Archive for Saints

Of Medal of Honors and Saints by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, RSM

Editors note: A reflection by Mary Ann Walsh, RSM, with permission of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

veterans day

Military heroes move me. At Baltimore–Washington International Airport I’ve cried. Once it was when I stood with others at attention as a fallen hero in a flag-draped coffin was carried to his final flight home.

Another time was when I met veterans in red tee-shirts and blue baseball caps in wheelchairs, in town to visit the World War II memorial.

Heroes came to mind most recently when I learned that five military chaplains since the Civil War awarded the Medal of Honor were Catholic priests. One of them, Fr. Emil Kapaun, an Army chaplain from Kansas, died as a prisoner of war in Korea. Another, Fr. Vincent Capodanno, a Maryknoll priest from Staten Island, New York, died when, despite his own war injuries, he tended injured Marines during battle in Vietnam. The Navy named the USS Capodanno after him. The Church has named both “Servants of God,” a step toward becoming an officially recognized saint. That’s achievement on two fronts.

The three other Medal of Honor winners have dramatic stories too. Fr. Joseph O’Callahan, a Jesuit priest and Navy chaplain in World War II, ministered to injured sailors on a ship hit by two bombs. He worked to jettison bombs close to exploding and led a group on a dangerous mission to water down other ammunition hot enough to explode. The Navy named the USS O’Callahan after him.

Fr. Charles J. Watters, from New Jersey, served in Vietnam. He rescued wounded men at the Battle of Dak To. He ran through intense gunfire to help wounded soldiers. He carried one man to safety. Once though, injured himself, he moved about war zone to apply bandages and give food and water to other wounded. He died in the worst “friendly-fire” incident in Vietnam when he and 41 others were hit by shrapnel when a 500-pound bomb dropped by a Marine fighter hit a tree over the US command post.

Fr. Angelo Liteky, who later changed his first name to “Charles,” won his medal for carrying 20 wounded soldiers to safety during intense fighting on a search and destroy mission in Vietnam. Afterward, he became a peace activist, left the priesthood in 1975, and renounced his medal in 1986. It’s on display at the National Museum of American History.

Veterans Day, November 11, prompted me to touch base with seminarians who hope to emulate chaplain heroes.

James Hinkle, at North American College, Rome, comes from a Navy family and was Navy ROTC at the University of Notre Dame. He served in several positions in the Navy but the call to the priesthood dogged him.

“It was my absolute privilege to serve in the US Navy. Now I look forward to rejoining the fleet as a chaplain,” he said. He spoke of Fathers Kapaun and Capodanno, and the priest who baptized him as an infant, Fr. Jake Francis Laboon. “None of them lived for themselves,” he said. “Instead, in Jesus’ name, they chose to pick up not just their own crosses, but also the crosses of the men and women in their care.”

Paul Shovelain, of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and a prospective Army chaplain, thinks of Fr. Kapaun. “When I fast,” he said in a blog post, “I think of the small amounts of food he survived on.”

Christopher Christensen, at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is a prospective Navy chaplain. He was a Navy man before, but this new position finds him “humbled by the prospect of serving God and country in such a unique ministry.”

Veterans Day is a day for heroes and saints in uniform. They do us proud.

Sr. Mary Ann Walsh was the former director of media relations at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Sr. Mary Ann, a member of the Sisters of Mercy and life-long contributor to Catholic media, died earlier this year on April 28, 2015, after struggling with cancer.


Recommended: Feast Day Celebration Book for Gluten-Free Families

I’ve been saying for ages that somebody should write a liturgical feast celebration book with gluten-free recipes.  Well, it turns out somebody did it!

Haley Stewart and her hubby over at Carrots for Michaelmas have written FEAST: Real Food, Reflections, and Simple Living for the Christian Year. They put together several real food, gluten-free recipes to help you observe:

  • the Christian year,
  • the lives of the saints and martyrs,
  • the global Church,
  • the earth’s bounty, and
  • the goodness of creation.

They avoid white sugar and gluten in their recipes. I appreciate their effort to adapt the ingredients in traditional recipes to what we’ll actually find in our local market. No need to order an obscure spice for $20 off the internet!  When choosing the saints they cover in the book, they tried to think globally, so you will find ideas for honoring many saints rarely covered in saints’ books.

FEAST cover

In addition to food ideas, they offer non-culinary suggestions for observing the liturgical year very simply and realistically no matter how many pitter pattering feet you have in your home.

I would say that if your family can only afford one liturgical feast book and you are not super sensitive to gluten, purchase A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge.  Birge’s book is a treasure of history and the recipes are ones that have been enjoyed by Catholics for centuries in the west.  But when you’re ready for more culinary adventures, the Stewarts’ book would make a great supplement to A Continual Feast.  You can buy Feast here (plus their second book with even more recipes). PDF is $7.99; print version is $21.99.

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day Remind Us to Be Saints, Not Stars

“What if we took all the money and time we put into tutors and coaches and private lessons, and invested instead in making our children holy? Not well-known and praised and celebrated for what they do, but humble and meek and truly holy in who they are?”

halloween image

The other day, after volunteering in our son’s kindergarten classroom, my husband came home more anxious than when he’d left.

I expected to hear about the challenging craft he’d been directed to help with, or about the stress of leading five kindergarteners at once, or even about scissors or glue mishaps. But, no. My husband’s unease stemmed from none of this. It was, rather, the result of reading.

As a high school English teacher, leading a reading center should have been in my husband’s wheelhouse. And it was. What left him perturbed was what he witnessed.

“Did you know how well some of the kids in that class can read?” he asked.

“No,” I responded.

“Well, they can, some of them,” he answered.

I saw where this was going. It was headed down the road of concern about the fact that other kids were succeeding at something and our son was lagging slightly behind. It was aiming in the direction of talks we’d had about the successes our son’s peers had enjoyed in a variety of sports while we’d not yet signed our child up for even a single organized activity (because he didn’t want to).

The worry my husband was experiencing wasn’t unique to him. It is, I fear, an anxiety most parents today share: the need to have our kids succeed. And not just to succeed but to stand out in even the most successful crowds. To be stars.

We see it in the flourishing tutoring industry, with education centers popping up on nearly every street corner. We see it in the need for more sports centers, recreational teams, and travel leagues, increasingly sought out when our kids are still at remarkably young ages. We see it in the popularity of reality entertainment shows like American Idol and The Voice, where contestants give up nearly everything in their lives for a chance at fame and financial freedom.

But, while we see and hear a lot about encouraging our kids’ academic, athletic and artistic prowess, we hardly hear much about their spiritual growth. While we hear a lot of concern for our children’s bodily wellness and financial security, we hear very little about the wellness and security of their souls.

Oh, sure, we say, of course I want that, too. But, it comes as an afterthought. As a runner-up desire to the first place hope of forming our kids in the way of fame and fortune.

And that’s what worries me. I am deeply concerned about the tremendous importance we, as a society, place on our children’s earthly glory and what little importance we place on their eternal glory. The priorities we have for our children couldn’t be more backwards, and for me this came to light as I participated in the Halloween weekend.

For the past two years, my parish has hosted a Back from the Dead cemetery walk. Along the graveyard path, attendees “meet” saints like Edith Stein, St. Gianna and St. Therese of Lisieux. They also “meet” souls who are in Purgatory. This single walk brings together Halloween (graveyards, the dead), All Saints’ Day (the saints we meet on the walk), and All Souls’ Day (the stories of the souls in Purgatory). And this year, on the walk, I met the faults of my own soul and began to think deeply (or more deeply than usual) about the souls of my children.

Because I’d been slowly starting to veer from the narrow way. The start of my son’s elementary school years saw me stepping out on the popular path of worrying about earthly gain and successes. (My husband wasn’t the only one sizing our son’s skills up to those of his peers). We were in danger, I realized as I listened to the stories of saints and sinners, of taking our kids along for this ride.

As I meandered through the graveyard, I pondered more deeply on a question my pastor had just posed in the day’s homily: what would happen if we sacrificed and suffered for our children’s eternal glory instead of their earthly glory? If we took all the money and time we put into tutors and coaches and private lessons, and invested instead in making our children holy? Not well-known and praised and celebrated for what they do, but humble and meek and truly holy in who they are?

I left the walk grateful that we have a time of year such as Halloween, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day to remind us of our mortality and the afterlife. To call us to meditate not on the things of this world but to meditate on those of another, more permanent world. For by thinking of the next world, we can better live in this one.

Saintly Peg Dolls

halloween image

Our peg dolls are smiling from the table. Little hands reach up to collect a few. Then we chat about who this saint was and is. Have you heard about the rage of saint dolls for Catholic children?

Meet some of our peg dolls.

peg doll3

peg doll2

peg doll1

I’ve been painting small pegs of wood for many years. Sometimes I do a few at a time.   Imagine the simplicity of having a small image of a saint that mom would allow a child to carry around! The thrill of having your own likeness of a saint for your very own! My young children love it! I hear them play in the voice and character of each saint. It’s an awesome way to work out the understanding of what you have learned about a saint. We are encouraged to grow in faith and virtue as we learn about someone who strived before us.

Last summer I painted 20 of the same saint and traded dolls with some other moms. I began with a gentle sanding of the wood with fine grit sand paper. Then a gentle buffing with a cloth. Next required some study and imagination to translate 2D images depicting a saint into a 3D simple drawing. Each layer of paint was given to the wood with adequate time to draw.   I wondered if it was similar to how an icon is written. There was much time waiting for the paint to dry. When I had finished with all the paint, I gave three coats of protectant to the dolls. Again this required a waiting for the paint to dry between each layer. I was learning patience and so were my children!

Now these saints grace our children’s tables and move throughout the house as reminders. These saints are showing us how to be more like Jesus whether in our work or in our play.


Would you like to make your own saintly peg dolls? Here are some resources:

Paint a Peg Saint Tutorial. This is a great step-by-step tutorial for getting started on your saintly peg collection.

Easy Peg Dolls. Lacy at Catholic Icing has made it easy for anybody to make saint peg dolls. She offers patterns of the saint’s body to decoupage onto your peg, then you only need to paint the head.

Saint Mail: A Great Tool for Bringing the Saints Home

saint mail
Recently I received a package from Molly at Saint Mail, a unique company that brings the saints right into our homes every month.  My children received a sealed letter from Saint Isidore of Seville along with craft ideas, family chat suggestions, a beautiful book mark, a Saint Isidore fridge magnet, and a lot more cool stuff that had my kids occupied for ages.
some of the items we received from Saint Mail

some of the items we received from Saint Mail

I LOVE this concept.  I read my children lots of books about the saints, but this personal, hands-on way of experiencing the saints is perfect for small kids.   A subscription would be a great Easter gift for your kids!  You can subscribe monthly ($12.99), for six months ($81), or for a year ($144).  I admit at first the cost freaked me out.  But when my children received the package and I saw what was included, I believe it’s worth it.  I also realized my kids have a subscription to an on-line game that costs 5 bucks a month, so if ditch that I can afford Saint Mail.  Way better than the game.I asked Molly a few questions:

Molly, tell us a little bit about your Saint Mail and why you started it.

Saint Mail is a monthly subscription service that helps busy families meet the saints. Each month a package arrives (because kids love mail) with a letter from a different saint, a toy or trinket, crafts, saint medals and tips on how to celebrate the feast day. Its different every month and is meant to be a fruitful surprise!I started it because as a mother I NEEDED it. I teach CCD on Sunday and I homeschool my children. The saints are always bumped for more “important” topics. I wanted my kids to know they had a power team up in Heaven working for them. I would try so hard to be prepared ahead of time with crafts and stories of a different saint each month. Then I would get to Walmart (with three little ones) and totally forget the main part of the craft. Bonus…..I would remember right as I was buckling a fussy tired baby back into the car seat. I needed someone to hand me everything already put together so I could focus on math…or whatever else I was trying to teach everyone! It was my calm and steady husband that said to me “If you need it, there are probably other families that do too.”.

So give us an example of what a package might look like when it arrives.

One of our recent saints was St. Katharine of Drexel. I just fell even more in love with her the more I researched her life. In our culture today where collecting the most stuff is the goal, St Katharine of Drexel provides an alternative way to live. She gave up all of her riches and served. Each month the saint mails a letter giving the highlights of their earthly life in hopes to gently teach and guide. St Katharine also sent along a small Mary Statue since Pope Leo XIII (whom she met with before starting The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament)  was known as the Rosary Pope. St Katharine’s craft was creating a small New Mexico flag with fabric paint. She established her first school for Native Americans in New Mexico and was always amazed at the beauty of the area. She also included a medal, a magnet (to place on the fridge so you can remember the feast date), tips on how to celebrate the feast day and of course the family chat questions so families can learn together!

Many families have more than one child who would be excited about Saint Mail.  Can parents purchase extra trinkets but just one subscription?

Families can buy one subscription for the entire family. I envision a warm family dinner when the conversation has more intention instead of arguing over the last tater tott.(Not that it wont happen…I mean who doesnt love a potato cylinder!) A very popular thing for families to do is to purchase the extra trinkets for all the children to have. That is only $3.75 per child per month. How exciting would it be to watch your child connect with that one special saint!