A few years back I had a role in a musical based on the life of Blessed Pope John Paul II. The show’s composer wanted to assemble a “board of directors,” a group of trusted individuals to oversee and advise the project. But there was a twist. All board members needed to be saints. So with cast members’ suggestions, the writer/composer assembled his board — a few Polish saints, some well-known evangelizers, a few musicians and voilà. We had our very own intercessory board to pray with and for us. What a novel idea — a board of directors, staffed by saints, guiding our way!
Two years ago I crafted my own saint board of directors who served as my cloud of witnesses throughout that year. I enjoyed getting to know those seven saints and found that their examples inspired and supported me.
Here we are marching quickly through the first quarter of 2014, and I’ve yet to host the official-yet-unofficial oath of office for my 2014 spiritual board. So here and now I present to you my 2014 Spiritual Board of Directors: seven saints reaching out to me, inspiring me, and uniquely supporting my vocation as wife and mother.
As I thought and prayed one recent afternoon about who to invoke for my 2014 saint board, I noticed how the sun’s rays were shining down on this statue of St. Joseph in our home. It’s as if the Holy Spirit was saying, “Let’s allow St. Joseph to illuminate a few things in your life this year.” Hard to say no to that. And it makes good sense to give him a seat at the table.
St. Joseph is the patron saint and protector of the universal Church. Next to the Blessed Virgin Mary, he is the most honored saint in the Church and is considered a spiritual model for families. Christian teaching often stresses his patience, persistence, and hard work as admirable qualities to embrace. St. Joseph is the patron saint of fathers, foster fathers, and husbands among a few other things.
As Joel inches closer to diaconate ordination in August, it’s critical for me to ratchet up my prayers for him and our family. We have some spiritually demanding days ahead, and the devil is out prowling. St. Joseph is going to come in handy.
If I had been named after a saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton is the one saintly name most resembling mine, Lisa Ann. She’s also my confirmation patron yet I don’t have a particularly strong devotion to her. It’s time to change that dynamic.
The first native-born saint of the United States of America, Elizabeth Ann Seton greatly affected the growth of the Roman Catholic Church here. She was also responsible for the foundation of the parochial school system in the United States. All this she did in the span of forty-six years while rearing her five children as a widow. In a letter to a friend, she wrote, “But God has given me a great deal to do, and I have always and hope always to prefer his will to every wish of my own.” A wonderful example of trusting in the goodness of God’s providence.
She’s the patron of child death, orphaning, people opposed to Church authorities, people ridiculed for piety, people troubled by in-laws (no hidden message there; my in-laws are great), and widows.
St. Benedict authored the famous Rule of St. Benedict, a handbook for daily Christian living emphasizing stewardship over prayer, work, and community. Many spiritual writers throughout the ages attest to the Rule’s transforming power to change lives. Through it, they were able to develop habits and become good stewards of their physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. My word for the year is stewardship, so Benedict is a great carryover board member in that regard, too.
Truth be told, five years ago I knew next to nothing about St. Benedict other than our holy father at the time, Pope Benedict XVI, chose him as his papal patron. Slowly, St. Benedict started creeping into my life. Through our trips to Conception Abbey and Seminary College, a Benedictine monastery, for Joel’s deacon formation courses, I’ve learned a great deal about the Rule of St. Benedict. I’m developing a great admiration for the Benedictine way of life — ordered, simple, and purposeful. There’s a time to work, a time to pray, a time to rest, and a time to play. It’s actually been the inspiration for my Pray, Work, Rest & Play series here.
June 26. His feast day. Also my birthday. Game over. I win. He’s also a carryover from my previous board.
A 20th-century Spanish priest and founder of Opus Dei, St. Josemaría Escrivá is known as the saint of ordinary life. I appreciate Josemaría in many ways, but one area I find him particularly helpful is that he, like St. Benedict, lived by a “rule” and teaches much about it in his spiritual writings. Instead of applying the rule to monastic living, he writes with the domestic in mind. St. Josemaría Escrivá preached that all of us, by God’s grace, can achieve holiness through our ordinary life and work. Yes. Please. I’m trying!
“The good God gave me a father and mother more worthy of Heaven than of earth.” — St. Thérèse of Lisieux of her parents, Blessed Louis and Zélie Martin.
This one is basically a two-for-one package. With Zélie comes Louis. This couple is best known as the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, but they are models of holiness in their own right. When Louis and Zélie were married in 1858, they promised to serve God first together. They knew that putting God first in their lives would help them always live with love. And when we live with love, we grow in holiness (a good tie to St. Josemaría Escrivá!).
The Martins are only the second married couple to be beatified. Zélie gave birth to nine children, five of whom entered religious life. She lived modestly, reached out to the poor and the needy, and led daily prayers in the household.
In marriage, spouses strive to lead each other to holiness. Louis and Zélie Martin show how a marriage not only benefits the couple, but their children, the Church, and society. Their example is one I want to continually keep in front me throughout this year as Joel and I grow into a “deacon couple.”
St. Stephen is among the Church’s first seven deacons and Christianity’s first martyr. He died by stoning. Why is Joel in deacon formation again? No, wait … I totally get it. The formation process has totally been like that (metaphorically, of course).
St. Stephen is also admired as one of the Church’s first “social workers” and has had an influence over some cultural traditions. Many Brits collect money throughout the year in little clay boxes, and on St. Stephen’s feast day, December 26, break the boxes and distribute the money to the poor. In some homes, a St. Stephen’s box is labeled and set beside the Christmas tree. During gift opening time, family members choose one gift to place in the box and donate to those in need.
I chose St. Stephen for both his patronage over deacons and his example of charitable giving.
His name might not be familiar, although there is speculation that the popular liqueur Frangelico is inspired after him. You might, however, be more familiar with his sacred artwork. Fra Angelico was an Italian painter of the early Renaissance. Born in Tuscany in 1395, he discovered his God-given gifts as a child. As a young teenager, he was already a much sought-after artist. He was called “Brother Angel” by his peers and was praised for his kindness to others and hours devoted to prayer.
Pope John Paul II beatified Fra Angelico in 1982 and declared him patron of Catholic artists. JP2 suggested Fra Angelico be declared “Blessed Angelico,” because of the seemingly perfect integrity of his life and the divine beauty of the images he painted, especially those of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I round out my spiritual board of directors with Blessed Fra Angelico as I wish to continue finding beautiful, sacred artwork to enrich our home and draw us nearer to God. Who knows, maybe even a Fra Angelico piece will find its way here.
St. Joseph, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Benedict, St. Josemaría Escrivá, Blessed Zélie Martin, St. Stephen, Blessed Fra Angelico … ora pro nobis.