‘Saints to Lean On’ profiles a special group of saints

One of the difficult things for anyone to come to terms with is the acceptance of a chronic illness or disease. It’s a whole different story if you become the caregiver of such a special person.

As Catholics, we often look to saints who have much in common with our own states in life to emulate. We study their lives and take them on as patrons.

Some saints are so popular that a person doesn’t have to have much a background in religion to name between five and 10 of them! It’s great to know the saints are popular and well known.

Sister of St. Joseph Janice McGrane has put together a wonderful book, “Saints to Lean On,” with profiles of a special group of saints: saints with illnesses and disabilities. A wonderful read for those of us who are caregivers or have chronic conditions.

I am one of those people. I try so hard to be “normal” and put aside the list of conditions that are usually invisible to people. But God doesn’t call us to be exactly like other people, does he?

As I spent the last week sick in bed (a common occurrence with seasonal or sudden weather change), I felt God urging me to rejoice in my suffering, rather than try to be someone God didn’t create me to be.

The first profile in the book is Blessed Margaret of Castello. She was born blind and with a variety of disabilities and deformities. But she rejoiced in her suffering even when her parents abandoned her on the streets of an unfamiliar city.

I didn’t always have the issues I suffer with now, but now that I do, I must use my life, in its current state (rather than how I wished it was) to praise and glorify God.

Many of us remember when Jesus said that we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. Sometimes we don’t really get what that means, and, last week, I kind of lost that myself.

I do remember St. Paul had something to say about weakness and suffering. A lot, in fact. I want to draw attention to one particular passage:

“And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10, RSV

When I read that passage, I remember what taking up that cross daily really means and it is the strength of God that I ultimately must rely on. My own physical and mental strength may come and go, but the strength and power of God never fails.

I think what makes Sister Janice’s book so compelling is that she manages to take each profile and make each saint’s life applicable to today. This is especially true as Sister Janice suffers from her own chronic condition. Other saints she profiles include: Catherine of Genos, Thea Bowman, Ignatius of Loyola and Julian of Norwich.

I’m grateful for this book crossing my path, but I’m even more thankful for the lessons I get to learn and the love of God I get to share with people.

If you get a chance, check out Sister Janice’s book! Leave a comment and let me know what you think!


Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.