I grew up in a house where we heard our mother speak of the Saints more often than her seven siblings. A calendar was hung in our kitchen with a Saint for every day of the year. Over the years we got to know about them almost like Aunts and Uncles who lived out of town.
In my younger years, there was inquisitiveness and excitement. Green potatoes and desserts on Saint Patrick’s Day, Quality Street Chocolates on the Feast of Saint Nicholas, and so on. Saints and food made looking forward to their feast days extra special. Saints were core to our family traditions many of which continue today.
During the teen years, through the eye rolls and groans, Mom continued with the traditions. She persevered in teaching us their stories and relevance in the order of our Catholic faith. By this time, as with so many of my peers, the relevance of church and saints lost the appeal.
Little did I know, I was going to need their intercession and inspiration in my adult years.
The Saints would one day become my trusted friends—you know “those friends”. The person we go to for financial advice, for wisdom, for encouragement—who knows just what to say when we are struggling with just about anything and sometimes everything.
It is said a Saint will come into your life when you need them, and I needed them. I had what can be defined as extreme careers. I worked for domestic and International airlines, managing multiple Canadaian bases. My life consisted of global travel, gruelling schedules, 24/7 emergencies, and trying to balance it all while raising a family. It was hard.
I always had a Rosary growing up; we grew up praying it as a family and for a long time it was always within arm’s reach. I did not pray it necessarily; I simply kept it close by.
While praying to (now Saint) Brother Andre in front of his tomb in Montreal, I begged for peace. “Look behind you…”, I heard these words spoken to my heart. “If you wish to find peace then look behind you.” I looked behind and there on a piece of wainscoting, the only item in the room, other than the tomb, leaning on the wall was a simple booklet titled, How to Pray the Rosary. Then I heard him speak again to my heart “If you wish to find peace, then pray the Rosary”.
It has changed my life. I have come to know what seemed to be a dull series of repetitive words was actually me praying through the life, death and resurrection of Christ. It drew me ever so closer in my relationship with Jesus. It continues to bring me peace.
During a particularly stressful period, I learned of Saint Jane Francis De Chantel—my namesake—who was a businesswoman who struggled with balancing her faith with her family and business obligations. What inspiration I found in reading about her and knowing she found a way to do both—seek holiness while also running her family business. She went on to co-found the Holy Order of the Visitation of Mary with Saint Francis de Sales. What inspiration!
When discerning an assignment for work and not feeling capable to fathom how I could possibly say yes, Saint Philp Neri showed up on the very day while I was praying for a sign. Through a daily reading at Mass I read, “Cast yourself into the arms of God and be very sure that if He wants anything of you, He will fit you for the work and give you strength”. These words were exactly what I needed to give me the courage to say yes and put my life on the rest of its trajectory.
I no longer just know about the Saints but have come to have close relationships with them. I can be far less guarded and brutally honest with them about what I am going through and how I feel about it. They have lived my dilemmas and overcame similar obstacles.
What comfort the Saints provide when no one on earth can possibly pray for us from a place so close to God.
“Those from whom I receive the greatest consolations and encouragement are those whom I know to be dwelling in Paradise”. - Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)