The Lenten season provides us with no shortage of holy men and women to discover and model our lives after. The following five individuals, whose feasts typically appear on the liturgical calendar during Lent, can help us overcome some of the greatest obstacles that we face today.
1. Selfishness: St. Frances of Rome
In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that how we will be judged depends on how we have tended to the needs of the poor (Mt 25: 31-46). We have countless examples of the saints doing just that, with no shortage of seemingly extreme examples of those men and women who gave away all that they had. On March 9, the Church commemorates St. Frances of Rome, a woman of wealth and means who used her privilege to care for the poor and sick throughout Rome. Her era was at times rather chaotic, not unlike our own. But are our lives like hers? In the face of division and disaster, St. Frances responded by caring for the marginalized and abandoned. With the help of God’s grace, she committed large portions of family resources to assisting the poor and the sick. She also knew great sorrow. When a plague struck Rome, Frances lost two children to the disease. St. Frances of Rome, help us overcome our selfishness, and pray for us!
2. Laziness: St. Joseph
We often say we would respond to God if only we could hear him. But what are we doing to open up our ears? Among the many characteristics of St. Joseph that we have discerned throughout the Christian millenia, his silence is one that (quietly) resonates from Scripture itself. Rather than a sign of indifference, Joseph’s silence was a hallmark of his obedience and action. Whenever St. Joseph heard God’s voice, he responded immediately by doing as he was asked. This makes sense what you consider that St. Joseph — celebrated by the Church on March 19 — was described as a “just man” — the highest compliment one could be paid in the Bible. It meant he was an epitome of virtue, and a very wise and holy man. Could it be that St. Joseph was so quick to do God’s will because he had attuned himself to hearing God’s voice? How could we become men and women of action by training ourselves to hear God’s voice? St. Joseph, help us overcome our laziness, and pray for us!
3. Racism: St. Katharine Drexel
What can we do to help transform the systemic problems of racism and privilege we see and experience? As Christians, we know that the Gospel leads the way forward and that holiness is the key. The Church celebrates this reality, manifested in the life of St. Katharine Drexel, who is commemorated on March 3. Drexel was a socialite and philanthropist who turned over her life to Christ in a most radical way to serve the needs of Native and Black Americans. She balanced social activism with prayer and trust in God’s providence to overcome many obstacles in the pursuit of justice, exercising her prophetic voice to expose the sin of racism. It was a difficult task, but her missionary zeal fed her desire for justice and equality. We, too, can be conformed to Christ in all things! Lives of virtue such as hers will help eradicate racism. St. Katharine Drexel, help us overcome racism and provide a just world for all — and pray for us!
4. Lack of Missionary Zeal: St. Patrick
As baptized members of the Body of Christ, we are called to help all people know, practice and share the Catholic Faith. In doing so, we increase our membership and intensify our bond to Christ and the Church. On March 17, a day when culturally we celebrate all things Irish, we can turn to St. Patrick and his example of evangelical zeal to help us develop our own. The fifth-century missionary-bishop is largely credited with converting, almost single-handedly, the pagan society in Ireland that practiced Celtic polytheism. St. Patrick was a creative and fervent missionary, motivated by a selfless and sacrificial desire to fulfill Christ’s great command to bring the gospel to all nations. Perhaps we have something to learn from him in our own mission to bring salvation to the world. St. Patrick, help us overcome our lack of missionary zeal, and pray for us!
5. Division in the Church: Feast of the Chair of St. Peter
It can be a temptation to give into the human tendency to see ourselves at the center of all things. This is true even for our faith lives. Sometimes we think we know better than what the Church teaches, and we try to outsmart our pastors or object to their sound teaching because it does not comply with our own reading of a certain situation! The Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, celebrated on Feb. 22, reminds us that what we believe is communal. Christ established the Church as a communion. Local churches are gathered into unity around their bishop. The bishops of the world are gathered into unity by their communion with the successor of St. Peter, the pope. This is the chief responsibility of the pope, ensuring unity in the Church, particularly in the arena of faith and morals. Ultimately, this feast reminds us that we aren’t each popes, but have one who serves as the “bridge builder,” the pontifex, binding us to Christ. St. Peter, help us overcome our Church’s division, and pray for us!
Michael R. Heinlein is editor of Simply Catholic.