Beth Montelepre is forever marveling that as a Catholic, she has “every saint in heaven” praying for her and illuminating the road to salvation. Having so many friends to call on, 24/7, is a source of great joy to Montelepre, a mother of five children.
“I’m so delighted that our Catholic faith put so many holy men and women in our path that we can imitate and emulate,” said Montelepre, speaking Jan. 10 to a dozen mothers gathered at a parish meeting house in St. Peter Parish in Covington.
“We are one body of Christ, Montelepre said. “Those saints never stop praying for us and we don’t ever have to stop asking for their intercession.”
The saints – some well known ones, such as St. Maria Goretti, and obscure ones, such as St. Mother Theodore Guerin, are the focus of St. Peter’s spring 2014 session of “Fiat Fridays,” a two-year-old, bi-weekly program in which Catholic mothers from across the northshore gather to grow in wisdom and holiness, learn how their faith informs their roles as wives and mothers, and share their mutual struggles and desires.
Named for the Blessed Mother’s fiat – or “yes” – to God when the angel Gabriel announced she would become the mother of Jesus, the meetings have the air of a friendly book group, drawing mothers of all ages. “A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms: 52 Companions for your Heart, Mind, Body and Soul,” by CatholicMom.com blogger Lisa Hendey, guides the current series. Organized in a “saint of the week” format, each chapter includes a biography of the saint, the author’s personal reflection on how the saint impacted her life, a daily Scripture verse, and saint-related prayers and activities mothers can incorporate into family life.
Montelepre said just as parents should yearn to give their children a sense of family history by sharing the stories of grandparents and great-grandparents, so should they ground their children in the legacy of the saints of the Church, who also persevered through trying times.
“These people lived hardships and didn’t lose their faith over it,” Montelepre said. “Today, when we go through hardship, we tend to walk away from God and say, ‘Where was he? He wasn’t there,’ (whereas, the saints) see God in the midst of turmoil and holding them up in the struggle.’”
Joy in doing the small things
Joy in doing the small things
After the group shared its personal petitions and prayed a decade of the rosary, Joan Chifici spoke of her love for St. Therese the Little Flower because of the many times her own vocation, like that of the saint’s, was lived out through small works of love.
“Her example of just offering the little bitty gifts to God – that helps me get through my day,” Chifici said. “Like when you’re ironing – iron that handkerchief like you’re ironing for Jesus!”
Participant Katie Lee said her devotion to St. Therese began in high school, after she attended a memorial Mass with her mother for a teenaged boy who had a reputation for being “bad news.”
“I don’t know why I said this – because I wasn’t an ugly child – but I turned to my mom and said, ‘He’s not in purgatory, Mom!’”
Insisting that St. Therese would prove to Lee that the boy’s soul was indeed in purgatory – and ultimately would be united with God – Lee’s mother insisted that her daughter pray a novena to St. Therese. Near the end of the novena, Lee was with some of the late teenager’s friends when a stranger suddenly gave her a huge balloon in the shape of a flower. Lee saw the gift as a sign from “The Little Flower” that St. Therese had indeed interceded for the deceased teenager.
Lee was instantly humbled.
“I feel like St. Therese has just been my companion for my whole life,” Lee said. “She helps me to be docile.”
Joni Schaff, a mother of three, said she drew inspiration from the patron saint of her home parish of St. Jane de Chantal, who began the Congregation of the Visitation after being widowed at 28.
“She was a mother; she was a wife,” Schaff said. “(Studying St. Jane’s life) shows the children that even though her vocation started out as marriage, she still was able to do what God wanted her to do in a different vocation.”
Montelepre said St. Jane can teach us another nugget of wisdom: Some of the canonized struggled to carry their crosses, even up until the hour of their death. In St. Jane’s case, unrelenting depression dogged her following the death of her husband.
“In her depression she still found a way to serve God,” Montelepre said. “Some burdens are not going to be taken away, but to learn that from a saint? We all want to hear that everything ended up rosy!
“But like the saints, we’re called to stick it out. We’re called to walk through the drudgery,” Montelepre said. “The fairy tale ending is heaven, and if you do the work here (on earth), you’ll have the fairy tale eventually.”
The next Fiat Friday is Jan. 24. Call St. Peter’s Office of Marriage and Family life at (985) 892-9353.
Beth Donze can be reached at bdonze@clarion herald.org.