The Saint Chooses the Sinner, Harry

One of THE most fun things about becoming Catholic is choosing a patron saint and taking on a new name (not legally, of course).  It was actually something I had no idea about until right before my Double-Play of First Holy Communion and Confirmation, so it was like an extra-special bonus added on top of the heaps of blessings received from joining the Church.

As previously mentioned, my joining the Church was a bit…expedited. I joined RCIA late and “graduated” early, so as a consequence I had very little time to really research our older brothers and sisters in Christ and develop a devotion.  I am also not one to sit and discern for too long, anyway, so I basically tossed it like a hot potato to God and asked him to just choose for me and to make it plain.

I tried to read as many articles on wikipedia and the internet is possible, though. I knew that I preferred a woman, because I love to read about strong women and their accomplishments. No matter the gender, I knew it had to be someone I had a connection with.  I just asked God to let my saint find me and take me under her wing and help me grow closer to Him.

I have found many awesome lady saints over the years (though I guess they are all pretty cool by definition), and certainly some more glamorous or well-known than my own, but my sweet saint obviously intercedes on my behalf time and time again in so many ways that it is truly uncanny. The more I learn about her, the more perfect she is for me and the more I am awe of God’s mysterious ways and humbled that my saint chose me…because she did.

I had never heard of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal before becoming Catholic and I still rarely hear of her since. When regular people ask who my saint is, I am more often than not confronted by a blank stare or a polite, but confused question about who she is and what she did. I never see medallions with her picture and I was lucky to find a sweet little prayer card. It is all good, though. She may not have had a terribly exciting life in some ways or (thankfully) died a traumatic, scary death (though she did have more than her fair share of tragedy), but she represents the power and potential the everyday woman has through the Holy Spirit. And that is what I am, an everyday woman asking for guidance from the Holy Spirit to accomplish His will.

Catholics joke that that it doesn’t matter what your issue is, there is a saint for that, and it is absolutely true. It is so awesome that as Christians we are alive in Christ even after our feet leave this earth and that we can all pray for each other and rejoice in God’s blessings on either side of Heaven. We prayed for the intercession of Saint Anthony the night before our wedding when the marriage license got lost, and we threw our hands in the air to give him high fives when it was found in a box of junk my husband was moving into our house. I pray for the intersession of Saint Gianna in hopes that we will have a baby in the not-too-distant future (although we have the baby hopes dashed month after month, she also intercedes for my peace in God’s will, which is becoming more abundant). I pray that Saint Monica intercedes on my son’s behalf, so that the Holy Spirit reveals the love of Jesus to him (he was not raised in a steady denomination, so he struggles with faith). I learn about a new saint everyday, thanks to a handy-dandy app on my tablet. It never ceases to amaze and enthrall me how very wonderful it is to have older brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage and celebrate with us.

Jane Frances is different for me, though. I rarely have to seek her out because she finds me. She guides me and prods me along, even when I have no idea she is doing it, the Holy Spirit using her as a medium of His grace, pushing me back to Jesus in little ways every day.  She came into my life when I was really struggling to forgive certain people.  I was nursing a broken heart and teetering on the edge of a major depression for which medication was not helping when I first read about her; I read that she lost two of her children and then her husband was killed and she was struggling to forgive the person that accidentally killed him. She prayed for a heart of mercy and started by trying to greet the man when she saw him in the street; eventually they became quite good friends and she became the godmother of his own child. I thought if she could forgive and become friends with the person whose negligence cost her so much heartache and uncertainty in her once-rosy future, then I knew she could help me learn to forgive people in my life.

Jane Frances, although very much in love with her husband, married into difficult circumstances as he was burdoned with tons of debt.  She took the vow of “for richer and for poorer” to heart and helped her husband out of debt, developing an admirable business acumen, which came in handy after his passing.  Before I met my husband, I was struggling terribly as a single mom and was too proud to seek any outside assistance until I was sure there was no other way. My husband, too, had a mountain of debt when we met. After we married, we were pretty frightened about the future, but we tackled it together, praying for help and guidance and building a stringent budget.  Our house will be paid off in less than 4 years (God-willing), our cars and truck are paid off, we have no credit card debt, and we are chipping away at the student loans, and still able to do remodel projects on our home. I like to think sweet Jane Frances whispers in our ears when we make business decisions to help us out.

Having a burden in her heart for the poor, she worked tirelessly to feed and clothe them. She had a soup kitchen running out of her house with a line out the back door. When people would get food and then return to the line to get more, someone pointed it out to her and she responded, “What if God turned me away when I came back to him again and again with the same request?” Pretty awesome.  Social justice for the poor has been the biggest burden on my heart since becoming a Catholic. I pitied poor before, but never thought much about them, or else thought they had the same chances I did and so should pick themselves up…somehow, after I became a Catholic, matured and saw more of the world, I came to feel that we have no greater duty and joy in the world than to try and help others. My husband and I treasure the hope of being able to move to a third world country and start a micro-loan bank to help people get on their feet, build businesses and better themselves and their country. I also try to help the poor I encounter here as much as possible…and I think I must be a magnet for them because homeless people find me almost every time I go out in public, bless their hearts. I know for certain my Catholic faith and my invisible older sister in Christ have placed this conviction to help in my heart, and I pray that I have the strength, grace, and courage to live my faith through my works.

As further proof that my sweet saint is a saint for the normal, everyday woman, she struggled with depression and “religous melancholy”. She was full of faith and served God tirelessly, founding the Visitation nuns: an order of women that were too sick, too old, previously married, or with other conditions that barred them from other orders, to serve God by exemplifying the virtues of Mary at the Vistitation, but despite her wonderful work with these ladies, the constant charity work, and her very deep faith, she had interior trials and temptations that plagued her and caused her much suffering.  Lord knows that Satan tries to get the better of me daily with besetting sins and doubts, so it feels good to know that Jane is fighting for me, even when I lose my focus.

You can’t tell ME that God doesn’t use His Christian soldiers for the benefit of us all…He IS God and can defeat Satan single-handledly, but we are mere humans and incapable of understanding His ways and means, so He gives us human examples and role models to show it is possible to fight the good fight and finish the race.  He even uses regular, everyday women help wayward souls like me to strive for something better to glorify Him and spread His love further.  I hope I can sit on a fluffy cloud with Jane Frances some day and help some other girl like me find Jesus in the most normal tasks and remind her that her lot is not mundane, but destined for eternal grace in Glory-Land.

I would love to hear about any saints any of you have a particular devotion to!

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