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Praying with the saints of autumn

During October, we celebrate some significant feast days: St. Therese of the Child Jesus (1), Guardian Angels (2), St. Francis of Assisi (4), Our Lady of the Rosary (7), St. Teresa of Avila (15), St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (16), St. Luke (18), Sts. Simon and Jude (28).

Each saint reflects some particular aspect of God for us; their lives are intended to encourage us, guide us and inspire us to live for God. I am going to suggest we pay close attention to two of them this month: St. Therese of the Child Jesus and St. Margaret Mary Alacocque.

St. Therese of the Child Jesus

Therese loved the saints and wanted to be one. She wanted to be a missionary, yet knew God was calling her to the cloister. Instead of just dreaming about being a missionary saint, she allowed God to form her as he wanted. So, first, she submitted to God’s plan for her life.

Then, as she entered into a more mature spiritual life, she realized how little and helpless she was to imitate the great saints, as she saw them: Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. So she asked Jesus’ arms to be her elevator, to lift her up to God, the Father.

In a very simple, child-like, humble spirit, she kept asking God for help, as a child would ask a loving parent. And God did not fail her! Her trust became so unbounding that, on her death bed at 24, when she was corrected for an irritable response, instead of falling into understandable self-pity, she just rejoiced: “O, another opportunity to ask forgiveness and rely on the mercy of God!” Her path to sanctity became known as the “little way.” She showed how accessible true holiness can be for each one of us.

Pause and reflect: How can you grow in child-like obedience to God? During October, ask St. Therese to help that you, too, might follow her example.

St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

St. Margaret also was a French religious sister, but was very different from St. Therese. Sister Margaret Mary lived in the 1600s. Christ appeared to her frequently, acting himself as her spiritual director, and confiding to her the mission of establishing devotion to his sacred heart. It was St. Margaret Mary who began the practice of a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament and the first Friday devotions. Jesus himself called her the beloved disciple of his sacred heart. In showing Margaret Mary his burning heart, Christ said, “Behold, this heart which has so loved men and is so little loved in return.”

In the midst of all these powerful revelations, she experienced the disbelief of her community and superiors, which led to tremendous suffering that she endured in humility and charity, offering it that God’s love might be known.

In today’s world, most of us, even strong Christians and Catholics, do not begin to comprehend the love that God has for each one of us.

St. Margaret Mary suffered much – mentally, emotionally, physically – to proclaim the love of the sacred heart of Jesus for each one of us.

Pause and reflect: I encourage you to read a good biography of both St. Therese and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. Both men and women can benefit from the lives of these two saints. God offers them to us to widen our vision, to receive encouragement and wisdom to run on the path to holiness – and to run, so as to win!

Spiritual exercises:

Ponder these Scripture passages:

Matthew 18:1-4

“At that time, the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’ ”

And John 14:15-21

“If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live you will live also. In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you in me and I in you. He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”