October is one of my favorite months of the year, and not just because I can’t get enough pumpkin spice, I welcome the transition from linen to flannel, and I thoroughly delight in all things Halloween.
For a Catholic, the month is rich in opportunity to celebrate, as the month holds the feast days of four of my favorite saints: St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Luke the Evangelist. Let me tell you — these four saints were powerhouses!
Please indulge me as I share a little bit about why these saints mean so much to me, and how my family celebrates their feast days.
Also known as Saint Therese of the Child Jesus or as the “Little Flower of Jesus,” is beloved by many Catholics for her simple and practical approach to the spiritual life. Born and raised in France during the late nineteenth century, — along with two of her sisters — joined a cloistered Carmelite community at the young age of 15 after experiencing an early call to religious life.
Due to numerous health issues (she experienced near constant headaches and eventually died of tuberculosis at the age of 24), St. Therese was unable to do “great things,” like founding a convent, opening a school, or traveling the world to spread the good news. While St. Therese was initially bothered by her limitations, she came to see — and to share with the world — that “nothing is small in the eyes of God.” She blessed those around her in her own “Little Way.”
This understanding of holiness became known as — you guessed it — St. Therese’s “Little Way,” and it means making sacrifices and showing love in small ways throughout the course of your ordinary life.
It’s a form of spirituality that I find especially helpful for teaching young children about sanctity and holiness because, as the name suggests, it’s “little.” It’s understandable to, and even more importantly, doable by little people. That’s why, every year on October 1, we talk as a family about St. Therese’s Little Way during breakfast (or sometimes at dinner the night before), and I urge my children to do one small act of love throughout the day. We report back to one another in the evening as we eat savory crepes for dinner (they’re French, like St. Therese).
Along with St. Therese, St. Francis is one of the most well loved saints within the Catholic tradition. And if I were to ask a handful of random Catholics to tell me what they know about St. Francis, chances are that they would all mention one thing: animals. Legend tells us that St. Francis preached to the birds in the sky and the animals of the earth, and that because of his loving and welcoming presence, animals flocked towards him.
But there’s more to St. Francis than his friendliness with our four-legged friends! He founded not one, not two, but THREE religious orders, and some of his prayers have become staples within many individuals’ spiritual lives (theis beautiful recited or ).
Many churches will host a Blessing for Animals on or around St. Francis’s feast day, and I’ve always thought attending one of these would be a lovely way to honor the patron saint of animals and ecology. I’m hoping that one day I’ll get the opportunity to visit a parish event like this, but until then, I make it a priority to get outside with my kids on St. Francis’s feast day. We take a hike or visit the farm of family friends or go for a picnic.
Along with St. Therese of Liseux, St. Teresa of Jesus (also known as St. Teresa of Avila) is one of four women to have been recognized by the Vatican as a Doctor of the Church. This title means that she has a place in the the magisterium (authentic teaching authority) of the church and that we can turn to her for official guidance in spiritual and theological matters.
A reformer and a mystic, St. Teresa of Avila is one of my go-to saints when I am looking for spiritual literature. Heras well as her treatise on the are both dense and deep. I can only read a paragraph or two at a time… but that’s all that I have to read to walk away with a new insight. To celebrate her feast day, we build a giant, lego castle (in homage to the ) and I’ll read a quote or poem from one of her books aloud.
Here’s a favorite of mine:
“Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee; All thing pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.”
St. Luke (October 18)
One of the four evangelists, St. Luke is known to be the author of the Gospel of Luke as well as the Acts of the Apostles (and fun fact: that’s over a quarter of the text of the New Testament). Although little is known about St. Luke (he lived 2,000 years ago, after all!), he is thought to have been a physician, a disciple of Paul, and eventually a martyr.
He is the patron saint of artists, physicians, bachelors, surgeons, students and butchers. My family celebrates the feast day of St. Luke by eating something particularly meat-y (like steak or pork chops) since he is the patron saint of butchers, and by reading a story from his Gospel account over dinner. We give thanks to St. Luke for his work, through which we know about the life and teachings of Jesus.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the communion of saints is one of my favorite treasures from our Catholic tradition. Not only do the saints inspire me with their lives of holiness and intercede for me in prayer, but they are also a source of family fun and celebration in our home.
Happy October, friends!