October 27, 2006

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Saints can help families grow in love

Sean Gallagher“Hi Daddy. I love you.”

My 4-year-old son, Michael, spoke these sweet words to me during a telephone call last Sunday.

They were words that might be considered common. He says them to me on a regular basis.

But last Sunday, they were especially dear because he was thousands of miles away from my wife, Cindy, and I as we were in Rome for the canonization of St. Theodora Guérin, and he was staying with his grandparents in Shelbyville.

Being separated from Michael and his younger brother, Raphael, for more than a week and by a large ocean was a strong reinforcement for me of how important they both are to me and how much I love them.

I knew both of these things, of course. But the separation really brought that home strongly for me. It was certainly a blessing that God gave me during this pilgrimage filled with many graces.

One of the other gifts that came my way during my sojourn in Italy was the frequent opportunity to pray at the resting places of people like St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Paul and St. Peter, to name a few.

Those times of prayer seemed to bridge the thousands of miles between me and my boys. As I invoked the prayers of these saints for my boys, I came to realize that the spiritual bond between them and me remained strong even when I was so far away from them.

The blessed presence of the saints in our Church is a great gift to families that can help strengthen their bonds of love.

Their prayers for us that we invoke can help us overcome the small and large trials that we face daily in our relationships and in managing our households.

Their example of holiness can spur us on to say yes to the grace that God always offers us to think, speak and act in relationships in our families more like Christ would have us do.

An especially appropriate saint for families in central and southern Indiana to embrace is, of course, St. Theodora herself, the first canonized saint of our archdiocese.

Families might go to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to pray at her resting place there in the Sisters of Providence’s Church of the Immaculate Conception.

But just as my pilgrimage to Italy reminded me that the spiritual bond between me and my sons can span the globe, it is also good for us to remember that we don’t necessarily need to go to the tombs of the saints to maintain our ties with them.

By baptism, we are linked to them through time and space into eternity itself. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, the saints are always close to us, willing and able to draw us by their prayer closer to Christ and closer to our family members.

As I write this column, my wife and I are jetting across the Atlantic Ocean on our way back home, looking forward to being reunited with Michael and Raphael.

But this last leg of the archdiocesan canonization pilgrimage is a metaphor of the destination of the greatest pilgrimage of all: our home in heaven.

Keeping the saints close to us in our prayers can help us and our families grow closer together in love as we continue on our common journey of faith toward our heavenly homeland.

Make the saints a part of your family and your bonds to our heavenly Father, Christ our brother, and all of your loved ones will surely be strengthened. †

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