Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross/aka Edith Stein
“God is truth, and whoever seeks the truth is seeking God, whether he knows it or not.”
When I was going through the RCIA, I had a lot of difficulty connecting with many of the Saints. I didn’t even pay attention to them until we were asked to pick a Saint’s name for confirmation. Here I was a single professional woman that was just emerging from leading a life according to secular values and the female Saints tend to be depicted as well… living their whole lives so saintly, flowery and ultra-feminine. So in my search for a patron Saint, the first Saint that I was really drawn to was Saint Teresa of Avila. Even though she had some major spiritual experiences, she was known for being down to earth with a great sense of humor. Plus, she was out there forming new convents like an unstoppable force against the sin that had gotten into the everyday life of Carmelites. I’m mentioning her, because it was through my interest in her that lead me to St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, aka Edith Stein. Edith was also a convert and her conversion was influenced by reading the Autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, which she read in one night!
Edith instantly fascinated me. She was German, Jewish, and Atheist. She served as a nurse during WWI and became a well-known philosopher who went as far in her teaching career as women were allowed at that time. Eventually, she gave it all up to become a Carmelite nun. Her radical conversion caused some family tension, but in the end one of her sisters also converted and followed her into the convent. During WWII, she was sent to Auschwitz with her sister where they were killed in the gas chamber. I’m not really doing this great Saint justice with this brief overview, she was highly intelligent, supported women in professional roles, and she readily accepted the cross when it came to her. The last book that Edith wrote was one of the first Catholic books that I read, Science of the Cross. That book gave me a great respect for some of the more ‘flowery’ Saints, starting with St. John of the Cross, whose poetry I may not have ever read if it wasn’t for Edith’s explanation of it. Her story and writings left such an impression on me that she became my patron and I took the name of Teresa for my Confirmation.
Saint Raphael the Archangel
“Proclaim before all with due honor the deeds of God, and do not be slack in thanking him” (Tb 12:6)
Saint Raphael came into my life suddenly and unexpectedly last October. I started to see his novena everywhere, I was opening Bibles (different Bibles, different times) and it just opens right up to Raphael in Tobit, and he was even featured on the front page in a supplemental catalog that I received. Now, I work with Catholic items so I could say that some of it was due to that, but he was even mentioned on the radio several times. It was getting a little ridiculous! I just couldn’t get away from him…so I started to pray the novena for his intercession. Nothing major happened, but he didn’t leave either. I read somewhere that like in Tobit, he walks with you and becomes a friend until he does what God sent him to help you with. I can attest to this and still “talk” to him every night and ask him to deliver my prayers to God.
Raphael is the Angel of Joy and his name means “God has healed”. He’s the patron Saint of the blind, happy meetings, journeys, marriage, and is most known for healing. Raphael is often depicted with a fish, the one that was used to exorcise and heal, walking with Tobias and his dog. As a pet owner, I love that the dog is important enough to be mentioned, almost as a reminder that Angels walk with us AND our pets. Before he ascended to heaven he instructed Tobias and Sara to proclaim the deeds of God, bless Him and give Him thanks. This reminds me of the concluding rites of Mass where we are called to just that: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord – Thanks be to God”.
Mary, Our Lady of Humility
“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38)
Other converts have mentioned that accepting Our Blessed Mother Mary’s role was an important hurdle for them to overcome, but it wasn’t like that for me. After learning the Hail Mary prayer in RCIA, I readily accepted her protection and guidance. However, it wasn’t until this past spring that her role as Our Lady of Humility became important to me. Our Lady of Humility is Mary at the moment of her saying YES to becoming the Mother of God. It’s a very rare depiction of Mary where she is the sole focus (usually she is with Jesus or the Holy Spirit). Here she is just a young woman looking up and conceiving this new motherhood in her heart. As I’m beginning to learn God’s will for me, Mary’s yes becomes even more fascinating. I couldn’t say a yes like that without reservation and I’m not sure that I know of anyone that could. What is even more fascinating to me is how this moment is known as extreme humility. I realize now that I had thought of her as naïve, but she wasn’t. Mary was humble and perfectly surrendered all of herself to God in that moment.
I really needed Our Lady of Humility because I had such a hard time surrendering to God’s plans. His plan for me only started out with small moments, such as how I might spend my time. He would tell me to go to daily Mass, go to Eucharistic Adoration, and sometimes He told me to stay when I would rather go somewhere else. These moments aren’t as momentous as Mary’s, but I still had to breakdown a resistance to saying yes, after all I had my own plans (I know it sounds awful, but they might have involved doing nothing especially after a long week). So when these moments and others happen, I remind myself of Our Lady of Humility and try to surrender any plans, fears, and worries I have and say Yes to God’s Holy will which always works out better in the end.