Explaining Church Teachings: Becoming A Saint!

KEY TERMS: http://www.usccb.org/about/public-affairs/backgrounders/saints-backgrounder.cfm

Beatification — the second stage in the process of proclaiming a person a saint; occurs after a diocese or eparchy and the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has conducted a rigorous investigation into the person’s life and writings to determine whether he or she demonstrates a heroic level of virtue or suffered martyrdom. A miracle attributed to the person’s intercession must be proved.

Blessed — title bestowed on a person who has been beatified and accorded limited liturgical veneration.

Canonization – the formal process by which the Church declares a person to be a saint and worthy of universal veneration.

Congregation for the Causes of Saints – a department of the Roman Curia, established originally as the Congregation of Rites by Pope Sixtus V in 1588. Reorganized and renamed in 1969 by Pope Paul VI, and again in 1983 by Pope John Paul II. Some of the responsibilities of the Congregation include making recommendations to the pope on beatifications and canonizations, and the authentication and preservation of sacred relics.

Miracle –something that has occurred by the grace of God through the intercession of a Venerable, or Blessed which is scientifically inexplicable.

Petitioner – party initiating an action in canon law. In the case of a sainthood cause, the petitioner is one who asks the diocesan bishop to begin the investigation which could ultimately lead to canonization. (A bishop may also begin a cause on his own initiative, in which case he is the petitioner.)

Positio – a comprehensive summary of all documentation; in this context, there are two: the one summarizing the investigation of a candidate’s life and heroic virtues or martyrdom and a second for any alleged miracles. The positio is prepared during the Roman phase by the postulator with the assistance of someone from the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Postulator — person appointed to guide and oversee the cause. One oversees the cause at the diocesan or eparchial level (Phase I); the Roman postulator, oversees all aspects of Phases II and III.

Prefect — the head of any of the Roman curial congregations, usually a cardinal.

Relator – person appointed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to assemble the historic documentation of the candidate for canonization.

Saint – the title given to someone who has been formally canonized by the Church as sharing eternal life with God, and therefore offered for public veneration and imitation.

Servant of God — the title given to a candidate for sainthood whose cause is still under investigation, prior to being declared Venerable.

Venerable – the title given to a candidate for sainthood whose cause has not yet reached the beatification stage but whose heroic virtue has been declared by the pope.



All Christians are called to be saints. Saints are persons in heaven (officially canonized or not), who lived vitreous lives in a heroic way or were martyred for the faith, and who are worthy of imitation.

In official Church procedures there are three steps to sainthood: a candidate becomes “Venerable,” then “Blessed” and then “Saint.” Venerable is the title given to a deceased person recognized formally by the pope as having lived a heroically virtuous life.  To be beatified and recognized as a Blessed, one miracle acquired through the candidate’s intercession is required in addition to recognition of heroic virtue.  Canonization requires a second miracle after beatification.  The pope may waive these requirements. A miracle is not required prior to a martyr’s beatification, but one is required before canonization. http://www.usccb.org/about/public-affairs/backgrounders/saints-backgrounder.cfm



Stage One: Examining the Life of a Candidate for Sainthood

Note: Five years must pass from the time of a candidate’s death before a cause may begin, unless the Pope dismisses the waiting period.

The Bishop of the diocese where the person died is responsible for beginning the investigation. But it all ultimately begins with the faithful.

If people believe that a particular person (who has died) is now a saint in heaven (petitioner), they can petition the bishop through a person called a postulator to open an investigation into the life of the candidate.

Evidence about the person’s life, like eyewitness accounts, speeches, writings, etc., are collected and consulted by the bishop and an episcopal conference (comprised of the faithful of his diocese and the Holy See).

Once the consultations are done, and the Holy See gives his okay to keep moving forward, a diocesan tribunal is formed.

The tribunal will investigate how the candidate lived a life of theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance and fortitude. This, and other evidence mentioned earlier is sent to Rome.

It is at this point that the person is considered a SERVANT OF GOD.

A summary, or positio, of all the evidence undergoes examination by 9 theologians who vote on whether or not the candidate lived a heroic life or suffered martyrdom. If majority rule in favor, it is passed on for examination by cardinals and bishops of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. If they have a majority rule in favor, all evidence is presented to the Pope. If he gives his approval, the Congregation drafts a decree declaring one VENERABLE if they have lived a life of virtuous life or BLESSED if they have been martyred.


Stage Two: Beatification

Beatification is a declaration by the Church that it is “worthy of belief” that the Venerable is in Heaven and saved.

A verified miracle attributed to his/her intercession is necessary. In other words, proof is required that a miracle occurred through the intercession of the Venerable. The miracle has its own investigation and approvals to go through in itself. Once the miracle is decreed, in fact, a miracle, the pope grants beatification. The candidate is now BLESSED.

For a martyr, no miracle is required. So, when the pope approves the positio, the title Blessed is granted to the martyr then and there.


Stage Three: Canonization

Traditionally, it takes about 50 years for a person’s death to reach the canonization stage of things. This is a declaration by the Church that the person is not only in Heaven but is worthy of being recognized as an example of sanctity to the faithful.

For canonization, another miracle is needed for both Blessed martyrs and Blesseds who lived a virtuous life. The miracle needs to be attributed to the intercession of the Blessed, and needs to occur after his/her beatification. (The methods for verifying the miracle are the same as in the step of beatification.)

With Canonization, the Blessed is now a SAINT. A feast day for the saint is confirmed and may be celebrated anywhere in the universal Church, and churches, statues, prayer cards, and medals may be made in the Saint’s honor, encouraging devotion to the saint.


Overall, it is not easy to become a saint. It takes many, many years, and involves so much approval and proof it can seem overwhelming sometimes. However, this is proof of how influential, special, and exemplary these people are! And the Church is showing us that they are worthy to take note of when it comes to fully living out life as a Christian.

I find the best way to describe saints is like this: Let’s say you want to be a professional soccer player one day when you grow up. So, what do you do? You watch professional soccer! And let’s say, after watching the game for a few seasons, you’re hooked on a particular player. They stand out to you as one of the best players in the league. So, you especially watch them play, and follow their games and whole career. You know their statistics and history, the great goals they’ve scored or the impressive defense they’ve saved the game with. You take notes, and practice the moves they do in soccer practice and strive to become a great athlete like them. Maybe you even write them a letter of how much they inspire you and how you are going to be a professional soccer player like them when you grow up.

Now switch out professional soccer for sainthood, and your favorite player for a saint.

As Catholics, we should want to become saints! We are all called to strive for it, too. And what a gift that we have (literally) hundreds of people who have gone before us and become saints! So the Church recognizes them, and says “hey, this person did it. (this) is how. Read about their life, pray to them to intercede for you, that you may learn the ways of living a life of heroic virtue and enjoy the glory of Heaven too!” With all the saints and their drastically different lives, we can see two things: 1 although there are some common themes among the saints, there is no cookie cutter way to get to Heaven – their individuality stands out in their paths to sainthood, and yours will too; 2 you, too, can get to Heaven. You should read where some of these people started out! And look where they are now! There is no such thing as too far gone.

In fact, we have so many examples, that there are certain saints dedicated to causes that perhaps you are going through too! Hi: St. Gemma Galgani, patron saint of students, against back pain, and temptations to impurity; St. Gianna Molla, patron saint of wives, mothers, and unborn children; St. Agnes, patron saint of engaged couples; St. Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of winemakers (personal fav); St. John Fisher, patron saint of lawyers and stepparents, St. Monica, patron saint of difficult marriages and difficult children… I could go on and on!

Explaining Church Teachings: Salvation Outside the Church

CCC 846-848, start at 830 for more context


“Here is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins to address this topic: “How are we to understand this affirmation, “Outside the Church there is no salvation”, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Reformulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (CCC 846).” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means


“that all salvation comes from Christ the Head” … we get from Jesus’ own words recorded by John: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6) https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means


But this isn’t ALL that needs to be said about how we can all get to Heaven. The Catholic Church has historically recognized the importance of explaining further THE MEANS through which salvation is offered through Christ, because Jesus also spoke of this:

  • He who believes and is baptized will be saved. (Mk 16:16)
  • [U]nless you repent you will all likewise perish. (Lk 13:3)
  • [H]e who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (Jn 6:54)

Jesus associated salvation with baptism, confession, and the Eucharist, and so they are administered through the Church, the last two needing a validly ordained priest for their administration.

through the Church which is his Body” … “Since the sacraments are the ordinary means through which Christ offers the grace necessary for salvation, and the Catholic Church that Christ established is the ordinary minister of those sacraments, it is appropriate to state that salvation comes through the Church.” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means


“Since Jesus established the Catholic Church as necessary for salvation, those who knowingly and willingly reject him or his Church cannot be saved. We see this in Jesus’ teaching: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (Mt 12:30). Also: “[I]f he [a sinning brother] refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Mt 18:17). Paul warned similarly: “As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned” (Ti 3:10-11). https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means

Having said all this, we must recognize that this doctrine is not as far reaching as some imagine it to be. People will sometimes ask, “Does this means non-Catholics are going to hell?” Not necessarily.” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means



“The Church recognizes that God does not condemn those who are innocently ignorant of the truth about his offer of salvation. Regarding the doctrine in question, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (quoting Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, 16) states:

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation. (CCC 847)”



“Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spesteaches similarly on the possibility of salvation:

All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery. (22)”



“If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:22; see also John 9:41). Jesus presents a very important principle here. A person is not responsible for what they could not have known. The implication is it is possible to have a salvific link with Christ without knowing him formally. If this is so, and it is, according to Scripture, then it stands to reason that in the same way, one can have a salvific relationship with the Church without knowing the truth that the Church is the fullness of Christ on this earth (see also the case of Cornelius the centurion in Acts 10:1-4, 34-35).” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-there-really-no-salvation-outside-the-catholic-church


“What I mean by a “formal relationship” with the Church is that a person has been formally baptized into Christ and has made a profession of faith in the one, true faith of the Catholic Church (assuming he has reached the age of accountability). However, a person can possibly have a salvific link with Christ and his Church in various ways some of which are known to God alone. This can be via the valid sacraments they may have, e.g., all seven with the Orthodox, or two with Protestants (baptism and matrimony). Or, it may be via what the Council fathers called “the images and shadows” of truth that the various world religions possess. Indeed, even “those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to lead a good life” will not be denied by Divine Providence what the Council fathers called “the helps necessary for salvation” (Lumen Gentium,16).” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-there-really-no-salvation-outside-the-catholic-church



“We must remember that we are not the judges of salvation. God is the sole and final judge. We do not know who is truly “invincibly ignorant” and who is not. Therefore, we must be careful to “evangelize all men” as the Catechism commands us and leave the judging to God.” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-there-really-no-salvation-outside-the-catholic-church

“And if one has rejected the truth, then there is no way he can merit heaven apart from repentance and the acceptance of the truth. The Church makes very clear: “The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God” (CCC 1445).” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-there-really-no-salvation-outside-the-catholic-church

TLDR “As we have seen, God introduced salvation to the world through his chosen people, the Jews. God’s revelation to the Jews found its fulfillment in Christ, the Messiah, who established the Catholic Church. The grace necessary for salvation continues to come from Christ, through his Church. Those who innocently do not know and embrace this might still attain salvation but those who knowingly and willingly choose to reject it, reject salvation on God’s terms.” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-there-really-no-salvation-outside-the-catholic-church


  1. There is no salvation apart from Christ and his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This is an infallible teaching and not up for debate among Catholics.
  2. Those who are “invincibly” ignorant concerning the truth of #1 above will not be culpable for this lack of knowledge before God.
  3. Those in the category of #2 have the real possibility of salvation even if they never come to an explicit knowledge of Christ and/or his Church.  https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-there-really-no-salvation-outside-the-catholic-church


“The bottom line is: the straight and narrow road that leads to heaven is not an easy road to begin with, even for those gifted with the fullness of truth found in the Catholic Church alone (see Matt. 7:13I Peter 4:18). But without the Church and sacraments Christ has provided as the ordinary means for our sanctification, it is even more difficult.” https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-there-really-no-salvation-outside-the-catholic-church



Explaining Church Teachings: Papal Infallibility


Infallibility is not the absence of sin.(Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility

The infallibility of the pope is not a doctrine that suddenly appeared in Church teaching; rather, it is a doctrine which was implicit in the early Church. It is only our understanding of infallibility which has developed and been more clearly understood over time. In fact, the doctrine of infallibility is implicit in these Petrine texts: John 21:15–17 (“Feed my sheep . . . “), Luke 22:32 (“I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail”), and Matthew 16:18 (“You are Peter . . . “).(Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility

In fact, infallibility is attached to his office, not his person. It is a protective gift, not a creative one introducing new revelation. http://www.catholicfaithandreason.org/papal-infallibility.html



Vatican II explained the doctrine of infallibility as follows: “Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they can nevertheless proclaim Christ’s doctrine infallibly. (Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility

Infallibility belongs in a special way to the pope as head of the bishops (Matt. 16:17–19; John 21:15–17). As Vatican II remarked, it is a charism the pope “enjoys in virtue of his office, when, as the supreme shepherd and teacher of all the faithful, who confirms his brethren in their faith (Luke 22:32), he proclaims by a definitive act some doctrine of faith or morals. Therefore his definitions, of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church, are justly held irreformable, for they are pronounced with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, an assistance promised to him in blessed Peter.” (Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility



Christ instructed the Church to preach everything he taught (Matt. 28:19–20) and promised the protection of the Holy Spirit to “guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). That mandate and that promise guarantee the Church will never fall away from his teachings (Matt. 16:18, 1 Tim. 3:15), even if individual Catholics might. (Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility

Now, if a Pope could bind the faithful to error, it would be a clear triumph of the powers of Hell, because the entire Church would be bound to follow the error under Christ’s own authority. Obviously, this cannot happen.

Therefore, the logic of the situation demands that the Petrine power of confirming the brethren must be an infallible power. When the Pope intends by virtue of his supreme authority to teach on a matter of faith and morals to the entire Church, he MUST be protected by the Holy Spirit from error — else the powers of hell would prevail.

This is the logic behind infallibility. But, of course, it is not based solely on logic, since it is attested in Scripture and was held by the earliest Christians and the Fathers and, indeed, by the vast majority of Christians from the beginning. https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/papac2.htm



An infallible pronouncement—whether made by the pope alone or by an ecumenical council—usually is made only when some doctrine has been called into question. Most doctrines have never been doubted by the large majority of Catholics. (Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility

Other people wonder how infallibility could exist if some popes disagreed with others. This, too, shows an inaccurate understanding of infallibility, which applies only to solemn, official teachings on faith and morals, not to disciplinary decisions or even to unofficial comments on faith and morals. A pope’s private theological opinions are not infallible, only what he solemnly defines is considered to be infallible teaching. (Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility

Some ask how popes can be infallible if some of them lived scandalously. This objection of course, illustrates the common confusion between infallibility and impeccability. There is no guarantee that popes won’t sin or give bad example. (The truly remarkable thing is the great degree of sanctity found in the papacy throughout history; the “bad popes” stand out precisely because they are so rare.) (Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility

Even Fundamentalists and Evangelicals who do not have these common misunderstandings often think infallibility means that popes are given some special grace that allows them to teach positively whatever truths need to be known, but that is not quite correct, either. Infallibility is not a substitute for theological study on the part of the pope. (Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility

What infallibility does do is prevent a pope from solemnly and formally teaching as “truth” something that is, in fact, error. It does not help him know what is true, nor does it “inspire” him to teach what is true. He has to learn the truth the way we all do—through study—though, to be sure, he has certain advantages because of his position. (Catholic Answers) https://www.catholic.com/tract/papal-infallibility




The evidence that papal infallibility is part of the Christian Faith comes from three sources.


First, Scripture. Such passages as: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church; to you I give the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven”, and “Do you love me, Peter. Feed my sheep”, and “I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail. You in turn must confirm your brethren”, have always been taken to refer to a special role for Peter in the establishment of the Church, and special divine protection for Peter in the exercise of his authority.


Second, History. From the earliest times we see the bishops of Rome acting as if they had special authority in succession from St. Peter, and we also see the rest of the Church accepting their authority as if they knew it was genuine. During the first few hundred years of Church history, moreover, many who were accused of heresy appealed from every corner of the known world to Rome for vindication or condemnation. And the Popes always had the decisive word at general councils, as when the Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon said in response to the Papal definition of the two natures of Christ, “Peter has spoken through Leo” — and accepted it unhesitatingly.


Third, Logic. It is clear even from Scripture that Peter had a special commission and special powers from Christ to care for the flock of Christ, to bind and loose, and to confirm his brothers in faith — indeed he had the very powers of the keys to the Kingdom. Obviously, these powers were essential to the Church as constituted by Christ. And Christ promised to be with the Church always to the end of time, and said that the powers of hell would not prevail against it.

Now, clearly Christ knew that Peter would not live until the end of time, so he must have intended that the power he gave to Peter would be carried on until His return. After all, Peter was to feed “my” (Christ’s) sheep, and so was serving as the vicar of Christ in Christ’s absence. When Peter died, a new vicar would take his place, and so on, until Christ returned to claim his own.

Just as clearly, Peter’s authority also enabled himself (and his successors) to set forth the manner in which their successors would be selected, either by choosing the successor personally before death, or by setting forth some other means — eventually, election by the college of cardinals.

Moroever, if these special and essential powers were to pass out of existence, it would be proof that Christ was no longer with his Church and that the powers of Hell had indeed prevailed. Therefore, again, Christ must have intended successors to Peter.

For this reason, we are not at all surprised that subsequent popes claimed to have the Petrine power and that the early Christian community accepted it without question.

Vatican I therefore carefully enumerated the conditions under which the Pope was in fact infallible — the same conditions which logic demands, which Scripture suggests, and which tradition shows us in action down through the centuries. https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/papac2.htm




There are several requirements for a dogmatic, papal infallible pronouncement: (1) The pronouncement must be made by the lawful successor to Peter. (2) The subject matter must be in the area of faith and morals. (3) The pope must be speaking ex cathedra, that is from the very seat and office of Peter. In this way he must be specifically intending to proclaim a doctrine, binding the entire Church to its assent. If one or more of these elements is missing, there is no infallible pronouncement. http://www.catholicfaithandreason.org/papal-infallibility.html

When the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error. His teaching act is therefore called “infallible” and the teaching which he articulates is termed “irreformable”. https://www.ewtn.com/faith/teachings/papac2.htm



“All this was accomplished through the apostolic succession of the popes, and the preservation of the Christian message, was guaranteed through the gift of infallibility. If the Church is to do what Christ said it would do, and not do what he said it would not do, such as have the gates of hell prevail against it, it must be able to teach infallibly The Church cannot teach heresy, or it ceases to be Jesus’ church. As Paul stated “the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth”. The Pope must be able to teach rightly. For men to be saved, they must know what is to be believed. And that is why papal infallibility exists” (Catholic Answers, p. 3, Papal Infallibility)

Explaining Church Teachings: Divorce & Annulment

The Question: Divorce when the partner is abusive, cheats, or there are no grounds for the annulment.

We are going to work backwards here.

If there are “no real grounds” for an annulment… we could, for an example, say that the couple simply doesn’t want to be together anymore. That does not mean that on the day they got married, a valid and sacramental marriage did not take place, which would need to be proven in order to get an annulment.

Annulment vs. Divorce

They are not the same thing!

Correcting Myth #1: An annulment is not a Catholic divorce.

“A divorce is a civil judicial act legally ending a marriage. An annulment is an ecclesiastical decision where what was believed to be a valid sacramental, Catholic marriage is declared to have never been a marriage in the first place.” (Patty Breen, “Why an Annulment Is Not A “Catholic Divorce”, Catholic Match Institute) https://www.catholicmatch.com/institute/2018/04/why-an-annulment-is-not-a-catholic-divorce/

Getting An Annulment ~ Spark Notes Version

There are four tenants of a sacramental marriage: free, total, faithful, and fruitful.

Free, meaning both people are there by their own choice, without force from anything or anyone. Total, meaning you give them everything, including your fertility.

Faithful, meaning you are truly faithful to your spouse in word, action and thought.

And fruitful, meaning you are open to children. (This does not mean you are not fulfilling your vows if you are not able to have children. We are required to be open to life, we are not required to physically have children.)


In order to prove that a valid and sacramental marriage did not occur on the wedding day, and thus be granted an annulment, there needs to be evidence that one of the 4 tenants didn’t actually exist on the wedding day, and/or that one or both of the spouses were incapable of truly entering the sacrament committed to the 4 tenants.


It is one thing to physically separate from your spouse for whatever reason, it is another thing to prove that a valid and sacramental marriage never actually existed in the first place.


Back to if you want to get an annulment simply because you don’t want to be with the person anymore…

That does not technically provide any grounds for an annulment.

A note from page 287 of the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, “Married couples have always experienced problems that threaten their union: jealousy, infidelity, conflicts and quarrels. Lust and arbitrary domination can ruin a marriage. These issues arise from the pact of sin, both Original and actual. The first sin disrupted the original communion of man and woman. Despite this, God’s plan for marriage persisted. He never failed to provide mercy and healing grace to help couples sustain their marriages.”

The Church wants your marriage to work. This was a blessing that God gave us – union between man and woman by marriage. And so in cases where “things just aren’t working anymore,” the Church provides resources to help couples out. Think: weekend retreats, online and in-person groups, the sacrament of reconciliation, spiritual advising, etc.

From the USCCB, “All engaged couples approach their marriage with the hope and the expectation that it will last. No one wants to divorce. In some cases, divorce is the only option, for example, when one’s health and well-being are threatened by a spouse’s abusive behavior. In other cases, however, troubled couples need encouragement and resources to try and save their marriage.” (Link in blog post)

(Thinking About Divorce? Think Again, usccb.org) http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/upload/USCCB-FLWY-Thinking-About-Divorce-Think-Again.pdf

In the case if the spouse was cheating, things of course increase in complexity.

And spouses have the choice to try and work it out or separate and apply for an annulment from the Church.

One distinction to note is that the sin is not in separating from a person; it is getting re-married or engaging in the marital act with someone else before nullifying your first marriage. Physical separation does not un-do the sacrament you both received on your wedding day.

From page 288 in United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, “The marriage of two baptized persons celebrated according to the norms of Church law is always presumed to be valid. When a marriage has broken down, this presumption remains in effect until the contrary is proven. The examination of the validity of a marriage is undertaken by a Church tribunal.”

Finally, for when a marriage becomes abusive, the Church does not support you staying in an abusive relationship. The USCCB released a letter to those who find themselves in abusive relationships (link in blog post), here are some tid bits:

“As pastors of the Catholic Church in the United States, we state as clearly and strongly as we can that violence against women, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form”—physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal”—is sinful; often, it is a crime as well.”

“When violence occurs within a sacramental marriage, the abused spouse may question, “How do these violent acts relate to my promise to take my spouse for better or for worse?” The person being assaulted needs to know that acting to end the abuse does not violate the marriage promises.”

If you are in danger in your relationship, you are not violating your marriage vows by physically removing yourself from the household. In fact, that Church supports you removing yourself and any children from the dangerous situation.

“Finally, we emphasize that no person is expected to stay in an abusive marriage. Some abused women believe that church teaching on the permanence of marriage requires them to stay in an abusive relationship. They may hesitate to seek a separation or divorce. They may fear that they cannot re-marry in the Church. Violence and abuse, not divorce, break up a marriage. We encourage abused persons who have divorced to investigate the possibility of seeking an annulment. An annulment, which determines that the marriage bond is not valid, can frequently open the door to healing.”

(“When I Call For Help: A Pastoral Response To Domestic Violence Against Women”, usccb.org) http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/marriage/domestic-violence/when-i-call-for-help.cfm

I also want to dispel three more annulment myths:

(1) It does not mean your marriage is invalidated. – “Death is the only thing that can separate spouses who have a valid marriage bond. There is no possible way a Catholic tribunal or any other entity can change this. During the annulment process, a tribunal looks to determine whether or not a sacramental marriage bond took place on the day of the wedding and if the couple is bound to each other until death. If it is determined that a sacramental bond did not take place on the wedding day, then the couple is not bound to each other and they are free to marry in the Church.”

(2) It does not declare your marriage never existed. – “People who get married have real relationships and real families and the Church does not deny this in any way. Receiving a decree of nullity only means that a civilly married couple did not have a sacramental/valid bond and are not bound together in the eyes of God and the Church.”

(3) It does not render children illegitimate. – Children who are conceived or born of a valid or of a putative marriage are legitimate (CCC 1137). “Any marriage that was presumed to be valid, but later defined through the annulment process as not to be valid, is a putative marriage.”

(Lisa Duffy, “Annulments: Can You Tell When You’re Being Fooled?”, Catholic Match Institute) https://www.catholicmatch.com/about/annulments-can-you-tell-when-youre-being-fooled


Divorce: The bond is broken.

Annulment: The bond never existed.

To ratify an annulment, canon lawyers must only look at what took place before the vows. Were the bride and groom capable of truly making these vows? Did they enter the marriage knowing and believing that the marriage was to be free, total, faithful, and fruitful?


The Church takes this sacrament very seriously which is why couples are required to do marriage prep. The Church holds the couple responsible for their commitment which is why what happens during the marriage does not qualify as grounds for an annulment. However, the past of both spouses can be used to determine whether the behavior during the marriage could have been predicted. Overall, the Church still wants all men and women to be safe and that includes not staying in an abusive marriage.


More Ways To Pray The Rosary


A couple of weeks ago I discovered that beyond the traditional rosary, we as a church can also pray a botanical and scriptural rosary. I got a lot of feedback of people not knowing what I was talking about, or just hearing about the botanical rosary. That, coupled with my desire to dive deeper into the gift that is the rosary, sparked the decision to do some more research and shed some more light.

v important side note: no way to pray the rosary is better than the other. these two variations only provide tools that are optional to you to pray the mysteries in a possibly deeper way. they are not “new rosaries,” and they are not “mandatory.” we are not hating on the traditional rosary AT ALL.


Within the last year or so, I have taken on the rosary more than I ever thought I would when I became Catholic in 2015. I wasn’t ever opposed to praying it, especially if it was with a group, but I didn’t set out to have it be part of my daily prayer life either.

But fast forward a little bit, and I started acquiring rosaries that were really special to me – like my one with my confirmation saint St. Catherine of Siena.

Fast forward even more when I was introduced to the Chaplet of Divine Mercy by a friend. And that sticks with me today, where I do my best to pray part (or all of it) at 3 p.m., permitting the place I’m in is do-able and I know what time it is.

Fast forward even more and Mary and I had a breakthrough in our relationship, where my misplaced fear was brought into light and I realized she just wants to lead me closer to her Son, not to her instead. I also realized that just as Jesus sheds tears with you, she is in your valley too.

Now I pray the rosary when I have 20 minutes of down time, whether that be in the morning, or before mass, or at night while I’m waiting for my husband to get off his shift. This doesn’t always come every day, but when it does, I take advantage. It’s great.


A couple weeks ago I discovered there is such a thing as the botanical rosary when I was introduced to Rose Harrington, who was praying the rosary with @manyhailmarysatatime. Rose has a shop of tons of beautiful artwork, including a set of paintings you can use to pray the rosary with flowers.

You can imagine, for my newly Catholic mind, that this was an absolutely incredible discovery. And while more people knew about this than I thought, there were many of you who didn’t, and part of being in community is lifting one another up. So maybe this will bring you to pray the rosary, or pray it more often, or even get more out of it. Especially since the purpose of the rosary lies within the ending prayer: “…grant, we beseech Thee, that, meditating upon these mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise, through the same Christ our Lord…” Praying the rosary is a good thing.

So. Deets.

There is a flower for each of the 5 decades under each of the 4 sets of mysteries. And I will list those in a minute. But first, some JPII.

In his 2002 Apostolic Letter, ‘Rosarium Virginis Mariae’ (par. 29), he speaks to using flowers to represent the mysteries, saying “In the Church’s traditional spirituality…devotions appealing to the senses, as well as the method of prayer proposed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in the Spiritual Exercises, make use of visual and imaginative elements judged to be of great help in concentrating the mind on the particular mystery.”

So, the flowers are meant to help you meditate on the mysteries in a more vivid way than if you were to just simply state the mystery aloud.

Plus, bringing more visual beauty to an already beautiful way to pray? Yes yes yes.


Below is a list of the flower that goes with each mystery set, and here is a link to the paintings by Rose too. If you would like a deeper insight into each flower and it’s relation to the mystery, click here and scroll down to “The Garden Way of the Rosary.”

The Joyful Mysteries 

I) The Annunciation, The Annunciation Lily, Lilium candidum

II) The Visitation, Mary’s Shoes, Aquilegia, vulgaris

III) The Nativity, Star of Bethlehem, Ornithogalum umbellatum

IV) The Presentation of the Lord, Candlemas Bells, Galanthus nivallis

V) The Finding in the Temple, Obedient Plant, Psychotegia virginiana


The Luminous Mysteries 

I) The Baptism of Christ in the Jordan, Dove of the Holy Spirit, Aquilegia (white)

II) The Wedding Feast at Cana, Grapes, Vitis vinifera

III) Jesus’ Proclamation of the Coming of the Kingdom of God, Kingdom of Heaven, Brassica nigra

IV) The Transfiguration, Heavenly Radiance, Solidago virgaure

V) The Institution of the Eucharist, Honesty (Eucharistic symbol), Lunaria annua


The Sorrowful Mysteries 

I) The Agony in the Garden, Christ’s Bloody Sweat, Hypericum perforatum

II) The Scourging at the Pillar, Christ’s Bloody Back, Achillea millefolium

III) The Crowing of the Thorns, Crown of the Thorns, Euphorbia splendens

IV) The Carrying of the Cross, Christ’s Bloody Knee, Tigridia pavonia

V) The Crucifixion, Passion Flower, Passiflora incarnata


The Glorious Mysteries 

I) The Resurrection, Resurrection Lily, Lilium longiflora

II) The Ascension, Ladder to Heaven, Gladiolus

III) The Descent of the Holy Spirit, Pentecostal Holy Spirit, Aquilegia canadensis

IV) The Assumption, Assumption Lily, Hosta plantaginia

V) The Coronation of Mary, Mary’s Gold, Calendula officinalis



This way to pray the rosary is slightly different from the botanical rosary in that there is a scripture verse for every Hail Mary you say, as opposed to one scripture verse for each decade of each mystery. So each decade contains 10 scripture verses. In praying the rosary this way, you are meant to say the scripture verse out loud, and then say the Hail Mary.


Among the handful of sites that I used to research what scripture verses go with each decade of each mystery, there was some variation. Not crazy variation, but some variation nonetheless. The verses are meant to break down each decade, providing more context and thus more opportunity for deeper meditation. If I listed them below, they would go on for a mile, so I’ve linked the set of scripture verses for every mystery:

The Joyful Mysteries

The Luminous Mysteries

The Sorrowful Mysteries

The Glorious Mysteries



There is already so much richness to the rosary, and the finding out the church has given us multiple ways of getting deeper into meditating on the mysteries… it’s a gift.

I pray one of these called out to you. And that you take an opportunity to pray the rosary one of these ways, just to see. In the same way Jesus invited His followers, I extend the same invitation to you: to come and see.

It may not work, it may not stick. The traditional rosary may be what serves you best, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But maybe one of these does call out to you? And then what are the possibilities there? Endless.


The Timeline of the Recent Scandal in the Catholic Church

“As a youth minister, I wanted to talk to my teens about what has been happening with our Church in light of the scandal that has flooded our news feeds over the past few months. However, that task became quite more extensive than I originally thought it would be, because nobody has made a cohesive timeline of what has happened. So I dove in, and I’m praying that I saved you a lot of work. The English major in me geeked out, and as a result, I have given you primary sources (the statements and letters themselves) and secondary sources (in case you want to know other people’s opinions.) I do want to say that I could have gone back much further than June of 2018 when making this timeline, and if anybody thinks that I should include any other event, please feel free to let me know.

The bottom line is we want the truth. Whatever the ugly truth is, we want it. In this time, please pray with me for our Church and especially the victims of this horrendous scandal and abuse of power. As Fr. Mike Schmitz says, we need to lead – not leave – our Church.”

// Sammie Carel

Here is your timeline. 



My deepest wound. My greatest cross. Pride.

Lord, I don’t know how many times I asked “why am I like this?” I’m so frustrated with all the sass that rests in my face and the all strength I feel like my heart needs to have to carry this part of myself. Lord, I’m so tired of carrying this extra unholy side of me.

I see all the other Christian women with such child like love and purity that reigns from their halos. But I am nothing like them. I have a “tough love” heart and I don’t always have joy or a smile in every moment. But this is my heart. And it sucks.

Truthfully, this personality of mine makes me feel ugly. I’ve tried to change, I’ve tried to soften my voice, make gentle my heart, and intentionally loosen my facial expressions but I don’t feel me. Sometimes I don’t feel me in any personality. I don’t know why You made me like this. I doubt this is what Mary was like. I’m struggling with me.

I know You’ve created me in so such goodness. You have gifted me with amazing spiritual experiences and I feel so unworthy.

But Lord, why do I feel mean? How do I get rid of this pride? What do I pray to make it go away? How many Hail Mary’s, how many Our Father’s?

When is my sweet side going to triumph this sass?




If I am made in Your image, then no other woman can compare to how You crafted me. Although I have questions, I am affirmed in my own beauty that You created me to have. You were sassy sometimes too, and I feel closer to You when I read scripture that shows that.

Thank You for who I am, even when I don’t want to be. Thank You for the strength You blessed me with, God. I fall short of seeing the image You paint of me, but I hold close that You see me even more beautiful than my own fiancé does.

Mama, you who held beauty perfectly. Pray for me to draw closer to your Son.

God, allow my words to fall into a love letter of Your word to this world. I ask that in every encounter, no one remembers me (and my sass), but only You. To take away all pride, make me little. Allow my worry for coming off like a “super Catholic” to disappear and just to continue to draw closer to You. Grab my heart so tight that there is no room for me to care what people think about me, but love unconditionally. I am Yours.

If pride is the root of all evil in sin, I will pray for humility at all cost.

Make me a child Lord.


This Lent was the hardest I have ever gone through.

Lord, I have never been so brutally honest with You before.

I have never shed so many tears. I have never felt closer to my husband. I have never felt pain so deep. I have never felt closer to You.

When I lost my baby on the first day of Lent, I blamed You. I threw out the one phrase I preach to others without a second thought – that if You do no will it, You allow it to happen.

I couldn’t get past that comma. I could only keep saying over and over in my head that You did will it. I convinced myself that willing and allowing are the same, and that You did this to me. I framed you as a punisher.

And I had it out with You, and then we didn’t speak. For the first time in my entire life, I found it hard to receive You. The pain was too deep. But I did. I went up, and stared at your body, and stared at your blood, and received.

And I couldn’t fall asleep at night because of how deeply my heart ached, and so I went to Your mom. I couldn’t face You. And I prayed Hail Mary’s until I fell asleep. And she brought me through those nights. And she brought me through the waves of tears that would hit me throughout the day. And she brought me back to You, because she knows what it’s like to lose a child.

And I danced between anger and wanting love from You. At the same time I was so angry and confused, I just wanted to be with You. And I didn’t know what to do with that. I was the most honest I have ever been with You. For once, I didn’t hold anything back. The hot tears felt right, like you were waiting for me to come.

You were waiting for me.

You were waiting, for me.

We named the baby Ezekiel. I pray to him everyday. I wish so badly that I could still be with him. And I still don’t know why you allowed this. Lord, I didn’t want my baby in Heaven praying for me, I wanted him with me, here, now.

But now I talk to Heaven all the time. And now, the Eucharist has completely transformed me. I am sure of only one thing from this Lent, and that is the communion of saints is real. I receive and I get to be with my baby. And my husband gets to be with our baby. And we get some moments as a family. And for that, I am thankful.

I feel like a part of me died this Lent, and Lord I pray that you raise me again too. I am less angry now, but no less lost in the purpose of this. And part of me doesn’t expect to understand. But the other part of me longs for answers.

Lord, raise me again with You. Raise me in faith in You and Your goodness. Raise me in joy in having You.

Momma Mary, thank you for carrying me through this Lent. You were what I needed. Thank you for carrying me, and loving me, and leading me back to your Son. I needed my Heavenly Mother and you were present more than I could ever imagine.

I love you both.

God, I wish I had found You sooner.

Especially that freshman year of college. At the liberal school of no grades, no expectations and no supervision, I thought I was living freedom when in reality I was more caged than ever by careless temptations. They dangled the key just out of the reach and I believed I had no other option than to make that cage my home.

I found myself intoxicated in all worldly belongings. I fell to the addictions of TV and seclusion.

Then to top everything off, I fell deeply into the sins of flesh.

I don’t want to go into details because, Lord, You know what my heart went through. I tried to make it stop but fear made me silent. I cried myself to sleep for countless nights. I withered in pain physically and emotionally as the bruises began to bloom on my skin. Your daughter. I didn’t believe in You yet but Your love for me didn’t stop You from continually pursuing me. Somehow I knew You were walking with me through this.

I had panic attacks and breakdowns and pure destruction wrecked dangerous damage in my heart. A heart You made.

Lord, I’m sorry. But I am so thankful You lived through the hell with me.

I’ve learned over the years that it wasn’t my fault. Yes means yes and no means no. The beauty in the binary is that it is clear.

But it has taken me years to accept that struggle with peace is okay. Years.

For years before, I blamed myself. I blamed myself for inviting him over. I blamed myself for taking drugs before thinking it would help. I blamed myself for thinking sex before marriage was a smart or sexy decision. I blamed myself for thinking it was something I ‘needed’ to do.

I blamed myself for believing it would actually open the cage door instead of weld it shut.

The day I found You again, Lord, You gently opened the cage door like you were coaxing an abused animal from its abuser. You allowed me to walk out into the openness that is Your love. I’ve glanced back at that cage since and sometimes feel like it is where I belong, but You continue to guide me toward the firm rock to proclaim Your glory and Your love.

True love! In seeking lust, I found love. Eternal, never-ending, pure, all-consuming love.

That night was a part in my story of being led me back to You, Lord.

For a while, the blame game was still ablaze in my heart and mind. It feasted on every piece of forgiveness You gave me and left only ash. But like Job 42:6 reads, “Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.”

From nothing comes something. Redemption.

I am redeemed, I am a daughter of the King of Kings, and I am clothed in holy, sacred cloth as His beloved.

I am not my past. I am not my regrets. You have freed me from that weight. I was reborn in You.

I am no longer the blamed, I am the bride for God.

Thank You Lord.




Lent began today.


And I lost my baby.

Lord, I sat here in front of You not long ago and took the test. It turned positive faster than I’ve ever seen and I was filled with a peace in knowing You trusted my body enough to gift me with such a miracle. I have never felt that kind of joy before. I was going to wait until the morning to tell my husband, but I couldn’t. I surprised my him with the news, and we fell more in love that night. We could put a name to our love in nine months, and how so incredibly special that we could go through this together. I will never forget how he looked at me when I told him. And I will never forget how it felt to shake my head yes and convince him this was truly happening. We were pregnant.

Lord, I was filled with peace and love and happy. I had no physical signs of being pregnant but I felt different. Something was different and I loved it. I walked around differently. I looked at myself in the mirror differently. I loved talking to my husband about what these nine months would bring, about how we were going to tell our families. I loved thinking about how in a few weeks I would start showing. We made our first appointment to see a doctor. We talked about how we prayed for our baby that day and what our fears were. I gladly restricted my diet to be a healthy mother making a healthy baby. I felt so lucky to be trusted by You. I felt so lucky to start this journey with him.

But I lost that baby today. In a shock I have yet to overcome, our baby is gone. We had our little one for five weeks and two days. He or she seemed to leave just as quickly as we found out of their existence. And I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to phrase my heartbreak, my disappointment. It is so easy to put the blame on myself because I was carrying something I was doing everything to keep safe. But I had absolutely no control over this loss. It just, happened.

But amidst the blood tests and ultrasounds and nurses not making eye contact with me, we made it through.

My husband and I fell more in love again today.

Scientifically, out of the million things that need to go perfect to have a baby, one of them simply didn’t. It’s not in my control. It never was. Something just… didn’t happen how it should. And You knew that. I know we are young and healthy. I know we can get pregnant again. We can try again. I want to. And I know You know all of that too. But Lord, this has put me on my knees.

After we got the news, my husband read me something that You said to someone a while back. He sat next to me in the hospital bed, and we had a moment to ourselves. He read it with the love that I believe You said it with.

Years back You consoled Mother Angelica as she prayed to You about her baby leaving too. Lord, these words hit us deep today.

You see, the child lives. Instead of the wind he hears the sound of angels singing before My throne. Instead of the beauty that passes he sees everlasting Beauty—he sees My face. He was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before Me as their personal intercessor. He knows secrets of heaven unknown to men on earth. He laughs with a special joy that only the innocent possess. My ways are not the ways of man. I create for My Kingdom and each creature fills a place in that Kingdom that could not be filled by another. He was created for My joy and his parents’ merits. He has never seen pain or sin. He has never felt hunger or pain. I breathed a soul into a seed, made it grow and called it forth.

My baby never felt pain. My baby never felt the weight of sin. My baby knew only us and You.

What a beautiful life. How could I have given our little one any more.

Lord, I am in a puddle of my own tears, but I am looking at You. And I am asking You to somehow show me how You will redeem this.

Please tell my baby that we love them so much. Please tell my baby we can’t wait to see them one day. Please hold them tight, because I never got to.

Please redeem this.