Interview: The Saints, Our Guides through Everyday Life
In October 2012, the St. Josemaria Institute interviewed Lisa Schmidt, cofounder of “The Practicing Catholic” blog and social media expert, about a special group of saints that she assembled to pray with and for her this year—she calls them her “Spiritual Board of Directors”. In this interview, Lisa helps us go a little deeper on the significance of the saints, and communion with them, in our daily lives:
Q: This summer, you blogged about your birthday resolutions. Among them you established what you call a “Board of (Spiritual) Directors”, which is essentially a group of saints that you selected to guide you this year in your daily activities and your vocation. Can you please tell us a little about what inspired this special Board and why it was important for you to do it?
A: A little over a year ago, I had a role in a musical based on the life of Blessed Pope John Paul II. The writer/composer of the production assembled a board of directors to oversee and advise the project. But there was a twist. All board members were saints. The cast and crew had our very own intercessory board to pray with and for us, to guide our way. As I was reflecting on areas for growth throughout this year of life, I felt a strong call to also create a board of spiritual directors to serve, in a particularly intimate way, as my cloud of witnesses.
Q: A faithful communion with the saints is very helpful to bringing peace and happiness to our daily lives. St. Josemaria Escriva encouraged everyone to: “Live a special Communion of Saints: and, in the moments of interior struggle just as in the hours of professional work, each of you will feel the joy and the strength of not being alone.” Now that you’ve lived with your Board a few months has this become even more real for you?
A: Most certainly! But full disclosure here, it’s been a slow growth. I recently heard Cardinal Dolan say that we are always in supernatural communion with the people who matter the most – Jesus, his mother Mary, and the Communion of Saints. I’ve had to let go of the idea that Heaven is located in a galaxy far, far away millions of miles away from me. Those who have gone before us are with us all the time. And because they are eternally alive in Christ, the saints have the ability to be more present and near to us than we are to one another.
I recently interviewed Fr. John Riccardo, a priest in the Archdiocese of Detroit. When I asked him if he had a spiritual board of directors, he said, “All my best friends are dead.” It took me a few seconds to understand what he was talking about, that his best friends are people the Church has formally recognized as saints. These friendships didn’t happen overnight; it was a slow growth made possible by Fr. Riccardo talking to and calling on the intercession of saints like Joseph, Therese of Lisieux, and Blessed John Paul II.
I am more purposeful these days in turning to Christ and the Communion of Saints. I often simply ask, “Okay, St. so-and-so, show me who you are. Help me learn from you.” I can’t say I’m at the point where I call any one of them my best friend … yet … but it’s something I’m working toward.
Q: Are there particular times throughout the day or specific moments that you find yourself turning to them or that you feel that they are especially close to you? Can you share some examples?
A: One of the biggest struggles I face in my vocation as a full-time at-home mom is coping with the loneliness and lack of daily interpersonal interactions with other adults. I now remind myself that some of the greatest saints were able to find God while in solitude. Take the example of St. Ignatius of Loyola, one who occupies a seat on my spiritual board. A soldier in the Spanish army, St. Ignatius was wounded during battle and spent much of his recuperation in solitude. His sister-in-law gave him two books to keep his mind occupied — one on the life of Jesus and the other on the lives of the saints. St. Ignatius found God in those quiet, lonely moments and there and then dedicated the rest of his life to the Catholic Church. And so the same can be for me.
Q: St. Josemaria is a member of your board because you discovered that you share a very special day with him—June 26th—your birthday and his feast day. Had you heard of him prior to this special discovery?
A: I had heard about him although I didn’t know much about his work. I was first introduced to St. Josemaria Escriva around four years ago through a friend who was also a FOCUS missionary (Fellowship of Catholic University Students). My friend had a strong devotion to Josemaria and dedicated his missionary work to him. More recently, when a fellow parishioner discovered I share my birthday with St. Josemaria’s feast day, she gifted me with the book Holiness for Everyone by Eric Sammons. My friend’s husband is a member of Opus Dei, and their family also has a strong devotion to him. So it seems that St. Josemaria Escriva keeps breaking into my life by way of the “extraordinarily ordinary” people around me. He almost put himself on my Board!
Q: The intention you entrusted to St. Josemaria is absolutely perfect: “May St. Josemaria guide me as I work to build a saintly life in the midst of craziness at Das Schmidt Haus.” How is he doing? Is he doing his part?
A: St. Josemaria Escriva preached that all of us, by God’s grace, can achieve holiness through our ordinary life and work. Oh how many times that simple yet profound statement has helped me through the highs and lows of motherhood! The baby’s diaper doesn’t hold up while grocery shopping and I didn’t think to pack an extra pair of clothes … the air conditioner kicks the bucket at the same time Mother Nature sends a heat wave … I’m locked outside of my car as the keys AND the baby are locked inside it …
Once upon a time, moments like these would have precipitated a major mommy meltdown. I am now more likely to take a big deep breath, picture Josemaria’s beautiful face, and whisper, “Holiness is possible in this moment, too.” St. Josemaria is doing his part. Now I just need to continue doing mine by calling on his intercession.
Q: Das Schmidt Haus is what you affectionately call your home, which you share with your husband, Joel, and two children. As a wife and mother, and busy blogger, God has given you many ways for becoming a saint too. Do you think that personal sanctity is on the radar for many wives and moms today? How would it help to get them thinking about it?
A: I do think it’s on the radar for many women but so often the highway to heaven feels like taking one step forward and two steps back. Apathy can set in during these moments, and if you aren’t surrounded by people who help you run the race with perseverance, I imagine it’s easy for personal sanctity to fall off the radar. So my suggestion is to surround yourself with good and holy people. Look around your parish, in the pews, and on Catholic mommy blogs. There are plenty of women willing and eager to help you grow in personal sanctity.