Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Top 5 Patron Saints of the Daily Grind

St. Raphaela
Not every saint in the glorious history of the Church was a visible mendicant and reformer like St. Francis of Assisi, nor a warrior such as St. Joan of Arc.  Some of the Church's saints, on the outside, lived seemingly mundane lives of chores and menial labor.  How many persons are probably saints known only to God Himself?

Regardless, the following below are some of the saints I have found to be my top 5 candidates for being patrons of the "daily grind", the unsatisfying dayjob, and everyday work.

1.  St. Andre Bessett

One of the greatest Canadian saints, beloved by so many Catholics, was little more than a doorkeeper.  After joing the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal, "for the next 40 years he joyfully and uncomplainingly washed floors and windows, cleaned lamps, carried firewood, and worked as a porter, messenger, and doorkeeper." In many respects, I see in him a similar figure to St. Padre Pio in his spending so many hours in the confessional, and for his ability to read souls so very well.  Despite being such a holy man, St. Andre only said of himself that "Personally, I am nothing.  God chose the most ignorant one.  If there was anyone more ignorant than I am, the good God would have chosen him."2

2.  St. Raphaela Mary Porras

"God wants me to submit to all that happens to me as if I saw him there commanding it."3  Such are the words of St. Raphaela Mary, the foundress of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  She is, in some ways, another one of those saints who seems like someone who would have normally slipped by without any notice had it not been for her profound holiness of life.  Due to all kinds of internal conflicts in the congregation, St. Raphaela was treated unfairly within the community, even by her own sister who co-founded the order with her, and was stripped of all her responsibilities and sent to a house of the order in Rome, where she spent the rest of her days doing nothing but menial work.  She even became regarded as "mentally incompetent"4, but bore it all with heroic patience. 

3.  St. Joseph

In a way, it seems odd for me to put one such as St. Joseph on this list.  As William Morris once distinguished between "useful work versus useless toil", so I think of St. Joseph's work as a carpenter to fall under "useful work" - the kind that "has hope in it"5 due to one's being able to create, to see a difference being made, to accomplish something that one can be proud of.  But this is no doubt to romanticize the work that St. Joseph no doubt was engaged in.  He was a carpenter, probably doing all sorts of oddjobs for the townsfolk, working long hours, and still living in poverty despite all of the hard work.  He is today the patron saint of all workers.

4.  St. Zita of Lucca

A maid and the patron of all those involved in the domestic life of chores and cleaning, St. Zita's personal holiness spread far and wide.  She was a servant of a wealthy household, that of the Fatinellis, and was often ridiculed for her pious nature.  "As the new girl, Zita was given all the dirtiest and most monotonous household tasks.  She did them all well, but when she felt the drudgery getting to her she would say a very short prayer to remind herself that she was doing this unpleasant job for love of God rather than to win praise from her employers."6  How many of us, I think, could benefit from such a mindset - to always view all tasks and work as an opportunity to show love for God!

5.  St. Stanislaus Kostka

The story of St. Stanislaus is a fascinating one in many ways - a youth who was a living flame of love for Christ, he let nothing stand in his way in order to further serve Christ by joining the Jesuit order.  Fleeing his abusive brother and the Lutheran household where he was staying, St. Stanislaus walked over three-hundred miles to get to Rome and obtain special permission to join the order.  "On his way, he saw Peter Canisius [one of the Doctors of the Church] who encouraged him, but also tested him by assigning him menial tasks."7  In his life as an aspiring Jesuit, "he washed dishes, helped prepare food, swept, scrubbed -whatever he was told to do. He ate with the servants, took his recreations with them. And he went about it all as simply and naturally as if he had been doing nothing else all his life."8 His obedience in doing whatever he was asked, and his willingness to engage in even the most menial of work for the love of God should be an inspiration to all.

1 - Ann Ball, Modern Saints: Their Lives and Faces, pg. 340
2 - ibid., pg. 338
3 - Paul Burns, Butler's Lives of the Saints: New Concise Edition, pg. 8
4 - Ann Ball, Modern Saints: Their Lives and Faces, pg. 275
5 - William Morris, "Useful Work Versus Useless Toil"
6 - Thomas J. Craughwell, This Saint's For You!, pg. 214
7 - David Farmer, Oxford Dictionary of Saints, "Kostka, Stanislaus"
8 - William T. Kane, S.J., For Greater Things: The Story of Saint Stanislaus Kostka, XI

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