Ever heard of St. Gianna? 20th Century saint (as in born in the 1900s) who lived a life as a mother and doctor who decided to have her 4th child in spite of the fact that it could possibly kill her. (Pro-Life feminist FTW!) Or St. Pier Giorgio Frassati, a man who never married but spent his life taking care of the poor who lived in his town with his parents having no idea about what he was doing aside from the fact that he spent a lot of time in prayer.

“But those were great people!” you say. “I could never do miracles, give my life up like that, or serve the poor like they did.”

Mother Teresa said:

Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.

“How the heck can I become a saint?” you ask.

It starts with being yourself. God isn’t asking you to be exactly like any of the saints you may have heard about, but you can learn more about the saints this Lent and figure out who you find yourself relating to. However, I want to challenge you to find a saint that’s the complete opposite of you and find out what you can learn from them.

Here’s an example from me. My top 5 saints (in no particular order) are: St. Monica, St. Therese, St. Thomas Aquinas, Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, and St. Joan of Arc.

Like St. Monica, I’ve had my share of bad relationships. Like St. Therese, I prefer a simple life and have a great inner life. But as far as the other 3 saints are concerned, they all have something I wish I had in myself. I love St. Thomas Aquinas’s intellect and would give my pinkie toe to spend a day with him, talking about the Summa. Also, St. Thomas Aquinas was the one who wrote my favorite Latin song, the Tantum Ergo. Venerable Fulton Sheen brought Catholicism to the mainstream media through his TV show and I want to do what he did someday. And I long for St. Joan’s courage to stand up for my faith. The closest thing I got to being like St. Joan of Arc was acting as her in a monologue for a college drama class.

Look at modern examples of wonderful, holy people who aspire to be saints right now. Look at what Pope Francis does and not just what the media says about him. Or look at what Sister Cristina is doing on The Voice. By putting herself out there in the Italian mainstream media, she is representing nuns everywhere. Check out Audrey Assad and Matt Maher for modern examples of Catholics who are living their faith doing what they love. Or if you’re more of a bookworm, check out Mark Hart the Bible Geek or Brandon Vogt or the numerous Catholic apologists like Peter Kreeft or GK Chesterton. (BTW: Pray for GK Chesterton’s intercessions because he would make a seriously awesome saint.)

And if the idea of sainthood still intimidates you, you’re not alone. Listen to Danielle Rose’s “The Saint that is Just Me.” Danielle Rose, a Catholic singer, discerned religious life for a while, but after spending a few years in the convent, she learned that it wasn’t her calling. She now works in an orphanage in China, but she also has an album out, which you can check out at her website.

tl;dr: Be holy and sainthood will follow eventually.

Simplicity Project Progress Report And Coming Attractions

Happy Chinese New Year!

In honor of the end of the month and the start of the Chinese New Year, I’m gonna give a progress report on my Simplicity Project.

As I’ve stated before, I’ve been taking photos every day as part of my personal 365grateful project.

Here are what I consider the best photos that I took this month.

And as far as novel writing is concerned, I finally found a website where I could submit my work to have it critiqued by others in the industry. It’s called “Scribophile” and the way the website works is that once you join, you critique works from other writers in order to gain enough karma points to post your own work. Give to get.

TRIGGER WARNING ABOUT ANXIETY AHEAD. IF YOU HAVE AN ANXIETY DISORDER OF ANY SORT, PROCEED WITH CAUTION OR SKIP AHEAD.

While it was easy for me to look over the works of others and give a critique, I wasn’t quite as ready when I received my first in-depth critique. I was super-close to having an anxiety attack. Why? Because the last time I put my work out there for others to criticize, I actually had an anxiety attack and nobody was there to help me. In fact, the leader of the writing class was so unsympathetic that she told me to drop the class or else she would kick me out. I left the class crying and felt scared of her whenever we were in the same room. But thankfully, now I can be in the same room as her without wanting to head for the hills.

THIS HAS CONCLUDED THE TRIGGER WARNING

This time, I decided to take my time reading the in-depth critiques. I made a cup of chamomile, which always calms me down and kept telling myself that I needed the feedback. I took notes on what I thought I should change and ignored what I felt was right for the story. And after reading the first in-depth critique, I took a break and felt relieved. Reading the second in-depth critique was a lot easier now that I knew what to expect. I know it sounds really amateur of me to worry so much, but this was the first time I really had my work critiqued in-depth in years. So overall, I’m proud of myself for overcoming my fears and doubts towards receiving critiques from other people.

I also read one book this month and am planning to read 11 more new books in 2014. Books on my list include Strange Gods by Elizabeth Scalia and The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, & Earn Your Audience. I’ve also subscribed to daily quotes from The Society of the Little Flower, a group devoted to St. Therese of Liseux, one of my patron saints for 2014. And I’ll tell you right now, St. Therese is awesome. The quotes I’ve read have given me a lot of comfort and she recently answered a prayer of mine after I prayed a novena dedicated to her.

Next month on my blog, I will be writing a series of themed posts. Every Tuesday in February will be titled “True Love Tuesday” in which I ramble about my favorite couples from television. Oh yes. We’re gonna delve into the wonderful world of shipping. You have been warned. Every Friday in February, on the other hand, will get a little more philosophical with C.S. Lewis’s The Four Loves. Entitled “Four Loves Friday,” I will be writing a series of posts focusing on one of the four loves that C.S. Lewis goes in-depth about. I’ll also be looking more into St. Paul Miki, who is another patron saint for 2014, by getting to know more about Jesuit spirituality.

I’ll end this blog with a quote from my simplicity-themed planner. (Yes, I found one at Barnes & Noble for half-off. Total score!)

Happiness is where we find it, but rarely where we seek it- J. Petit Senn, French-Swiss poet.