Since becoming a Catholic almost 10 years ago, one of the coolest things that I have learned about is the lives of the saints. I had no idea there were so many amazing people whose lives pointed so clearly to Jesus. These saints are those that the Church recognizes for their holy lives, some martyrs of the faith, like the well-known Saint Joan of Arc, to lesser-known martyrs from all over the world. Others are Doctors of the Church, like St. Augustine, whose writings and teachings have influenced theology and doctrine.
As Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us.” What better way to do that than to learn about the lives of the saints and to ask for them to intercede on our behalf—not pray to them, but with them, just as we ask for our living brothers and sisters to pray with us. What a gift we have in not allowing death to separate us from our loved ones in Christ. The stories of their lives are inspiring and faith-building, as I am reminded of how many people have lived their lives so truly for Jesus.
One such saint whose life has inspired me is Saint Maximilian Kolbe. This Polish priest ran a printing press during World War II, publishing anti-Nazi publications and hiding thousands of Jewish people in his monastery. At a time where many Christians said and did nothing, this man stood up. He was later imprisoned in a concentration camp and he offered his life in place of a Jewish father, being starved to death with other prisoners. Yet his life lingered, as he led prayers for the other prisoners, and he was given a lethal injection to end his life.
What courage! What love! Reading about Saint Maximilian Kolbe encourages my faith and allows me to see that there are people who stand up for others because of their faith. But while the story of his life already has all the elements of courage and sacrifice and devotion to Christ, the strength of this man came from the incredibly close relationship he had with Christ, and from his practice of Spiritual Communion. He could give up his life to death because he had already surrendered everything to Jesus.
Spiritual Communion is a simple prayer in which you express your deep love of Jesus, and then share that while you cannot receive Jesus sacramentally (in the Eucharist) at that time, you would like to receive Him spiritually. It is said that Saint Maximilian prayed this prayer every 15 minutes. No wonder he had the courage to face torture and death! His desire was for Jesus alone!!
After learning about this prayer, I have tried to do it faithfully, although I will admit I come nowhere near to doing it every 15 minutes! But turning your gaze to Jesus throughout the day, whether it is in the midst of a work meeting or a daily drive, or your children screaming all around you, can dramatically alter your vision. As I share my love of him and how much I desire to be with Him, it also increases my desire to receive Him in the Eucharist because that is my heart’s prayer throughout the day. When I do finally receive him in the Eucharist, it is the culmination of all my prayers throughout the week.
I love to share with my students that one that of the most beautiful things about being a Christian is that we have the freedom to admit that we are a mess and that we need Jesus. Can I raise my children to love God and serve the world around them? Not without Jesus. Can I face the hardships that life throws at me? Not without Jesus. Can I resist the temptations that try to lure me away? Not without Jesus. That is what the lives of the saints show us—people who could do nothing on their own, but with Jesus, they could move mountains.
Coming to Jesus frequently through the day, and then ultimately in the Eucharist allows me to depend on Jesus instead of myself. And that is just what this often proud heart needs—constant contact with the only one who can take my life and make it into something beautiful to share His love, just like the lives of the cloud of witnesses that has gone before us.
Kasey Carty Jordan is a former missionary to China and currently serves in youth ministry with her husband Kurt at their Catholic parish. The Jordans reside in Monticello with their seven children.