A Voice for Life in the Cultural Wilderness

We all know the story of St. John the Baptist.  Born to Zechariah and Elizabeth in their old age, he was Jesus’ cousin.  When Mary visited Elizabeth to share the good news of the coming birth of Christ, the infant John “leapt with joy” in his mother’s womb.  He’s remembered as the last of the prophets whom God empowered to foretell the coming of the Messiah.  John preached repentance (Matthew 3:2-8).  He began his ministry in the desert, the wild man of God living on grasshoppers and honey and dressed in camel skins.  He must have been an amazing sight to the fastidious Jews.  But like them, John felt the oppression of the Roman Empire and longed for God to send His chosen family a Messiah that would give the Jews an earthly kingdom.  John was a powerful and gifted preacher and he gained many followers.  He’s probably known best as the one who baptized Jesus in the Jordan River.  He looked up and saw Jesus approaching and proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  We hear the priest echo John’s words at each Mass when we gaze upon the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. 
 
John’s life and ministry always pointed the way to Christ.  He never sought power or glory for himself.  When his followers reported to him that Jesus was baptizing and that many people were now following Him, John’s beautiful response remains an inspiration to us: “…this joy of mine has been made complete.  He must increase; I must decrease”(John 3:30). What’s true for John is true for us as well.  For God’s mighty work to be accomplished in us, we have to get out of His way.  God asked John to spend his life preaching repentance and preparation for Christ’s coming.  John was God’s prophet and at our baptism, each one of us claims a share in Christ’s divine offices of “priest, prophet, and king (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 897-913).  Looking at your own life, how well are you living up to St. John the Baptist’s example?  Does your life point others the way to Jesus?  We might think it’s intimidating to compare ourselves to a prophet like John.  But in many ways we’re living in times very much like John’s own.
 
He was imprisoned for speaking truth to power.  In his case, he defended the sanctity of marriage and the king threw him in jail and later had him beheaded in order to impress a woman.  John preached the freedom of God’s heavenly peace, yet he was thrown into prison.  Locked in darkness, John came to bear witness to the Light of Christ.  John baptized our Redeemer in water, but received for himself the martyr’s baptism of blood.  Yet John let nothing stand in the way of his message and his mission.  We’re each called by God to a unique mission which only we can fulfill.  God doesn’t expect you to be another John the Baptist or Mother Teresa or Fulton Sheen.  He wants you to fulfill your calling and your mission.  These days, the truth of Christ is under assault on every front.  Our Bishops stand in opposition to a government which thinks it can define our faith for us.  When asked to put Caesar before Christ, our Bishops have said, “No!” Our culture sees the Church as out of step with modern times.
 
And we are.  If we’re to be true to our Savior, we have to stand up for His Truth, which is unchanging.  Like John the Baptist, we must constantly point to Christ, no matter the consequences.  John wasn’t afraid to tell the king the truth about marriage.  Catholics must also defend marriage as a Holy Sacrament between one man and one woman.  We are called to defend life and that puts us at odds with those who support abortion, euthanasia, human cloning and embryonic stem cell research.  Like John we have to raise the cry of outrage when anyone or any institution threatens God’s gift of life.  We do this through the life-affirming example of how we life.  We support the Church and the affiliated organizations which defend life and the free practice of our faith.  We pray.  We peacefully protest.  And we vote in support of those candidates who also support life and freedom of faith.  The Catholic Church proclaims at every Mass, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”  Our lives must echo those words as well.  He must increase and we must decrease.  Our mission is to be Christ to one another and to live joyfully, despite the culture, and despite the government.  And while actual martyrdom may not be something we share with St. John, we may very well experience the loss of friends or family who reject our faithful commitment to Christ and His Church.  Like John, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and invite the Lord to lead us through whatever may come.  John challenged the king and lost his head.  But if he hadn’t challenged him, he might have lost his soul.  Our cultural wilderness is starving for the love and charity of Christ.  Will you decrease so that He may increase?
 
“Behold, I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before Me.”                                                                              

                                                                                                                       Malachi 3:11

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The Fruit of Prayer

Monica sat in church that afternoon, tired and tearful, and thinking about her life.  Married for 12 years, with 3 kids and a violent husband at home, she even had her overbearing mother-in-law living with them.  Had it always been like this?  Monica remembered her parents, both faithful Christians, who’d given her a happy childhood.  But their choice in her husband left a lot to be desired.  He was much older than Monica and had a boring job at City Hall.  Worse than that, he wasn’t a Christian and resented all the time she spent at church.  He wouldn’t let the kids be baptized, and this hurt Monica most of all.  She loved Jesus so much and wanted her children to share in that love.  So Monica cried and prayed to God for strength, and faith, and patience.
 
For the next few years, life seemed no happier for her.  Her husband drank heavily and everyone in town knew he was unfaithful to her.  Her oldest son was now away at college and, while he was an excellent student, he enjoyed drinking too much and sleeping around–just like his dad.  But Monica never complained to anyone but her Lord.  Her prayers seemed to have been answered finally when her husband, now in failing health, accepted his wife’s Christian faith and was baptized, just one year before his death.  Even her mother-in-law had joined the Church.  These were consolations to Monica, though her oldest son seemed further than ever from a Christian life.
 
He was teaching now in a big city and Monica knew his life was a mess.  He’d been living with a woman and now they’d had a child together.  His circle of friends was disreputable, even anti-Christian.  It broke Monica’s heart and her prayers and tears for her dear son seemed limitless.   Things got so bad that she even adopted his illegitimate child so she could keep her oldest son closer to her.  She prayed that her example of Christian love would bring him to Christ, too.  When her son got a big promotion to teach in a large university, Monica moved to the same city to be close to him.  She still went to Church every day to pray for him.  Monica became friends with the local Bishop, who encouraged her continued prayers and fasting for her son’s conversion.  Finally, in God’s time, her prayers were answered and, at the age of 33, her son was baptized at Easter by their friend, the Bishop.
 
The year was 387 and the bishop was St. Ambrose of Milan. Monica, her prayers answered, died soon after her son’s Baptism.  The young man whose mother had spent years on her knees in prayer was ordained to the priesthood just 4 years later.  In 396 he was made a Bishop himself and served the Church for 34 years in this role, until his own death.  Monica’s son was a prolific writer and a genius of theology.  He is St. Augustine, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, one of the most important figures in the history of Christianity.  Next Monday, August 27, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Monica, his devoted and prayerful mother.  Any mother who has worried and prayed for the soul of her child can identify with the story of St. Monica.  Everything we know about her, we know from the writings of her son.  St. Augustine’s Confessions are a classic of Christian spirituality and a loving tribute to his prayerful mom, who never gave up on her wayward son.  Her prayers, disappointments, and tears were all a means of her growing in closeness to the Savior she loved.  In her heroic efforts for her son’s conversion, she herself became a Saint. And on Tuesday, the Church will celebrate the feast day of her son, St. Augustine, who came to Christ through his mother’s tearful prayers. 
 
“Nothing is far from God.” —-St. Monica (322-387 A.D.)
 

Where Are You Going?

I’m a fan of St. Peter.  I love his big heart and his big faith.  He loved Jesus completely even though he often got Jesus’ message wrong.  He was emotional and quick to anger.  But he was also quick to ask forgiveness and express real contrition.  I love when Peter confessed that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 16:16).  I love that Peter had faith enough to get out of the boat and walk on the water (Matthew 14:30). This big, loving man is the rock upon whom Christ founded His Church (Matthew 16:18). But one of my very favorite stories about St. Peter isn’t found in the Bible but comes from an apocryphal book from the second century called the “Acts of Peter.”  It’s well-known to most Catholics, but many protestants may never have heard the story.  It goes like this. In the decades after Christ’s Ascension, Peter had traveled to Rome to spread the Gospel  The young Church there was being heavily persecuted by the Roman authorities.  Soon Peter found himself on the wrong side of the pagan Empire and was in fear for his life.  His friends urged him to quickly flee the city.  Finally, he agreed and made his way out of Rome.  As he was leaving the city gate he saw a figure approaching him on the road.  As the man drew near to him, St. Peter realized that it was Jesus.  He fell down in adoration and famously asked, “Quo vadis, Domine?” or “Where are you going, Lord?” Christ replied to Peter, “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.”  Peter knew then that he must return and face a martyr’s death, as Jesus had foretold (John 21:18).  It was Peter’s love for the Lord that had led him to Rome, and it was that same love that led him back to his own crucifixion that day. Love was what bound Peter and Jesus together.  After the Resurrection, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, because love is the measure of faith.  Jesus wasn’t interested in Peter’s business success, or his annual income, or if he was an inspiring leader or had great organizational skills.  Jesus asked, “Do you love me?” (John 21:15-17).  And Peter confessed, “Lord, You know all things.  You know that I love You.”
 
Even though the “Quo Vadis” story wasn’t included in the canon of the Bible, I don’t think that makes it any less “true.”  The Peter in this story is so true to the character of St. Peter in the Bible that it makes the story authentic, at least for me.  And it illustrates something about our relationship with Christ that we all should consider — when you imagine your future, is God in it?  St. Peter imagined Christ with him in Rome and so he went there to spread the Gospel.  He taught and preached in a hostile environment because he invited Christ into every meeting, every homily, every Mass.  Christ lived in Peter and the fisherman was able to do things he could never have done on his own.  It was only when Peter let go of Christ that he sank in the water, fled from Gethsemane, denied knowing Jesus, and ran away from Rome.  When Peter lost sight of Jesus, he was really and truly lost.  What’s true for St. Peter is true for us.
 
You can’t follow Jesus at a safe distance.  Being His child means being immersed in the life of Christ, because our faith is the faith of relationship.  We are created to be in relationship with our Creator.  God IS relationship:  the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  And God wants nothing less than that sort of love relationship with each and every one of us.  And that means including Him in every moment of every day.  Invite Him to share your day when you wake up.  Ask Jesus to be with you in your commute.  Invite the Lord to be with you in your work.  Ask Christ to enter into your family time at meals and as you spend time at the ballgame or dance recital or mall.  When you look at your weekly schedule, ask God to share it with you and to sanctify it with His indwelling presence.  Invite Jesus to lead you in every step and then FOLLOW HIM.  Never let anything or anyone come between you and Jesus.  Like St. Peter, always be ready and willing to ask the Savior, “Where are you going, Lord?” And no matter what answer He gives you, take up your cross and follow Him.  Your only future, your only life, is in the love of Christ.
 
“Let this be your whole endeavor, this your prayer, this your desire—that you may be stripped of all selfishness and with entire simplicity, follow Jesus only.”                  —Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471)

His Holy Name

Among all the words of Divine Revelation, there is one which is unique:  the name of God.  God confides His name to those who believe in Him and by doing so, reveals to them His personal mystery.  Sharing the gift of our name with someone else is an act of trust and intimacy.  Perhaps in today’s world this belief in the power of words or names isn’t as strong for us as it would have been for the Israelites.  When they heard the Second Commandment, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” they had a very clear understanding of what it meant.  In the culture of the Old Testament, the name of something was the thing. But names still possess a great deal of power for us.  Which one of us would want to hear someone using our mother’s name as a curse of frustration?  How many of us could stay calm if we heard our child’s name being used thoughtlessly to express contempt for someone?  How much more then should it disturb us as Christians to hear the name of God being tossed about casually or offhandedly or as a curse?  How close a relationship do we truly have with the Lord if we regularly show disrespect for His name or laugh it off when others around us do?
 
You can’t be in a love relationship with someone if you use their name to curse.  It’s really that simple.  The names of God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, His Blessed Mother and all the Saints should be reverently used to bless, to praise, and to glorify(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2143).  Whenever we invoke the name of God, we should be conscious of the reverence and the gravity of the occasion.  So using God’s name as part of our promise of truth and fidelity in a vow or an oath is gravely serious.  It should never be used for trivial matters.  Perjury, or lying under oath, is also an offense against the Second Commandment.  By extension, every person’s name should be held in the honor and respect due to a child of God.  As He tells us in Scripture “God calls each of us by name (Isaiah 43:1).” Our name is our icon and it demands respect as a sign of the dignity of the one who bears it (Catechism, paragraph 2158).  Our names will follow us into eternity (Revelation 14:1) and so every parent has the responsibility to give a Christian name to their children as a mark of their faith and life in Christ.
 
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind to insure that you are being faithful to God’s Second Commandment:  Do I blaspheme or insult God?  Do I use His name mockingly, jokingly, angrily or in any other irreverent manner?  Do I revere the name of God’s family and friends—His Mother and the Saints?  Have I used God’s name as a profanity?  Have I sworn falsely under the name of the Lord?  Have I broken any private or public vows, like my marriage vows?  Do I show disrespect for God’s name by misusing it in order to fit in with others?  Do I keep silent when those around me disrespect the name of God?  Do I read books or watch movies which use the name of God as a curse?  Do I hesitate to mention God’s name in appropriate situations, such as in conversations with friends and family?  Am I a good example to the children in my life of how to show reverence for the holy name of God?  Our words are powerful.  They can be blessings or they can be curses.  Words wound and words heal.  As Christians, it’s important that we choose our words carefully.  When we speak the name of God we know that He hears us as a father hears the cry of his child.  When we speak the name of the God we love and adore, it affirms our relationship with Him as our Lord and Savior.
 
“…I have called you by name:  you are Mine.”   —Isaiah 43:1

O Come, Let Us Adore

What if you could pray in the physical presence of Jesus?  This has been a practice of Catholics since the earliest centuries of the Church.  In about the fourth century, priests and monks began reserving the Eucharist from Mass to take to the sick and the dying who couldn’t come to the Sunday liturgy.  By the 11th century, Eucharistic devotion was widespread and Adoration became a common practice.  In the 13th century, the Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ) was added to the Church calendar.  And yet today some Catholics rarely spend time with Jesus in this Most Blessed Sacrament.  All of us are called to pray and to enter into a love relationship with our Savior.  If we love someone, we want to spend time with them.  What better way to nourish our relationship with Christ than to go before Him in the Eucharist?  If you’ve thought about going to Adoration in your parish but haven’t made it there yet, here are some things you can think over.
 
In Adoration, it doesn’t matter if your faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist is strong, or if you have some doubts.  Jesus is really and truly present, no matter what you believe.  “This is My Body” (Luke 22:19).  If you have doubts, pray that God will take them away.  “Lord, I do believe.  Help my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24).

It doesn’t matter if your mind wanders while you’re there with Him.  Jesus will be patient until your thoughts return to Him.  Pray, “Lord, thank You for waiting for me.”  It doesn’t matter if you doze off to sleep.  Jesus’ closest followers slept in His presence.  He knows that you’re weak and stressed and tired.  He loves you in your sleep, too.  Pray, “In my dreams, Lord, stay close to me.”  And He will. 

It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to “do” Adoration.  Your presence there with Him is enough.  You are together.  Pray, “Jesus, teach me how to be with You.” And He will. 

It doesn’t matter if you think other people are “better” at Adoration than you are.  Jesus loves you completely, just as you are.  Just as you sit or kneel or pray in His presence.  Pray, “Lord, I am here with You and that is enough.” 

It doesn’t matter if you keep looking at your watch.  Jesus knows all about your hectic schedule and He loves you for giving this hour to Him.  Pray, “Lord help me to slow down so that I can hear Your voice.” 

It doesn’t matter if “nothing” happens during your holy hour.  Jesus is present.  You are present.  You spend time together and that is enough.  Pray, “Jesus, I love You.” 
 
Adoration puts our faith in action.  Like working out at a gym exercises our body, Adoration exercises the muscles of our faith.  We put ourselves in His presence and allow Him to work within us.  Open yourself to the experience.  You can bring along your favorite prayers or Scripture readings to help you focus your thoughts.  Praying the Rosary is a wonderful way to meditate on the Gospel. 

A tried and true Franciscan practice is to divide your holy hour into 4 15-minute segments.  In the first fifteen minutes, remember WHO is present.  Call to mind all your images of God, from the great “I AM” to “Abba” to Jesus the Good Shepherd to the fiery inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Spend time with each of these ways you know God. 

Spend the next fifteen minutes in thanksgiving.  Thank God for your redemption through Christ on the Cross.  Thank Him for all the gifts He gives you every day.  Call the gifts by name. 

In the next fifteen minutes, ask God to help you with your needs and the needs of your family, your friends, your parish and all of mankind.  Pray for the conversion of those who don’t yet have a relationship with Him.  Remember especially those Catholics you know who no longer practice their faith. 

Finally, spend the last fifteen minutes of your holy hour in atonement for sin.  Confess your sins to the Lord.  Be specific and comprehensive.  This is a great way to get ready for Sacramental Confession.  Ask for forgiveness for the sins of the world which all offend Him.  Pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.  My favorite short prayer in His presence is:  “Lord, take away everything in me that isn’t You.”  The Jesus Prayer is also a calming meditation:  “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” 
 
Many parishes have Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament one day a week, especially on Fridays.  Some have Perpetual Adoration every hour of every day.  If you’ve signed up to participate on a regular basis, always keep your scheduled hour or get a substitute if you can’t make it.  If you aren’t on the schedule, drop in! Jesus will love you for the unexpected gift of your time to Him.  Spend an hour and don’t give up.  Remember that Jesus will never give up on you.  He loves you for being who you are and for giving Him your time.  He created you in your mother’s womb.  You honor and adore Him by giving Him your time and presence.  Hearts and lives are transformed through Adoration.  Parishes are renewed and invigorated.  There is an increase in vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life.  Teens experience a deepened commitment to their faith.  Families are healed and strengthened.  Come and visit the Lord.  Spend an hour with Him in His house.  Let the presence of Jesus Christ fill you with His grace.
 
“Pange Lingua Gloriosi” (Sing, my tongue, the Savior’s glory)

                                                                — St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD)

The Freedom of the Cross

Our Christian faith is a faith of contradictions.  God became man, leaving the Kingship of heaven to become a baby born into a feed trough in the backwater of the Roman Empire.  His Gospel proclaims lifting up the lowly, making the first become last, doing good to those who hate us and, most dramatically, finding eternal life through the humiliating death of crucifixion.  Our faith opens our hearts and our lives to the power of God’s love to transform the ordinary into supernatural grace.  Water then washes away the sins we’ve concealed in the hidden rooms of our hearts.  Humble, ordinary bread and wine are transformed into our Savior’s Body and Blood, infusing us with Jesus’ Soul and Divinity.  The power of Christianity flows from the sacrifice of Christ on the Holy Cross.  Without His ultimate submissive act, our redemption is a lie.  The meaning of the Resurrection is, in a word, freedom.
 
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…”(Galatians 5:1).  Free from sin.  Free from fear.  Free from death.  In the Cross is our truest freedom—the freedom to be who God desires us to be.  When Christ sets us free from all that binds us, we inherit all the rights and privileges of the sons and daughters of God.  We are co-heirs with Christ Himself. But this eternal transformation comes about only through an indwelling of the Holy Spirit Who conforms us more and more to Christ.  This relationship is the way the Cross does its work in us, removing the strongholds of our sin and replacing them with the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  This is another great contradiction of our faith:  freedom comes through surrender.
 
And this is what confounds our culture about Catholicism.  For us, freedom means the power to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful.  Freedom is NOT the right to do or say whatever we might desire.  Left on our own, our freedom is both limited and fallible.  We found that out in the Garden of Eden.  God gave us our free will and our choices can be in conformity with the will of God, or not.  He loves us and wants us to turn to Him and “freely attain our full and blessed perfection by cleaving to Him”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 1743).  When we kneel at the Cross, we conquer the world.  We are set free through Christ to experience our fullest and truest human dignity.  For Catholics, this freedom isn’t getting whatever we want whenever we want it, but it is pursuing the highest good.  No one was freer than St. Peter when he was put in chains for the love of Jesus, or St. Francis of Assisi when he gave away all that he owned so that he could freely preach the Gospel.  Anything that stands in the way of our union with Christ is an impediment to freedom.  For us, it is Truth that stands at the center of freedom—not our flawed human will.  This is why we stand against abortion and slavery and pornography and same-sex “marriage.”  Not because our faith is an endless collection of rules and man-made practices.  But because our faith calls us to the freedom that only Christ can give.  Through His grace, our human will seeks more and more to do His divine will.  This is why we believe that no government has the right to stand between us and the God we serve.  When government interferes with the free practice of our faith, the faithful must unite in protest and in prayer.  To submit to government interference is to be only partially-free, and only partially-Catholic.  It is to live half a life and one devoid of the fullest human dignity which was won for us by Christ on the Cross.  Our true freedom was purchased with the Blood of Jesus.  As Catholics, we must be willing to defend this precious and inestimable price with our lives.
 
We’re free only to the extent that we unburden ourselves of our own willfulness and practice the art of living according to God’s plan.  When we do this, we choose to live according to God’s intention for us, we are then–and only then–truly free.”
                                                —Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia

A Mother’s Love

Sometimes merely the statistics of the sin of abortion can numb our hearts to its’ true horror.  To read that each day in the U.S. there are more abortions performed (3,700) than the number of people who were murdered by terrorists on 9/11/2001 (2,974).  Or that there have been more than 48 million abortions in the U.S. since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.  Statistics can become just numbers on paper.  Instead, let’s look at the life of just one person who was NOT the victim of an abortion.  Her name is Dr. Giannina Molla and she is a physician who lives and works in a small Italian town.
 
Dr. Molla’s story begins, as do all our stories, with her parents.  Her father, Pietro, was an engineer who traveled a lot for his work projects around the world.  As a young man, he prayed to the Lord for someone who could be a Godly wife to him and mother to the children he prayed one day to have.  God answered that prayer when he met Gianna Beretta in 1946.  She was studying medicine in Milan and soon opened her own clinic where she had a practice specializing in serving mothers and babies, the elderly, and the poor.  Gianna and Pietro were married on September 24, 1955.
 
Soon Gianna’s medical practice was flourishing and she and Pietro settled into the joys of married life and started their own family.  In 1957, their first child, a son, was born.  With Pietro traveling extensively, we have their “love story” preserved for us in Gianna’s diaries and the letters they wrote to one another over the years.  They reveal their complete devotion to one another, to their children, and to their Catholic faith.  Gianna wrote of her marriage and family as her vocation in serving God in this life.  She said, “Love is the most beautiful sentiment that the Lord has put in the spirit of man.”  Over the next 3 years, the couple had 2 more children, both daughters.
 
In 1961, Gianna was expecting the couple’s fourth child when it was discovered by her doctor that she had a tumor in her uterus.  She was only 2 months pregnant when her doctor advised her to undergo surgery to have the tumor removed.  Gianna was adamant that the life of her child should be preserved, no matter what the cost to her own health.  If there was a choice to be made, she said, “choose the life of the child.”  Gianna persevered in her pregnancy knowing, as a doctor herself, the risks she took.  Their baby daughter, Giannina Molla, was born on April 21, 1962.  But Gianna’s life was slipping away from an infection caused by the tumor.  Surrounded by her devoted husband and their 4 young children, she wanted to die at home.  On April 28, 1962, Gianna Beretta Molla looked lovingly at her newborn daughter and whispered the words, “Jesus, I love You,” just before dying.
 
We need the example of Gianna’s life of complete devotion to her unborn child in today’s world.  Because of her life of extraordinary virtue and holiness, Gianna Beretta Molla was declared a Saint by Pope John Paul II on May 16, 2004.  The ceremony was attended by her husband and children, including Giannina, whose life began in her mother’s final suffering.  Today she continues her mother’s life of service in her own medical practice for the elderly.  In an age where permanent committments are so few, when suffering is seen as a nuisance that is without meaning, St. Gianna shows us how to live the Gospel of Life amid our culture of death.  She is a special example to us of “ordinary sainthood” in that she was a married, working mom.  Her unwavering love for Christ led her to put into practice His message of the Beatitudes.  We see in her life that the journey to Heaven is already holy ground.  Holiness is a direction, not a destination.  Saints are saints because they choose God in all the daily decisions of life.  This “small way” to holiness can give each of us hope for our own journey to Him. 
 
“Also in suffering, let us say, ‘Thanks be to God.’ “
                               — St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922 – 1962)