Friends in High Places & Friends on Mission
October is one of my favorite months for Saints. Therese of Lisieux (10/1) kicks off the month, quickly followed by our Guardian Angels (10/2) and Francis of Assisi (10/4). Then mid-month we honor Teresa of Jesus (10/15), followed by Ignatius of Antioch (10/17), Luke the Evangelist (10/18) and Isaac Jogues, John de Brebeuf and Companions - the North American missionary martyrs (10/19). A panoply of heroic witnesses, from different countries, languages, time periods and walks of life. Each a spectacular instrument for good in the hands of our Lord: “He made me a sharpened arrow, in his quiver he hid me. He said to me, you are my servant…” (Isa 49:2-3). Each Saint faithful to the mission God entrusted to her or to him. As Teresa of Calcutta has been oft quoted, “God does not call us to be successful; He calls us to be faithful,” a one sentence recipe for sanctity.
We have a biological lineage, physical ancestors. Have you considered your spiritual lineage? Not those who passed along DNA but those who furthered the great tradition to which we belong? We just named three Teresa’s. They share a name, but so much more. They share a spiritual lineage, inherited from the great Doctor of the Church Teresa of Jesus (of Avila), the sixteenth century mystic and reformer from Spain who reshaped the Carmelites and contributed to the great renewal known as the Golden Age in Spain. Therese adopted her name. Mother Teresa did the same. So did Saint Edith Stein, called Teresa Benedicta of the Cross as a Carmelite, as did the little Chilean Teresita de los Andes. There are more Teresa’s, but the point is made. Each woman embraced and received something of the spirit of the “first” Teresa. So what is your spiritual DNA?
The Saints live in glory with the Holy Trinity, and through communion with the Church on earth, they form a bridge to heaven. Therese (the Little Flower) boasted that she would spend her heaven doing good on earth. And she has quite a following! Devotees who pray to her, read her writings, adopt her little way, and seek to live a life of simple confidence in God. (Can you tell I have strong Carmelite leanings?) It is important to develop a strong connection to this heavenly host, to make friends with those in high places, and to adopt something of the charism of those who have gone before us. Where to begin?
We can look to our patron Saint or our Confirmation name. We can seek out Saints who had our profession, or those we might need to call on for a special purpose. Martin de Porres is Patron of Barbers. Vincent Ferrer is Patron of plumbers and builders. Saint Agatha is Patron of nurses. So we can reach out to Martin if we got a bad haircut last time, or Vincent if our basement floods...or if we are in those professions!
Today we also celebrate World Mission Sunday. It is hard not to appreciate that America was once mission territory. If it were not for Saint John Neumann, Elizabeth Ann Seton, Isaac and Companion, or Katharine Drexel, our little corner of the world would be much different! So we can also reach out to them, in thanksgiving for being willing to build up the Church in the New World. American is still mission territory, and increasingly anti-Catholic. The Church will need more great missionary saints in the 21st century. I pray our connection to the Saints will help ensure the victory.