Category Archives: Friar Reflections

A regular reflection from one of our Franciscan Friars on the day’s readings, the happenings around the parish, or discussing parochial outreach initiatives.

Calm In the Face of the Storm | Staff Reflections | Hurricane Ian

Dear Parishioners,

As you will have become aware our Parish has, this year, accepted the challenge of Pope Francis to celebrate the Season of Creation. The central focus this year is the call to ‘Listen to the voice of creation’. As Hurricane Ian looks set to approach our city it is difficult to be clear about what the impact on created things and creatures will be.

Ironically, we may have no choice than to listen to the voice of creation, to hear creation groan! But let’s also watch creation. Already birds whose natural habitat is the ocean have begun their unseasonal migration towards the land. Dog owners will know that dogs and other pets will sense that change is in the air long before there are any visible signs. This is instinct. First nation peoples had a natural awareness of the movement in the skies and the waters and reacted accordingly. This is why many Seminole Indians chose Tampa as a relatively safe haven!

All creation is inter-connected although it would seem that humanity may have lost some of this awareness and natural instinct. Nevertheless, those who suffer from arthritis may discover mysteriously that they experience more pain in their joints in times of such meteorological change. The vast majority of us will have to depend on warnings from the media and meteorologists, inevitably causing supermarket shelves to empty of batteries, bread, and water, with long lines to form at gas stations.

This week, we who live on the west coast of Florida will be concerned for ourselves and our neighbors as we potentially face damage or loss of all that keeps us safe. Friends and family living elsewhere will be similarly anxious for us.

And what does God say? Throughout scripture God and his angels always say “Do not be afraid, I will be with you in your distress.” When the disciples were in a storm-tossed boat they were justifiably afraid. So afraid, in fact, that when Jesus appeared walking towards them on the waters, they thought they were seeing a ghost. This was not the only time that the disciples did not recognize Christ in a time of turmoil. The post-resurrection journey to Emmaus was another significant moment of unseeing. On another occasion, when a storm arose and, amazingly, Jesus had managed to fall asleep in the boat, the disciples turned to him in fear. He calmed the waters and he calmed their fears.

We know from the Gospels that God will care for us so much more than he cares for the lilies. God cares whether we reach out to God in prayer or not. But let’s make out of this time of anxiety an opportunity to learn the power of constant prayer, to intentionally place ourselves in God’s care and to hear God say to each of us what God and his angels have always said: ‘Do not be afraid’ and ‘Know that I am with you always’.

Peace and all good,
Phil Jakob
Director of Music

You may find the following songs comforting during your prayer:

Be Not Afraid | Bob Dufford and the St Louis Jesuits
 

How Can I Keep from Singing? | Sung and arranged by members of the Iona Community

Don’t Be Afraid | John Bell of the Iona Community

Let Nothing Trouble You by Bernadette Farrell

Shelter Me | Michael Joncas

A New Way to Communicate the Good News | Staff Reflections | The Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners, 

Back in August, the Bishop’s office announced a resolution to a key item presented through the recent synodal process. They found from their synthesis of the sessions a desire from our region’s parishioners for greater synergy, community, and communications. That resolution takes place today, as we celebrate the first-ever Diocesan Media Day, instituted to raise awareness of our diocesan media ministries, including Spirit FM and the Gulf Coast Catholic.

Many will be familiar with these outlets and the great efforts they make to share the Good News, but in the off chance you were not aware, please take the time to find Spirit at 90.5 on your FM dial and subscribe to the weekly newsletter at gulfcoastcatholic.org. 1 Thessalonians 5:21 states “Test everything; retain what is good.” I can assure you will retain these as part of your daily and weekly routines.

As a child of the information age, spending the entirety of my 13- year career in media, communications, and the like, I take heart seeing our pastoral office provide a day of emphasis for these outlets. We need to remember anything that communicates a message is considered media, and sometimes (yes, sometimes), it can even be uplifting! We regularly produce media for you here at Sacred Heart, with the intent to inform and enrich your connections to both the Gospels and our parish. From this web article that you are reading my thoughts from this week to our live-stream Mass, or our social media posts, Flocknotes, and emails letting you know about upcoming liturgical events, our media production is already robust, and we intend to do much, much more.

We recently completed our own version of synod-like “Listening Sessions,” tailored to focus on our parish and its needs, as opposed to the greater Church. Similarly, we heard a desire for more media, specifically with a Franciscan focus, for parishioners to gain a greater understanding of the order from a theological perspective, as well as to develop a greater Franciscan identity within our parish. The Friars and staff are ready to answer that call.

You’ll have heard us mention before the need to prioritize new media (video/social/ podcasts) in previous columns, especially when addressing the topic of evangelization. We must be readily available through multiple digital outlets to meet the demographic changes and population growth within our parish boundaries, in addition to the parishioner requests previously mentioned. I am happy to say we are finally approaching that next step. Recently, the parish hired a new parish communications assistant, backfilling a vacant position. With this additional help in place, we can begin building out a studio space within the parish office. We will start with producing some short-form informational content, as well as weekly podcasts, featuring the friars discussing their reflections on the week’s Gospel or lay leaders telling the parish about their ministries, and grow from there.

If you are interested in supporting these new ventures, please reach out to me directly via email.

Peace and all good,

Rob Boelke
Manager, Communications

Do Cheaters Prosper? | Friar Reflections | The Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

I’ve always found the parable in today’s Gospel, according to Luke (16: 1-13), problematic to say the least. What we have here is another person, like the prodigal son in last week’s Gospel, who squandered another’s property. What is so galling is that, in the end, he seems to get away with it “and the master commended that dishonest steward for acting prudently” when the steward “doctors the books.”

It seems that the old adage “cheaters never prosper” isn’t true in this case! Yet in today’s first reading from Amos (8:4-7), the prophet warns that “the Lord will never forget” those who cheat the poor and needy. What’s going on?

Years ago, when studying theology, specifically the Hebrew prophets, I told my professor it seems as if the prophets were warning that if there was not justice in the land, there would be no true and acceptable worship. She smiled. Late in the year, I used this in a presentation and one of the women who heard me had bumper stickers made: “NO JUSTICE NO WORSHIP.” I gave them to members in the class (other religious) to do with them what they wanted. One person said that he put it on the outside of his bedroom door. The next morning, he saw that someone had torn it off. Oh well…no one likes a prophet’s message.

Perhaps the readings seem to contradict each other so that we might ask ourselves, “Whom do we serve, God or mammon?”

Mammon is not just keeping tabs on our bank accounts and investments, but includes power and privilege. Perhaps the Gospel is inviting us to take a look at who we really are (“I am not strong enough to dig and I am ashamed to beg”), not who we pretend to be. Maybe while looking at ourselves we might also discover that our actions, whether public or private, reveal something of our character. Not to mention that in the time spent reflecting on ourselves, we have less time to criticize others. Self reflection leading to self-awareness might be the path to self-conversion and a greater imitation of Christ, which is the goal of Franciscan prayer.

Cheaters might prosper in this world, but not in the next. Yet all cheaters, and all sinners, have the opportunity to change their attitudes and behaviors with the grace of God. Let us pray for the grace to be open to change more and more into the image of Christ and thus live out our baptismal identity and mission.

May the Lord give you peace,

Fr. Steve

Lost and Later Found | Friar Reflections | The Twenty-Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

God loves the just but does not ignore the sinner, for whom there is always a place in his kingdom. The church is not an exclusive club. As a matter of fact, there was a friar who referred to the church as a refuge for sinners.

The Pharisees seemed to resent God’s mercy, so Jesus answered their jeers in this week’s Gospel with a series of parables. The parable of the lost sheep does not deny the goodness of the virtuous majority but makes the point that there is a special place for the repentant sinner. The lost coin is important to the careful widow, and her joy at its recovery is shared because it is deeply felt. The sum may be modest, but its sentimental value matters to her a lot. We’re all V.I.P.s in God’s eyes, especially those who are lost and later found.

But there is another side to this story: the Prodigal Son “came to his senses.” He opened his eyes to see, his ears to hear; he reached out for help and got in touch with reality. The father’s welcome was extraordinary, but it could only happen because the son came back home. We, too, need to be willing to let God embrace us as we come to our senses. God’s mercy is there for any of us who turn to him with all our hearts.

The parable of the prodigal son is a classic of narrative skill that is timelessly relevant. We need to know that a loving God awaits our return home (if you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and get a hold of a copy of Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son”). We also need the reminder that the same loving God expects us to forgive one another and to welcome them back again. The joy of a son’s homecoming was spoiled for the father by the sulking of the elder brother but the father was undeterred.

It’s sad that the elder brother held resentment towards both his brother and his father. God wants us all to be merciful and understanding. Leaving people helpless is no part of his plan. Though living under the same roof, the elder son was isolated from his father. Focused on his own rights and needs, he could not handle his brother’s safe return. Calling him “this son of yours” must have grieved his father. As we strive to be faithful and dutiful disciples, we need to be open to welcome home the lost ones, for we, too, have been lost at different times in our lives.

We come to church as both a refuge and home for a brief bit of respite from our hectic week. And as God welcomes us, we welcome those around us knowing that we all long for acceptance. God meets us where we are, knowing us and loving us, welcoming our return home with open arms. We are called to do likewise.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Zack

Labors of Love | Friar Reflections | The Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

It is hard to believe that summer is coming to an end, and Labor Day is upon us. Faith Formation, along with many other parish ministries and groups are starting up again following their summer breaks. A couple weeks ago, we held our informational ministry fair as a kickoff to the seasonal change. I do want to thank everyone who took the time to visit the fair, and especially the volunteers who were at each of the stations. You did an outstanding job advertising our the many aspects that make up our parish life here at Sacred Heart. If you did not have the opportunity to sign up for a ministry, or if you were unable to attend, please contact the parish office and we’ll be happy to connect you to our ministry leaders.

You will notice this week that the southern-most doorway at our front entrance is covered with plywood. I mentioned a few months ago that we would be resorting and repairing our doorways, and I am pleased that this process has begun. This is not a matter of just putting some varnish or sealant on these doors and calling it a day. For the restoration, our contractor must remove the doors entirely and work on them at their shop.

Many of the doors have sun damage and small cracks in need of repair. These doors are 117 years old, and our goal is to have them for 100 more. The frames of the doors have also settled over that time, and issues with the frames will also be addressed. Each set of doors will take between four and six weeks for repair, with one set of doors being repaired at a time. When restoration begins on the handicap accessible doors at the side entrance along Twiggs St., a temporary door will be put in its place. The estimated cost for the complete restoration of our entry doors will be about $36,000.

The main entry doors will take between 4-6 weeks for each set to be restored.

You’ll likely also notice the lack of holy water in the fonts by the church doors. We have seen a recent uptick in our neighbors without homes using the fonts as wash basins for their clothes or face. For both the safety of our parishioners and our homeless, we will test a dispenser for holy water that we have borrowed from our friends at the St. Jude Cathedral in St. Petersburg. It is stationed near the main entryway, and when tested during last weekend’s Masses, it seemed to work out nicely, however some did confuse the dispenser with a hand sanitizing station. Wood stands are made for these stations that help differentiate them from other dispensers. If we chose to move forward with their use, each stand or station is a $300-$500 expense.

On the left, the holy water dispenser we are testing. On the right, wood dispensers that we will consider.

Finally, I’d like to provide an update for our new reconciliation alcove. To remind you, we are enclosing the area near the stairwell with glass to ensure privacy for those seeking confession. We are anticipating the installation of the glass in a few weeks. While many parishes hold reconciliation once or twice a week, we provide the sacrament Monday through Saturday, so having a more private space is needed. The space would also be available for use during weekend Masses. The estimated cost for this project is $9,000.

Confessions will be more private once the alcove is enclosed with glass.

Our clergy, staff, and volunteers are always looking for ways to preserve our church, enhance your ability to take part in the Mass and sacraments fully, and engage with parishioners and the community through outreach and ministries. We hope you see the fruits of these labors very soon.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Mike

Answering the Call to Serve | Friar Reflections | The Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

The period from the 11th to 13th centuries witnessed the rise of a money economy in Europe. Cities grew and multiplied; more and more land was cultivated, increasing the wealth of landowners; and a new-sprung merchant class made it possible for those who were not part of the aristocracy to accumulate wealth. Partly in reaction to these changes in the larger society, a new form of religious life emerged in the early 13th century — the so-called mendicant orders.

These religious communities were different from the great monastic orders such as the Benedictines or Cistercians, which were founded hundreds of years earlier. Members of the monastic orders devoted themselves to prayer, learning and manual labor while living and working together within the walls of the monastery. Although individual monks took the vow of poverty, monastic communities owned land and goods. Over the centuries, the monasteries became powerful centers of education, the healing arts, and the preservation of culture, often accumulating great wealth.

In contrast, members of mendicant orders were itinerant preachers, moving from town to town to preach the Gospel. Consciously modeling themselves on the disciples of Jesus, they went about two by two and were to “take nothing for the journey, neither knapsack, nor purse, nor bread, nor money nor walking stick.” This form of poverty embraced by these religious communities involved the renunciation of all ownership of goods, communal as well as individual. To survive, the mendicant friars asked for alms as they preached, traveled, and worked along the way.

The dedication of the mendicant orders to “begging without shame” produced a different dynamic from that of monastic orders. Voluntary absolute poverty created an institutional dependency. The mendicant communities relied on contributions from donors to survive. Thus, early forms of philanthropy are what made it possible for mendicant communities’ work to go forward. A mutual relationship evolved between the mendicant orders and those who supported them.

Click the Photo to Make Your Gift to the 2022 Catholic Ministry Appeal.

I have chosen this history about the friars and their way of life to speak about the Catholic Ministry Appeal, which starts this weekend at all Masses. Each diocese around the country has its way of raising funds to assist with direct services to the poor and other ministries concerning matters of human dignity and the common good in society. We as Catholic Christians will be asked to take part in helping our brothers and sisters on the periphery by our generosity. Your gifts will go towards Catholic schools, marriage and family life, Catholic Charities, priest retirement and clergy care, faith formation and so many more useful causes. In many ways our acts of charity to the diocese or Franciscans go a long way in providing assistance and keeping Christ’s call to serve the least among us.

Portions of this letter features writing from Fr. Thomas Nairn, OFM, PhD, a prominent Franciscan theologian. It is my hope that his and my words on our history opens our eyes and ears to the greater call of our Christian identity of giving and stewardship.

Peace and all good,
Friar Henry

The Narrow Door | Friar Reflections | The Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

What caught my attention in today’s Gospel according to Luke (13:2230) are the lines Jesus says, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.”

Years ago, as I was walking across the parking lot of St. Francis Church on Long Beach Island, NJ, for daily mass, I suddenly stopped and said to myself, “O my God, I believe it all!” I realized that while I didn’t understand it all, I believed everything in the Creed and the Gospel portraits of Jesus. You might find this a bit shocking that a priest would come to this realization, but I see it as a moment of clarity that had been growing into a conscious affirmation. Yet this is not the end of my story, since belief in Christ is the starting point from which trust in Christ must grow. My ability to trust in God is growing day by day, and when I find myself fearful, I say to myself, “God is trustworthy, all circumstances are temporary.”

St. Augustine by Philippe de Champaigne | 1650

However, even trusting in God is not the end of my faith journey. What I still struggle with is turning my trust into works of charity and kindness, particularly to those people who are not my “cup of tea.” It’s at this point that I must make the choice to be loving, especially when I don’t feel loving. Choosing to act kindly toward others is, I think, part of the easy yoke and light burden that Jesus speaks about in Matthew 11:30. It’s easy because we are all made in the image and likeness of God who through the indwelling Holy Spirit given to us in the sacraments, shares our burdens, and calls us into community to help each other.

The sacraments, especially the Eucharist, nourish our identity as the Body of Christ in the world, and enable us to choose to live out our identity as the Body of Christ. In the words of St. Augustine when looking at the Eucharistic Bread and Wine, “See Who you are! Become Who you receive!” and I add, “Live Who you become!”

One of the small acts of kindness I love here at Sacred Heart is the opportunity to hold open the door to the Church as the People of God gather for Mass on Sunday. I love saying, “Good morning, good people” or “Good morning, holy family” for that is who you are. If each of us held the door open for one another in the world, I believe that in time the world would be a better place. And an open door is a beautiful image of the person of Jesus Christ.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Steve

Divisions | Friar Reflections | The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

In chapter nine, verse five of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, the prophet refers to the coming of Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Initially, we may see the coming of our Savior as the one who would bring peace and order to a broken humanity. In this weekend’s Gospel, we hear a different side of Jesus, a side we are not expecting or may not be comfortable with. We hear Jesus asking his disciples in Luke 12:51, “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

Simeon’s prophecy to Mary and Joseph in the passage from Luke 2:34 complements the point Jesus is making in this weekend’s Gospel. “Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His Mother: “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted.” We can see that unbridled devotion to Jesus certainly does come at a cost, as shown to us in the early life of St. Francis of Assisi. As biographers of St. Francis of Assisi tell us, St. Francis’ father, Pietro Bernardone, was outraged over his son’s behavior in showing his particular brand of that devotion. This outrage led to a public confrontation. Before the bishop of Assisi and onlookers, Bernardone disinherited and disowned his son, Francesco.

St. Francis Renounces all Worldly Goods | Fresco by Giotto | 1299

His son, in turn, renounced his father and his patrimony, saying “Listen everyone and understand it well: until now I have called Pietro Bernardone my father; but now that I intend to serve the Lord, I am returning to this man all the money which has caused him such a bother and all the clothes that were his property; and from now on I shall say Our Father which art in Heaven, instead of my father, Pietro Bernardone.” This story illustrates the truth of Jesus’ saying: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” The division between Bernadone and St. Francis reveals that the peace proclaimed by the angels at the birth of the prince of peace—the peace that Jesus himself is—comes hand in hand with uncompromising fidelity to God’s word. St. Francis from that point on did his best to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. We all know very well that to follow Jesus unreservedly, the action is regularly met with opposition, causing tension within our most loving relationships, and I believe therein lies another challenge facing us.

Every Monday morning, we friars reflect upon the upcoming Sunday readings. As we were sharing our thoughts last week, Fr. Steve raised a quote attributed to the television personality Dr. Phil McGraw. Paraphrasing Dr. Phil, Fr. Steve mentioned the former clinical psychologist’s ideas on choice, saying when we’re faced with the choice of doing the right thing, or the loving thing, in most cases, the loving choice is the correct one to take. We, as Franciscans, choose mostly to preach on God’s abundant grace, love, and forgiveness towards us all and to follow the way of St. Francis in imitating Christ to the best of our individual abilities. And sometimes doing the right thing is doing the loving thing. We are all called to be faithful without counting the cost, even if the cost is separation from loved ones.

One of St. Francis’ regrets divulged when he was nearing death was that he never reconciled with his father. Let our prayer be that regardless of the source of the divisions in our lives, that they be always met with loving concern for the other in the peace granted us freely from Christ.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Zack

Bringing Them All Together – Friar Reflections – The Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear Parishioners,

You’ve likely heard the friars speak recently about upcoming changes to the structure of the order across the U.S. After being asked by several parishioners, I thought I would give everyone an update of what is happening. A campaign regarding revitalization and restructuring is ongoing, with Franciscans from all six American provinces discussing ways to create new energy within Franciscan life in the U.S., as well as modifications to the governing structures for the Order of Friars Minor here.

While the number of religious is growing in Asia and Africa, it is dropping in Europe and in the U.S. Provinces that once were comprised of more than a thousand are now down to only a few hundred. Restructuring may allow more of the money generously donated to the Franciscans by the people of God to be dedicated to our works. For instance, there are savings which can be gained by combining vocation offices, accounting offices, communication offices, etc.

Last week, Henry, Zack and myself attended a gathering in Kansas City, MO for the Franciscan friars throughout the United States aged 65 and younger. Holy Name Province, which covers the majority of the east coast, including our parish, was one of the six provinces present at the meetings. The gathering was a blessing, and served as a chance for us to reconnect with or meet new friars from other provinces.

The Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province at a chapter gathering in 2018.

This process actually began in 2018, when the provinces of St. Barbara, Holy Name, Our Lady of Guadalupe, St. John the Baptist, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and Sacred Heart gathered in their respective extraordinary chapters and voted on whether or not to petition the Minister General and the General Definitory to allow these six provinces to form a new, singular province. All six provinces voted yes. Since then, each of the provinces have worked towards this revitalization and restructuring goal. Franciscan vocation and formation teams have been working interprovincially for years, standing as a model of how the different provinces can work together.

Last week’s gathering and meetings allows us to shape what we hope the new province will look like. The friars today are much more diverse in race, culture, language, and in many other ways. We need a province that will reflect that diversity. A prevailing result of the meetings over the last four years has been the friars excitement about this new opportunity to come together as one. It is an opportunity to renew and revitalize our Franciscan charism and our fraternal life together.

From most people’s perspective on the outside, not much will change. Many of the same parishes will be staffed by many of the same friars. For us friars, there will be a much richer variety of possible ministry opportunities available. A young man may want to serve in a California mission, or with migrants on the southern border, or in one of our colleges and universities, or in different parish settings, or with different language groups, or in direct service to the poor, or some mixture of these ministries during his life. No longer will he be restricted to those ministries available only in the area of the country served by his current province.

In May, the name for this new U.S. OFM province was announced as Our Lady of Guadalupe Province. The name reflects St. Francis of Assisi’s devotion to the blessed mother and represents the patron saints of the Americas. Many of our ministries here at Sacred Heart already celebrate this important feast day. Our liturgy committee decided even before the naming of the new province that the parish would celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe this December. In the past we have had special celebrations of this feast day, but they were one of many aspects of our parish life that was paused during the pandemic. I hope everyone will come join us in December as we reintegrate this parish tradition with new meaning and significance to our order.

Also recently announced was the location for the new provincialate (headquarters). Atlanta, GA was chosen for ease of access and weather. The new provincial office will also look to expand its ministry in the Atlanta metro area where much of the administration will soon be located.

The Chapter of Unity, the gathering where the six provinces will become one, will be held in Kansas City in October 2023.

Peace and all good,
Fr. Mike

Are Saints Superheroes? | Friar Reflections | The Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Dear parishioners,

Who or what are saints? Many of you will have a relatively strong idea of how to answer that question but might be surprised by the flexibility of the word within our Church. The term simply refers to those who tried to live a holy life. Saints were normal people, just like us. They exhibited traits I would hope most of us try to exhibit; being kind, gentle, merciful, an active listener, joyful, peaceful, faithful, or hardworking towards the needs of others. Saints work to love in specific or broad capacity. All those who are in heaven are called saints. You’ll hear Fr. Steve refer to our congregation as saints. He’ll greet you at the beginning of Mass or even this column when he pens it saying, “the saints of God, the Lord be with you!”

The less ambiguous version of the title will likely have been your answer to this question. Saints are officially recognized, after their death, by the Church for what God has done in the life of that person when they were alive. Through a lengthy process involving an in-depth investigation of the person’s life and verifying at least two miracles through that person’s intercession, the Church will move toward beatification, and later, canonization.

We often associate saints with martyrdom, famous deeds, or courageous acts, but there are so many that would not fit that mold. Saints don’t have to be from a religious order, either. There isn’t a need to be priest, nun, brother, etc. There are lay people of all sorts who lived a saintly life, including many who may have experienced difficulty within their lives. There are saints who were disliked or shunned in their time. There are saints who had an unfaithful spouse or were orphaned. There are saints who left the Faith and later returned. There are saints who were homeless, illiterate, neglected, or poor. You get the picture. Very often it is a holiness found just as easily within our next-door neighbors as with those more famous figures. You might call them “the middle class of holiness.”

Saints are not superhuman, nor were they born perfect. They are like each of us. They are people who, before reaching the glory of heaven, lived normal lives with joys, sorrows, struggles, and hopes. What changed their lives? It was the experience of God’s love. They spent their lives giving to others, they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace.

Even the most famous of saints did not lead lives that were distant or unreachable. On the contrary, they are people who lived with their feet on the ground. They experienced the daily toil of existence with its successes and failures, finding in the Lord the strength to rise again and again to continue their journey. A true saint finds God in the present; the here and now. We memorialize saints not to forget the realities of the earth, but to use their example and face what is in front of us with greater courage and hope.

Peace and all good,
Friar Henry

The following are a selection of modern saints recognized by the Church for the lives they lived:

St. Katharine Drexel is the patron of racial justice and philanthropy.

St. Katharine Drexel is the second American-born saint to be canonized by the Catholic Church. Born in 1858 as an heiress to a large bequest, Drexel became a religious sister and a brilliant educator. Following the passing of her stepmother, and later, her father, Drexel involved herself in aiding Native and African Americans both financially and spiritually, going so far as to consult with Pope Leo XIII, who suggested she become a missionary. In 1891, Drexel established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, whose members would work for the betterment of Native and African Americans. Using her inheritance, Drexel opened dozens of missions and schools, including a mission for the Navajo tribes of Arizona and New Mexico that was aided by the friars of the St. John the Baptist Province. St. Katharine Drexel was beatified in 1988 and canonized in 2000.

Saints Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin are the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

Saints Louis Martin and Zélie Guérin, a pair of French saints, are the first couple to be canonized into sainthood (2015). Louis, trained as a watchmaker, desired entry into the religious life, but his inability to speak Latin saw that desire unfulfilled. After moving from Bordeaux to Normandy, Louis met his match. Zélie, a skilled lace maker, also found disappointment attempting to enter the religious life. The two married and raised five girls. Following Zélie’s death in 1877, Louis moved his family to Lisieux, where his youngest daughter entered a monastery at just 15, later becoming St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus.