What’s the Difference Between 14KT, Gold-Filled, and Gold Plated?

​Do you love the look of yellow gold jewelry? Who can blame you? This classic metal has been with us for centuries as a symbol of art, beauty and wealth. But the price of 14K gold is very expensive and most of our budgets simply can’t afford to purchase such a valuable piece of jewelry. Don't fret! Gold-filled jewelry is equally as beautiful and a fraction of the cost.

What is Gold-​​Filled Jewelry?

Gold filled jewelry is the next best thing to 14K gold in terms of providing excellent quality at an affordable price.

When you purchase a gold-filled piece of jewelry, you are buying a substantial layer of gold that has been pressure bonded to a sterling silver or other metal bases. Due to the amount of gold used, these pieces maintain their value and are tarnish resistant.

The gold on a gold-filled piece will not come off. It won’t flake, rub off or turn colors. It will last a for decades.

You can have confidence when purchasing a gold-filled from the Catholic Faith Store. Each gold-filled item is stamped and made in the USA. These items are labeled gold-filled and regulated by the government. Each piece must contain at least ​20% of gold by weight of product sold. Some pieces are ​50% of gold.

It looks like gold, it wears like gold and that is because the outer layer is 14K (or 12KT) gold!

What is Gold-​Plated Jewelry?

​Gold plated jewelry is a very cost-effective way to make and purchase a yellow gold colored accessory. Although these pieces are pretty and very inexpensive they do tend to tarnish and can often times turn the skin green. There is an extremely thin layer of gold that uses electricity or chemicals to bond the gold to the base metal. The base metal is typically copper or some another inexpensive metal.

Gold plating, while cheaper, can be considered an inferior process because the thin layer can easily be rubbed away in a short time exposing the underlying base metal.

Gold plated items are not regulated by the government.

Gold plated jewelry is also referred to as gold plate or gold overlay.

What is ​14 karat Gold Jewelry?

​14KT gold jewelry is beautiful and expensive but in its purest form (24 karat), it is really soft too! That is why jewelers need to add other metals to pure gold so that they can shape it and make it strong.

How much gold is in 14KT gold? 24KT gold is 100% pure gold, 24 out of 24 parts are gold. If your pendant is 14kt gold, 14 parts of 24 are gold. A 14KT gold piece of jewelry is 58.3% pure gold.

Gold is often mixed with the other metals (creating an alloy). The most common metals combined with gold are copper, silver, nickel, zinc, tin, palladium, and/or manganese. These metals create gold’s sheen, its different hues of gold, and increases its durability.

14KT gold will last forever, it doesn’t tarnish or fade with time.

​How to Care for Your 14Kt, Gold Filled, and Gold Plated Jewelry

​As with any gold jewelry, keep it away from chemicals. Clean your jewelry with soapy water, rinse and pat dry. You can also polish gently with a jewelry polishing cloth.

Outdoor Garden Statue Buying Guide

Are you looking for a beautiful statue of the Blessed Mother to adorn your garden? Maybe you prefer a statue of Christ, a Guardian Angel or your favorite patron saint. Regardless of your choice, there are a few important things to consider when deciding on an outdoor garden statue.

Statue Material and the Weather

The weather is going to have a major impact on your purchasing decision because if you live in an area that is either too hot or too cold you’ll need a statue material that will hold up to the elements. In extreme weather, even the finest statue will get damaged if not treated properly.

Stone Marble or Concrete (the best choice)

The most common and best choice for an outdoor statue is one made of a marble stone or concrete. These statues typically require no maintenance other than a quick clean with a bit of mild soap and a garden hose.

A few things to note though is that if you have a painted statue, you should consider using a clear statuary sealant sold at most home stores such as Home Depot or Lowes. This sealant will help keep the color on your statue vibrant for years and protect it from the damaging rays of the sun. See our video on how to protect your statue here.

Stone statues, specifically those made with marble tend to be a bit more expensive, but the look of marble is unrivaled. We highly suggest a protectant seal on your marble statue as they can become damaged in a very humid environment.

Watch out for excessive freezing! If you have a statue that holds water, like a fountain or birdbath, be sure to remove all the water before the next freeze. There is a high potential that the stone statue will crack from the expanding nature of water.

We strongly suggest you cover your most precious outdoor statues in severe freezing weather to avoid any cracking or damage. Covering your statue with a heavy tarp or moving it indoors will ensure your statue lasts many winters.

Bronze and Cast-Iron Statues

Bronze metal statues are beautiful to look at, durable and are easy to clean. The downside is that larger statues can be very heavy and require a special base and additional bolts and adhesive. As a result, once a larger bronze statue is in place it won’t be easy to move.

Another issue with metal statues is that in very wet climates an iron statue may experience rust issues.

Resin / Plastic

You’ll love the lightweight feel of a resin or plastic statue and the price too as they are considerably less expensive than stone or metal, but will they hold up in the outdoors? If your statue is made of a heavy-duty plastic and is specifically labeled for outdoor use, then it will remain in good shape for many years to come. If you have the room, it never hurts to bring a heavy-duty plastic statue indoors when the weather calls for snow and freezing rain.

Resin statues, on the other hand, will most certainly suffer damage if left outside. They simply aren’t designed to endure the heat or the freezing temperatures and will crack easily.

Look for Outdoor Plastic statuary for outdoor use and leave the resin statues for indoor use only.

Alabaster, Wood and Plaster

We highly recommend staying away from purchasing a statue made of these materials for outdoor use. When they combine with water or high humidity the wood will warp and the plaster and alabaster will break.

Size and Space

It is very important to take accurate measurements of the space being used for your statue. Especially if you’ll be using a grotto or any type of enclosed space.

You’ll also want to make sure that your statue is the right size to create a balanced space. Try to avoid overpowering the outdoor area with an oversized statue. Just because you can fit a four-foot statue in your garden, doesn’t necessarily mean it will look good. Think about the statue’s surrounding environment and how all the elements of your outdoor space will work together.

Style

Although the style of your statue will come down to personal preference, if you have a modern space, a modern statue will look more appropriate in your garden. If you have a classic space the same rule applies. Keep like with like.

If you prefer a classic white or stone colored statue, be sure to have enough greenery and natural elements to create contrast and visibility.

A painted statue is always a great choice for your garden as it creates a burst of color to an already natural landscape.

When it comes to style there are no wrong choices. What matters is that you consider it beautiful!

Placement

You’ll want to pick a place in your garden that is both aesthetically pleasing and provides a bit of protection for your statue. Many figurine statues are put in a grotto for exactly this reason or under an arbor. The grotto and arbor act as protection from the sun and the elements.

Consider the wind as well and how you will anchor your statue. Many metal and solid concrete statues will not topple over in the wind, but lighter statues will. Try securing your statue to a heavy stone base or pedestal to avoid damage from the wind and theft too!

If you need any assistance in selecting the perfect outdoor garden statue, please contact us we are happy to help! We can answer questions regarding material, mounting options, or advice on what statue would work best for you. We look forward to serving you. God Bless You!

Why Is My Sterling Silver Jewelry Black and Tarnishing?

We love the look and durability of our sterling silver jewelry, we love the price too!

But, the downside is that it can tarnish very quickly leaving ugly black, green or brownish pink streaks.

Jewelers love sterling silver because it’s easy to work with, it’s affordable, and can easily be made into memorable works of art.

Yet we’ve all had that moment when our neck has turned green or a black stain appeared on your ring finger. We aren’t alone. Sterling silver tarnishes and we buy it anyway because we love it and because we can often remedy the tarnishing issues.

To understand why your sterling silver jewelry tarnishes it’s important to understand what sterling silver is made of. Sterling silver is an alloy, that means that the silver is mixed with other metals. Our sterling silver is stamped with a genuine .925 stamp. This stamp ensures that the jewelry is a combination of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper (or nickel or zinc or a combination thereof). Adding the copper makes for a much stronger metal because silver alone is too soft.

We can stop nature and in nature silver metal, when exposed to air will start to tarnish. Therefore, you should always store your sterling silver jewelry in an air-tight zipped baggie to prolong any tarnishing issues.

Once silver metal and air meet they create something called silver sulfate and this reaction is called oxidation. Oxidation is what causes your sterling silver jewelry to start to tarnish.

Did you know? Catholic Faith Store sterling silver jewelry is protected with a lacquer finish and some of our pieces are protected with a rhodium finish. This helps prevent tarnishing (but it doesn’t stop it completely).

Some people who are on medications that contain zinc can have a reaction to sterling silver and there are some cosmetics that will exacerbate the effects of tarnishing.

Here is a list of everyday things that have a negative reaction to sterling silver and can speed up tarnishing;

  • Humidity
  • Air Pollution
  • Ammonia
  • Chlorinated Water
  • Foods: Onions, Eggs and Salty Foods
  • Latex Gloves
  • Oils from your Hands and Fingers
  • Perfumes and Hair Sprays
  • Rubber Bands
  • Wool

We hope with a little more information on tarnishing you’ll understand that sterling silver jewelry by its nature will tarnish over time but with a little simple cleaning and proper storage it can last a lifetime.

For cleaning advice, read our article 5 Easy to Follow Steps for Cleaning Your Sterling Silver Jewelry.

 

5 Easy-To-Follow Steps for Cleaning Your Sterling Silver Jewelry

5 Steps to Cleaning Sterling Silver Jewelry

  1. Use a few drops of mild dishwashing liquid soap and mix with 1/2 cup of warm water.
  2. Dip a plain cleaning cloth made of 100% cotton and dip into the water.
  3. Gently clean the surface of your sterling silver jewelry with the moistened cloth.
  4. Rinse jewelry in clean water
  5. Allow jewelry to dry before storing

NOTE: For any sterling silver jewelry purchased on the Catholic Faith Store DO NOT use a sterling silver cleaner as the caustic cleaner will erode the finish. Our sterling silver pendants are coated with a protective coat to protect against tarnishing. This coating is either a protective lacquer or high-polished rhodium.

Sterling silver jewelry is very popular and with good reason, it’s beautiful and durable. But due to its physical properties and the effects of air and humidity as well as personal body chemistry, sterling silver can tarnish over time. This is easily prevented by periodic cleaning.

Other helpful hints for your sterling silver jewelry:

  1. To extend the time to tarnish, store your sterling silver jewelry in an air-tight container to keep out air and humidity
  2. Keep away from chlorine bleach and other household products.
  3. Chemicals in detergents and lotions can erode the finish of sterling silver.
  4. Take off your jewelry swimming, showering, and washing dishes.
  5. Remember that your sterling silver can easily scratch so always use a soft cloth and mild cleaning solutions.

If you are still having issues with your jewelry purchased through the Catholic Faith Store, please feel free to contact us.

Good Friday – A Reminder for Catholics that the Crucifixion is Triumph Over Satan

For those born Catholic, images of Christ’s crucifixion and death are not pleasant to look at or to think about. In predominantly Catholic countries, however, they are usually par for the course during Lenten season. Local networks and Christian channels often play cinematic re-enactments of the crucifixion.

How do these images make you feel? How do you explain this time in Christ’s life to your children? Many adults and young people alike find the fact that Jesus’ death and suffering was actually a victory over Satan. How can being scourged and dying in such a horrifying manner be considered a victory?

The answer: Sacrifice

The reason why Christ’s death is so significant is that He died for the sins of man. He died so that we would have the chance to live again. As taught in the Catechism:

The Scriptures had foretold this divine plan of salvation through the putting to death of "the righteous one, my Servant" as a mystery of universal redemption, that is, as the ransom that would free men from the slavery of sin. Citing a confession of faith that he himself had "received", St. Paul professes that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures." In particular Jesus' redemptive death fulfills Isaiah's prophecy of the suffering Servant. Indeed Jesus Himself explained the meaning of His life and death in the light of God's suffering Servant. After His Resurrection He gave this interpretation of the Scriptures to the disciples at Emmaus, and then to the apostles.

By His Death, this great Sacrifice, Christ triumphed over Satan. Satan’s hatred for God and His creation was his primary motive for tempting our first parents and bringing about Original Sin. Christ’s Death served as the tipping point in the battle for our salvation and Christ emerged victorious.

Of course, that does not take away the solemnity and graveness of Good Friday. On this day, there are no Masses to be held. The altar is stripped of all crosses and candles. Bells are strictly prohibited from ringing. The images of our Lord are generally veiled in cloth.

Catholics are highly encouraged to spend the day performing Acts of Reparation. These include a number of prayers and devotions for the reparation of sins against Christ. We can also perform the Station of the Cross and go on our own journey with Christ towards Calvary.

All practices, however, should be a great opportunity to reflect on the gravity of sin and why Satan is so driven to turn man away from God.

The Nature of Sin and Hell

The Church affirms the reality of the devil’s existence and that his angels were once pure until they all rebelled against God. They are separated from God as a consequence. Thus, it follows that the Church also firmly believes in the existence of Hell.

Contrary to popular belief, however, Catholics don’t necessarily have to believe that Hell is some literal, brimstone pit full of fire and screaming sinners. The more essential aspect of Hell is that it is a separation from God.

And since God is all things good, then the worst fate for any soul is eternal separation from Him.

Since his fall, Satan has had nothing but contempt for God and, to an extent, His children. Sin is his main instrument for turning God’s creation away from Him and dragging them into eternal damnation.

Fasting & Prayer - Two Antidotes to Sin

When sin continues to spread around the world, it is because people have forgotten these two important antidotes to sin. Even more tragic is the fact that this applies to many Catholics. They are Catholic in name but have neglected their spiritual life and prefer lives of worldliness.

Prayer helps us regain our minds and focus them on God instead of ourselves.

Good Friday should be an opportunity to really join with your community in prayer. Prayers to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are one excellent example that you can try as a group.


Traditional Prayer of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Most loving Jesus, when I consider your tender heart and see It full of mercy and tenderness toward sinners, my own heart is filled with joy and confidence that I shall be so kindly welcomed by you.  Unfortunately, how many times have I sinned! But now, with Peter and with Magdalene, I weep for my sins and detest them because they offend your infinite goodness.  Mercifully grant me pardon for them all; and let me die rather than offend you again; at least let me live only to love you in return.

 
Amen.

For fasting, you can try the traditional method as described in the practice of the Paschal Fast. This means not only abstaining from meat, but also only having one full meal and two smaller meals for the day.

Our Holy Father Pope Francis praised the merits of fasting as a means to feel what the destitute feel, to put ourselves in their shoes and connect us with them. It weakens are sinful tendency towards violence and helps our spiritual growth.

Today, let us continue to do our part in rejecting the Father of Lies and remember Christ’s triumph over him through His Death. Spend Good Friday looking for ways to fast from sinful temptations and turn your hearts and minds towards God.

What is Holy Thursday? The Meaning of Being a Good Christian

When people talk about Holy Week, the days that come to most people’s minds is Good Friday, Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday. However, Catholics should be aware that it comprises of more days than that. This day, Maundy Thursday, is an excellent example.

Sadly, not many Catholics around the world are really aware of the importance Maundy Thursday. But to put in in a historical perspective, Maundy Thursday commemorates two of the most vital parts of Church Tradition: The institution of both the priesthood and the Eucharist. This is further emphasized that they are celebrated in not just a single Mass but two!

Chrism Mass - Celebrating the Fullness of Priestly Vocation

This mass requires the participation of the entire diocese. Here, all ordained clergy are called to attend with their respective bishop and renew their ordination vows. One can also renew their baptismal vows alongside them.

The Mass also involves a ceremonial washing of the feet, with the bishop himself washing the feet of twelve chosen priests.

Another important aspect of the Chrism Mass is the blessing of the holy oils (hence, the term “chrism”). The Sacred Chrism, in particular, is breathed upon by the bishop in an act emulating Christ’s actions as He breathed upon His apostles to “receive the Holy Spirit.”

These are the same oils used in all the other sacraments such as Baptism, Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick. It is traditionally held that the oils are intended for an entire year and are indeed transported back by priests to their respective parishes.

Indeed, it is a very special service for the men who have decided to heed the call of the priestly vocation. It shares a very special connection to the sacred tasks of administering the sacraments and also the emphasizes the closeness of the Son to our priests and bishops. Lastly, it also highlights the Church’s unity and the importance of obedience. Each parish adheres to the authority of the diocese, just as each priest is subject to the authority of the bishop (while everyone is ultimately subject to the authority of God).

If you are considering the vocation yourself or even just want to pray for our priests, attending the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday should be a very special occasion.

Mass of the Lord’s Supper - Remembering the Origins of the Eucharist

The second Mass of Holy Thursday is recognizable to most Catholics as the one where the tabernacle is empty and altars are stripped bare to indicate what is to come on Good Friday and Black Saturday.

This is the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and its Eucharistic celebration is the most poetic seeing as it also commemorates the origins of the Eucharist during the Last Supper of Jesus Christ. It is in this Mass that we remember that reality of Transubstantiation, and how Christ first said the sacred verse:

Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me. - Luke 22:19

Like the Chrism Mass before it, there is also a washing of the feet but this time laypeople and Mass attendees can be selected for it. In this Mass, attendees are also reminded about how the washing of feet is an important representation of not just how priests and religious should treat people, but how all Christians should treat their fellow human beings.

Towards the end of this Mass, the Eucharist is then carried over to the special altar of repose where devotees can continue in Eucharistic Adoration. The conclusion of this Mass also serves as the official start of the Easter Triduum, the holiest days of our liturgical calendar.

One way to make the most out of Eucharistic Adoration, especially during this sacred time of the year, is to reflect on the reality of the Real Presence. Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a way for the Church to always celebrate the message of salvation. The bread and wine become the body and blood to serve as the sacrifice for all the sins of the world. This literal belief in the Real Presence is what distinguishes the Catholic faith from all the other Christian denominations. The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is truly a momentous occasion to revere this truth.

Without a doubt, both the priesthood and the Eucharist hold tremendous importance for the Church. The institution of both as we transition to the observance of the Easter Triduum is why Holy Thursday is a day of great, apostolic importance.

Hence, it is not simply that ‘one Thursday before Good Friday’. You should take it as an ideal opportunity to fully immerse yourself in Lenten reflections and other practices! In this year’s Lenten message, our Holy Father, Pope Francis bemoaned of how the rapid spread of today’s iniquities are because a lot of “the love that is the core of the Gospel” has gone cold because we have neglected the remedies of prayer, almsgiving and fasting.

Do you think your heart has gone cold as well? Recall the example of Jesus washing the feet of His apostles and what it means to live a Christian life of servanthood! Holy Thursday is the best time to finally thaw out that coldness and remember what it means to be a Christian!

How Catholics Prepare for Easter Around the World

While the secular world prepares for Easter Sunday with its usual display of colored eggs and rabbit greeting cards, the Catholic Church has more than its fair share of rich traditions leading up to Holy Week.

Catholics from all corners of the globe each have their own unique customs and places of worship as they celebrate Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection. Today, let us explore their cultural traditions and see how our brothers and sisters in different countries share our faith.

Jerusalem - The Stations of the Cross in Via Dolorosa

Found in no less than the Old City of Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa is believed to have been the genuine path on which Jesus walked to His crucifixion. Today, it is also a world-famous pilgrimage site where many Catholic devotees can conduct the Stations of the Cross.

The path starts at the famous Lions’ Gate near the remnants of the Antonia Fortress. A noticeable aspect of the Via Dolorosa is that each station is marked with a chapel, a monastery or a full place of worship. Each one pays architectural homage to the events being described.

The first and second stations are surrounded by three churches named in reference to Christ’s scourging and condemnation by Pontius Pilate. The Polish Catholic Chapel marks the third station with an engraving of Christ’s first fall.

The Our Lady of the Spasm oratory serves as the fourth station, with a lunette bearing the bas-relief of Christ’s encounter with the Blessed Mother. The Chapel of Simon of Cyrene and a church dedicated to Saint Veronica and the Holy Face are also found along this route.

At the end, where several of the last stations are found, pilgrims will be taken straight inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This makes the Via Dolorosa a truly sacred place for both practicing devotion as well as learning more about the Church’s long history.

Philippines - The Moriones Festival

The Philippines is known for many grand festivals but one of its most iconic celebrations happens on Holy Week. The famed Moriones festival happens on the island of Marinduque and is named such because of the recognizable morion masks used in the procession.

The procession celebrates the Passion of the Christ by re-enactment. The masks in particular are worn by colorfully costumed participants cast in the role of Roman centurions. Everyone, from the mask makers to the actors themselves, takes part in this tradition as a deep form of penance.

The event is also a celebration of St. Longinus, the Roman soldier who was blind in one eye and was present at the side of Christ at the moment of His death. As his story goes, he pierced the side of Christ and his blind eye was miraculously healed by the blood and water that poured forth. His life, legend and eventual martyrdom is also commemorated throughout Holy Week.

The Moriones Festival was originally celebrated in the town of Mogpog but its popularity soon spread to the rest of the island. For all Filipinos, it is not only a celebration of their national heritage but also their religious heritage as one of the few predominantly Catholic countries in Asia.

Semana Santa - Spain

Example of capirote

Spain is another country that colorfully celebrates Holy Week. Semana Santa festivities are found in many cities, from Zamora to Castilla-Leon. Processions are known to draw in thousands of devotees and tourists alike.

And at the heart of these processions, there march the religious brotherhoods in their trademark capirotes. The various colors and styles are meant to distinguish the brotherhoods from one another. Beautiful songs of worship are also prepared throughout the course of some of these processions.

Beyond the costumes and the pageantry, however, there is also a spirit of penitence in all participants. Some of these may also be seen carrying a particular float that bears an icon of great importance to its respective brotherhood and the church that it is from. 

The weight being born is certainly not for the faint of heart, but those who take up the task do so with the intent of spiritual discipline by likening the weight to the weight that Christ bore when he carried His cross.

Across all these celebrations, there is a resounding theme centered on Christ’s redemptive suffering and the triumph of His Resurrection. This is the true message of Easter for Catholics, no matter where they are in the world.

In one way, it is also an affirmation of the Church’s universality and how our faith transcends boundaries of countries and national cultures. That is why one should never be discouraged when they feel overwhelmed by a secularized version of Easter all round them. You have brothers and sisters in Christ all over the globe, joining with you in celebrating the true meaning of Lent.

Saint Joseph, A Role Model for Christian Fatherhood

Rediscovering Saint Joseph and Why He is a Role Model for Today’s Fathers

Holy Family Nativity Statue

In Catholic Tradition, there is more to Saint Joseph than his mere presence in the Nativity Scene. His story and his saintly virtues also go beyond the story of Christmas. He is a role model of Christian Fatherhood in the face of today’s many modern adversities.

In this blog post, let us explore how his life story is told through the Gospels and how he faced the same challenges that many fathers still face today.

A Journey of Tribulation

In the Gospels, St. Joseph’s remarkable journey begins as he is betrothed to Mary in Judea. But as the Nativity story soon tells, he is visited by an angel and is told that his betrothed has conceived by the Holy Spirit and will give birth to Jesus.

This, however, was but the first of the many trials Joseph would face. After bravely choosing not to divorce Mary for fear of scandal, he is then at a loss upon arriving at Bethlehem, where all inns are full. He had to endure the experience of having his wife give birth in the inhospitable conditions of the manger instead of a proper bed and room.

He is then overwhelmed by the sudden appearance of shepherds and Wise Men, who hail his adopted son as the promised Messiah. This soon draws the attention of the cruel King Herod and Joseph is forced to flee, fearing for the life of his family.

Saint Joseph with Baby Jesus Gold Framed Print

While it is true that Herod died not long after, Joseph could still not risk exposing his family to the powerful people who wished them harm.

Thus, he settled in Galilee and the rest is history.

The Virtues in Saint Joseph’s Ordinary Life

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about St. Joseph was that he had nonetheless lived an ordinary life after his turbulent ordeal in the Gospels. There is something remarkable about that because this makes him very relatable to a great many men today.

Saint Joseph the Worker Prayer Card with Pewter Medal

For one, he was the breadwinner of the family. And like any head of the family, St. Joseph was always preoccupied with the concerns of daily life.

How much money will he be able to make today? Will it be enough for their everyday needs? Can he keep his wife and children safe? Will he be able to pay their dues?

It is no wonder he is the patron saint of both fatherhood as well of workers everywhere! Over a thousand years later, these questions are still being asked by many men who work tirelessly to support their families. From the birth of their first child to rearing them up in their formative years, finding the means to provide for it all are always a focal point of every father’s life.

Like St. Joseph however, let us also be reminded that we do not work purely for own sake. We do it for the glory of God and for the families we care for. Sometimes we come home so tired at the end of the day, we wonder if any of our struggles are worth it. During those moments, it is best to look back on St. Joseph’s story and how he endured it all by humbly entrusting himself to God’s will.

A Role Model for Christian Fatherhood

Another thing that makes St. Joseph relevant today is that more people are forgetting about the important role that Christian fatherhood plays in the family.

A good, Christian father is not just the provider. The father must also be a teacher who prepares his children to take on responsibilities as they grow older.

This is more important than ever as we are facing world where a sense of responsibility is increasingly lacking.

Sterling Silver Saint Joseph Medal

Fathers of Christian families have a duty to instill Catholic values at home and help their children know the importance of working for the glory of God.

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Fast Facts about Saint Patrick

Mastering His Missionary Work in Your Life

Out of the Church’s many saints, St. Patrick is one of the few who have also attained the status of historical legend and national icon. He is also a great example of a dedicated missionary who, above all else, put the spread of Christ’s message as his only purpose in life.

Hence, this post will cover how you can emulate the evangelical style of this legendary saint while at the same time learn some important facts about his life.

After all, sometimes you will encounter many skeptics who would rather have the historical truth over myth and these facts can help you answer their questions about who St. Patrick really was.

Fact #1 - He was kidnapped and sold into slavery by Irish raiders

The first, well-established fact about St. Patrick’s life was that he wasn’t actually a native Irishman. He was born somewhere in Roman-occupied Britain and first arrived in Ireland after he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and slavers.

He had spent about six years as a slave, working as a shepherd. It was during his time in captivity that he found solace in Christ and, ultimately, converted. Although he had no formal education in the faith, these years would eventually prove vital to his spiritual development as he found his way back home.

Fact #2 - He only received formal religious education in his adult years

All of St. Patrick’s biographies agree that he fled his master after hearing a voice from the heavens promising his safe return home. After several adventures at sea and upon arrival, he was finally reunited with his family and began to formally study the Catholic faith.

It is also agreed that he continued his studies mainly in Europe and was ordained by Bishop Germanus of Auxerre (who is also a saint). It was during his time as a priest that he received the famous vision of the Irish crying out for him to evangelize them.

Fact #3 - His arrival marked the rise of Christianity in Ireland

While the specific dates of his own life are unclear, one thing is certain: St. Patrick’s return to Ireland marks the region’s rapid Christianization. Shortly after becoming bishop, he foresaw the vast missionary work of converting the island’s pagans.

Despite the opposition of powerful kings as well as influential druids, St. Patrick prevailed. Today the Catholic Church remains the dominant religion of Ireland with 78.3% of the population registered as adherents.


How did St. Paddy do it?

A lot of people will tell countless tales about St. Patrick and how he achieved this momentous feat of evangelization. However, one can summarize the important lessons in all of them into three little strategies. Consider putting these lessons into practice in your own missionary work, big or small!

He interacted with the local culture

Catholics are called to be in the world but not of the world. However, that doesn’t always mean you should automatically reject the culture of the people you are evangelizing.

Of course, that is easier said than done in a world that is increasingly saturated with worldly and secular world views. Regardless, you should always practice careful discernment and understanding when interacting with people of different cultures.

St. Patrick accomplished this easily through the use of symbolism when he used the shamrock to explain the Trinity.

During his time, he knew that the Irish pagans had many triple deities. With the help of the shamrock as a model, he used this knowledge to help converts better understand the nature of God.

He reached out to a lost and marginalized people.

As a whole, the Irish were always at odds with the rest of Britain (even before the arrival of the Roman Empire). It is often said that the people there were shunned, feared and marginalized as barbarians.

St. Patrick knew this very well when he returned. He understood that plenty of the hostility he received was also due to incorrect associations between Christianity and efforts to impose Roman culture on theirs. That is why he focused purely on preaching the Gospel first and focusing on aspects of Christianity that greatly resonated with the Irish spirit.

Likewise, you too could be evangelizing people who are lost and marginalized in their own way. They could be misunderstood and show great resistance to any attempt to ‘change them.’ Consider looking deeper and remember that every person is a child of God. See people at their best and how Christianity resonates with the goodness in them.

He was not afraid to suffer in the face of opposition.

Lastly, he did not flinch in the face of the many people who opposed his efforts (and they were many). He was threatened by a number of powerful chiefs, lords and kings. The pagan druids also opposed his evangelization efforts at every turn.

Despite such tribulations, St. Patrick accepted it all with grace and did not abandon his mission. He persisted in converting as many of Ireland’s people as he could, all the way to until the end of his days.

This same courage is asked of every Christian for evangelization is truly a work that is never finished until the end of days. In the face of failure and opposition, one should hold fast in their faith. In light of success, one should not be too complacent and keep reaching out to the lost.

Are you ready to emulate this wonderful saint’s life and actions into your own? As we attend the parades and join in on the celebration of this wonderful saint, keep his spirit and his faith close to your heart and your daily lives.

Who is Saint Katharine Drexel?

One of America's Earliest Advocates for Less Fortunate Minorities

Although, Martin Luther King Jr. may be the most famous of all people to advocate for the plight of minorities in the United States, he wasn’t the first. Nearly a century before the civil rights movement, there was Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament for Indians and Colored People.

St. Katharine was born on November 26, 1858 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This effectively makes her the first saint to be a natural-born U.S. citizen. Her father, Francis Anthony Drexel, was a wealthy banker and he gave her all the privileges of a high-society upbringing.

Despite the wealth, however, there were plenty of events in her life that would soon teach her a valuable lesson on money’s very limited power.


The Family Life of St. Katharine Drexel

Hannah Langstroth Drexel, Katharine’s mother, died only five weeks after Katharine was born. This eventually lead her father to remarry. Around 1860, he met a devout woman named Emma Bouvier, and she would soon become the stepmother to Katharine and her sister, Elizabeth. Three years afterwards, another sister named Louisa was born. 

The new stepmother loved all three of her daughters and shared with them her devotion to God. Her father was also a pious man and spent at least half an hour of prayer in the evening. And while both parents doted upon them with the luxuries of private tutors and high society debuts, they also instilled in them a strong sense of duty to care for the less fortunate. For instance, every week the family would open the doors of their house and they would care for the poor. Her parents would give away food and clothing while teaching their children the importance of sharing one’s blessings with the downtrodden.

However, it was in 1879 when the second tragedy struck her life and impressed upon her that there were some things that wealth could never truly protect her from. Shortly after her own debut into society, her beloved stepmother contracted a painful cancer.

A Heart for the Poor

For three years, Katharine did her best to care for her ailing mother until the end of her life. All that time she had taken even more interest in the troubles afflicting the destitute, particularly the horrific mistreatment of Native Americans and African Americans. Realizing that her own time was also limited, she decided to dedicate the rest of her life towards alleviating their suffering and giving them opportunities to improve their welfare.


Lastly, the third significant event happened after the death of her father in 1885. The three sisters decided on a trip to Europe in order to help them ease their grief. Two years into the trip, they were given a private audience with none other than Pope Leo XIII.

During their meeting, she told him of all her spiritual struggles: from her calling in life and her upbringing to her troubling, first-hand accounts of injustices against minorities. It was here that the Pope asked her the one fateful question that finally prodded her to take up the religious life. 

“But why not be a missionary yourself, my child?”

Two years later, she began her postulancy at the Sisters of Mercy Convent in Pittsburg. And after that, her decision to enter the religious life made the hottest news in the state’s upper-class circles, all highlighted by the headline:


“Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million.”


Resilience in the Face of Adversity

The critical views of high society would become the least of St. Katharine’s hurdles as she set out on her mission. After she finally established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in 1891, white supremacists and Klansmen made no secret of their contempt for their existence. Among the attacks against them include:

  • The smashing of windows at an abandoned building that was meant to become a new school.
  • A threatening sign saying that the teachers and priests administering to colored students would be tarred and feathered.
  • A stick of dynamite that was found near the site of the order’s motherhouse in Bensalem.

Despite all this, St. Katharine (who was now called Mother Katharine) persevered. She had disavowed her inheritance for personal wealth and instead directed it to fund millions into numerous missions and schools, all for the sake of lifting up less fortunate minority groups. These projects included: 

  • The founding of the St. Catherine’s Indian School in Sante Fe.
  • Purchasing a 160-acre land for a religious mission among the Navajos.
  • Establishing Xavier University, the first African American Catholic University in the U.S.

Going from a pampered yet pious Philadelphia belle to a selfless and compassionate foundress, St. Katharine Drexel fought for a cause that was only in full view of the public nearly a decade after her death in 1955.

And like any great servant of God, she did not do it for prestige or attention. She did it solely for the sake of the voiceless both in her time and up to the present day. In her time, it was she who pioneered the idea of seeing beyond the color of one’s skin and firmly believing that all ethnicities were the children of One God.

Were you aware of the great work Saint Katherine Drexel did in her life? How can her life serve as an example to others regarding how we treat minorities and the misfortunate?

Take a moment to reflect on how grateful we should be for the abundance in our lives and strive to help others not so fortunate.

Prayers to Saint Agatha

Saint Agatha the Patron of Breast Cancer

We often pray for Saint Agatha's intercession in our lives. Saint Agatha is the patron saint of nurses and of breast cancer. Our nurses provide care to so many and they do so with love and respect for each patient. They are with us in our time of need and suffering.

Agatha was a virgin woman, living circa 250 A. D., who rejected advances from a Roman senator. Accusing her of being a Christian, the senator ordered her breasts cut off as punishment. As she stayed in her prison cell, Saint Peter returned them with a “celestial ointment”.

Prayer to Saint Agatha​​​​

Patroness against breast disease
Lord God, 
You showered heavenly gifts
on the virgin Agatha. Hear
the prayers of those who recall
her devoted life and who ask
her to intercede for them
in their necessity.
(petition).
Help us imitate her virtues
during our earthly life
and enjoy eternal happiness
with her in heaven.
Amen

If you like this prayer, you'll love these prayer cards!

Saint Agatha
Saint Agatha

Eight Gift Ideas For First Communion

The Holy Eucharist is at the heart of our Catholic Faith. It is a symbol of the transubstantiation of bread and wine into the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Pope Francis refers to the Eucharist as the “Sacrament of Love.” It is therefore understandable that we put great importance on the First Communion because this is the first time that we partake of the Eucharist. 

It is a common practice for families to organize parties and gatherings to mark a child’s First Communion and children also wear special clothes for this event. Another way to celebrate someone’s First Communion is by giving them a gift. Here are Eight Meaningful Gift Ideas for First Communion:

Prayer booklets

Prayer is an important part of our Catholic Faith and your child’s First Communion is a wonderful time to let them know this. You can introduce your child to the meaning of prayer by giving him or her a Catholic prayer book. These prayer books are a compilation of Catholic prayers which children can learn about and practice in their personal walk of faith.

Some prayer books include devotionals and sections in which children can write their own reflections after praying. There are also pocket-sized prayer books so it is easy for children to carry and use them wherever they go.

Rosary


The Rosary is a well-known and well-loved prayer in the Catholic Church so a rosary bead is one of the most meaningful gift ideas for First Communion. Give your child rosary beads to encourage him or her to pray and express their devotion to the Virgin Mary. Also, when your child has his or her own rosary beads, you can all pray together as a family. 

Praying the Rosary together as a family will inspire us to reflect upon the mysteries of the lives of Jesus and the Holy Mother. This is a wonderful way for us to learn lessons from their own spiritual journeys and follow their example. 

Bible Storybooks

A child’s First communion is one of the earliest steps they take in their journey of faith. Giving storybooks based on the lives of exemplary men and women in the Bible is a great way to teach children about the Christian way of life. There are many Bible storybooks written specially for children. These usually feature colorful illustrations that are captivating to a young reader’s imagination and the narratives are usually easy to follow but still brimming with many important lessons on faith and righteousness.

Religious Jewelry

A First Communion is a precious event so giving an equally precious gift like jewelry is only appropriate. You can make your gift more meaningful and spiritual by selecting a piece of jewelry with a religious theme. Religious jewelry include necklaces, rings, brooches and medals and they usually feature engravings of saints and Bible verses.

Choose religious jewelry that holds significant personal meaning to the recipient. For example, if the recipient was named after a saint, you can give him or her a patron saint medal featuring the namesake saint. Religious jewelry is a simple way of reminding our children to pray and ask the saints for help for navigating through life’s unexpected twists and turns.

Books About Saints


A child’s First Communion is their initiation into a way of life that is Christ-like and it is our responsibility to show them what this means. The lives of saints are a great source of inspiration on how to remain faithful and morally upright in the midst of life’s storms. We need to teach our children to emulate the steadfast character and faith of the saints and one way to do this is to give books about them as gifts. Your child will have an insightful time learning about the saints and the qualities that they are known for.

Religious Figurines

Figurines are another First Communion gift idea but don’t just give a plain one without any spiritual meaning. A religious-themed figurine is a good way to preserve the spirit of the occasion. Religious-themed figurines are usually small statuettes depicting Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the saints or other scenes from the Bible. Aside from these, there are also more whimsical figurines like snow globes that feature a religious theme like the Nativity scene or similar images from the Bible.

Crucifix


The crucifix is perhaps the most popular and profound symbol in the Catholic Faith. It represents the great love that Jesus has for humanity and the sacrifice He made for our sins. The teachings of the Catholic Church are founded on this very meaningful act of grace, compassion and forgiveness and it is only appropriate that we share this to our children. 

There are different types of crucifixes you can give as a First Communion gift. You can give one designed as a wall cross which your child can hang over his or her bed. There are also crucifix pendants which your child can wear every day as a reminder of the great love that Jesus has for His children.

Bible

The Bible is an important source of wisdom and so we must teach our children to read it an early age. Consider giving your child a Bible for his or her First Communion and encourage them to read it daily. There are Bibles that are specially made for children and these usually include illustrations and larger, easy to follow text. Some are also available in small sizes so it is easy for your child to bring it wherever he or she goes. 

What gifts did you receive in your First Communion? What other ways can we commemorate this very meaningful occasion?

Prayers to Saint Timothy

Saint Timothy

Saint Timothy is the patron saint of Stomach Disorders as he is known to have suffered from stomach ailments.

He is a disciple of St. Paul and is credited as the co-author or several books in the New Testament.

Prayer to Saint Timothy

Dear Saint,
well known for your gentleness, 
you were a most faithful disciple of 
Saint Paul, and like him, 
traveled much to bring 
the Good News to all people. 
The Letters Paul wrote to you reveal your zeal
and inspire us with confidence in you. 
You too were cast into prison 
and you too gave your life for Christ. 
So with confidence we dare to ask, 
please obtain relief for 
(name of sufferer), 
if it be God's will. 
Amen.
 

Like this Prayer? Check out these beautiful Prayer Cards!

Saint Timothy

Saint Timothy

Lord, you blessed St.
Timothy with Apostolic virtues. 
Through his intercession, may 
we be filled with the desire and
will to live good and religious 
lives here on earth and thus be 
worthy of our heavenly on with 
you. Amen. 
St. Timothy, pray for us.

This prayer card has this short and simple prayer on the back. Take a look!

Saint Timothy

Prayers to Saint Sebastian

Saint Sebastian

Saint Sebastian is a very popular patron saint as he is the patron saint of Athletes and Soldiers. Due to his unwaiving commitment to Christ and the courageous way he faced his martyrdom, he serves as an example of true love of God. He is usually depicted standing in front of a tree with an arrow pierced through him.

History of Saint Sebastian

A soldier of the imperial army from Narbonne (Gaul) or Milan (according to St. Ambrose), he was martyred for the Faith at Rome during the reign of the Emperor Diocletian. His Burial place at the Cemetary - ad Catacumbas - along the old Appian Way is distinguished by a continuous cult down the centuries. 

The Roman liturgy has always accorder him a privileged place. Iconography depicts him as a martyr, pierced by arrows. He is invoked for healing from both physical and spiritual wounds.


Prayer for Saint Sebastian

Dear Commander at the
Roman Emperor's court, 
you chose to be also a soldier
of Christ and dared to spread
faith in the King's of King's,
for which you were condemned to die.
Your body, however proved
athletically strong and the
executing arrows extremely
weak, so another means to
kill you was chosen and you
gave your life to the Lord.
May athletes be always as strong in
their faith as you so clearly
have been.

Amen.

Your favorite athlete will love this prayer card and personalizable medal!

Saint Sebastian prayer card with personalizable medal
Prayer To St. Sebastian Laminated Prayer Cards 25 Pack Button

Saint Sebastian Guidance Prayer

O Lord, grant us the spirit of fortitude, so that guided by the example of the martyr St. Sebastian, we may learn to bear witness to the Christian Faith and patiently support the sufferings of life. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

If you enjoy this guidance prayer, you'll love this prayer card!

Saint Sebastian Guidance Prayer Card
Saint Sebastian Guidance Prayer Card Button

What Are the Holy Days of Obligation?

What Are the Holy Days of Obligation? | Catholic Faith Store
What Are the Holy Days of Obligation? | Catholic Faith Store

In the Catholic Faith, holy days of obligation are days that require us to attend Mass. Sunday is described as the “primordial holy day of obligation,” according to the Code of Canon Law, hence we are expected to go to church on this day but there are other special days as well.

What the Catechism of the Catholic Church Says

Holy days of obligation are explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the following passage:

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On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.

Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest.

The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health.

What are the Holy Days of Obligation?

The Catholic Church follows a liturgical calendar that marks feast days, solemnities and other special events. All of these days remind us of our spiritual journey as a church and celebrate the lives of extraordinary people that we should try to emulate like Jesus Christ and the saints.

As indicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, we are expected to attend Mass every Sunday. The Code of Canon Law describes Sunday in this way:

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Sunday, on which by apostolic tradition the paschal mystery is celebrated, must be observed in the universal Church as the primordial holy day of obligation.

The canon also mentions 10 days that are to be observed as holy days of obligation. The following list shows these days in the order of the calendar:

January 1

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

January 6

Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

March 19

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Thursday of the sixth week of Eastertide

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Thursday after Trinity Sunday

Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

June 29

Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles

August 15

Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

November 1

Solemnity of All Saints

December 8

Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

December 25

Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)

There are instances wherein holy days are moved to another date because they fall on the same date with another higher-ranking celebration. Even if this is the case, we are still expected to attend Mass on the holy day. 

Working Holy Days

In some cases episcopal conferences may suppress holy days of obligation or move the date to a Sunday. However, some of them have maintained holy days that are not public holidays. In other words, they fall on work days and we may not be able to observe our obligation to “refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.”

These days are known as “working holy days” and we are still expected to attend Mass during this time. Some churches may hold specially scheduled Mass beyond regular working hours or in the previous evenings to accommodate the faithful who have activities on working holy days.

Holy Days of Obligation Around the World

Christmas Day (December 25) and the Immaculate Conception (December 8) are always considered holy days of obligation in the United States. In Ireland, only Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, Epiphany and All Saints’ Day are considered public holidays. Slovakia also has four days of obligation that are public holidays: Christmas, the Solemnity of Mary Mother of God, Epiphany and All Saints’ Day.

In the Netherlands, beginning January 1, 1991, the feasts of the Assumption and All Saints were considered holy days of obligation so the faithful are required to attend Mass but not abstain from work.

In Vatican City, but not the rest of the Diocese of Rome, Sundays and all the ten days listed in canon 1246 are observed as holy days of obligation. The Diocese of Lugano which includes the Swiss canton of Ticino, also follows this practice.

Significance of Holy Days of Obligation

What Are the Holy Days of Obligation? | Catholic Faith Store

Holy days of obligation are important to our faith because they encourage us to unite and celebrate significant events together as one church. God does not just love us as individual Christians, He sees us as one spiritual family that can support one another in our journey through life.

Second, we need to invest time in our relationship with our Heavenly Father and the holy days of obligation is one of the many ways that we can do this. Taking time to attend Mass demonstrates how much we prioritize God in our lives. Attending Mass lets us unite with Christ through the Eucharist and listen to His teachings. 

Last but not the least, holy days are rooted on people and events that are significant to our religious history as a church. By observing and celebrating these holy days, we remember these people and events and we can reflect on their influence in our lives.

Who is Saint Blaise?

Patron Saint of Throat Afflictions - St Blaise

Saint Blaise was a physician and Bishop in Armenia. Blaise has been extremely popular for centuries and many cures were attributed to him.

He lived in a cave on Mount Argeus and was known as a healer of men and animals.

According to legend, sick animals would come to him on their own for help.

When Agricola came to Sebaste to persecute Christians and while searching for wild animals for the arena games, rediscovered Blaise deep in prayer, Blaise was arrested, told to recant his faith and was thrown in prison.

While in prison, Blaise ministered to and healed fellow prisoners, including saving a child who was choking on a fish bone; this led to the blessing of throats on Blaise's feast day.

They threw him into a lake but Blaise stood on the surface and invited them to walk out and prove the power of their gods; they drowned.

When he returned to land, he was martyred by being beaten, his flesh torn with wool combs, and then beheading.

Saint Blaise was one of the 24 Holy Helpers

He is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. He is invoked for all throat afflictions, and on his feast two candles are blessed with a prayer that God will free from all such afflictions and every ill all those who receive this blessing.

Do you have a sore throat? Pray to Saint Blaise for his intercession


O Lord,

please answer the humble prayers your people make

 through the intercession of the Martyr Saint Blaise, 

and grant that they may rejoice in peace,

and find help for their spiritual life.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.


How to Follow the First Two Great Commandments

Rights and Responsibilities of Being a Catholic | Catholic Faith Store

We are part of God’s spiritual family but this does not make us perfect or immune to our sinful nature. Our rights and responsibilities as Catholics guide us in how we express and exercise our faith in the world.

Let us look at what the first two great commandments are and what they mean:

The First Two Great Commandments


He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40


Our rights and responsibilities as Catholics are built on two great commandments in the Bible. Jesus Himself said that “the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” so it is important that we take them to heart so that we can understand the role that we have as God’s people.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus teaches us to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

What Does it Mean to Love God?

God is many things to us, he is our father, master, savior and king. To love Him means we fully recognize and acknowledge that He knows what is best for us and that we are willing to surrender our lives completely to Him.

The best illustration for this kind of love is a child’s love for his father. When we were young, we depended on our father to take care of us. We trusted our father to provide for our needs, to protect us and to guide us. We were helpless and we could not survive without our father’s help so we rely on him completely.

In the same way, loving our Heavenly Father means we have full faith that He will look after us. Of course this is a lot harder to do when we have grown up to become independent adults because at this point, we feel that we no longer need anyone to help us survive. This is precisely why it is important that we establish a personal relationship with God. 


We cannot fully appreciate God’s power and glory if we do not actively seek Him. Making Him part of our day to day life is one way to show that we love Him. By being mindful that God is with us, we let His will inform every action, word or thought that we have. 


There is nothing more important than committing ourselves fully to our relationship with God because to do this is a supreme act of humility. We recognize that our lives are not our own and we realize that everything we do will have an impact in our relationship with our Almighty Father. Hence, we would never do things that would hurt Him, in the same way that we would never do things that would hurt the people we love.

Following the second commandment is a lot easier when we completely submit ourselves to the will of God.

What Does it Mean to Love Our Neighbors?

When Jesus commanded us to love our neighbors He did not only mean the people who lived in close proximity to us. He means all of humankind and this includes both the people we know and do not know and even our enemies. 

This command is best explained in Matthew 5:44-47:


But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.

For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?”


If we take God’s command in light of the preceding Bible verse, “love your neighbor” becomes a lot more challenging. It is easy to love the people we like but it is a completely different matter to love people we do not know, more so the people we don’t like. Furthermore, we are told not to simply love our neighbors but to love them just as we love ourselves. We can only realize the seriousness of this command when we recall what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.

God sent His only son, Jesus, to save us from eternal death and to redeem us from all our sins. Through His ultimate sacrifice, Jesus conferred an incredible value on our lives so we have every reason to hold ourselves in high esteem. When we love others as we love ourselves we acknowledge that they, too, have been saved by our Heavenly Father. They were given mercy and grace just as we have been given mercy and grace. So it is understandable that we must treat them with patience, compassion and respect. In other words, we must treat them in the same way that we want to be treated.

Prayers to Elizabeth Ann Seton

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton married a wealthy businessman and was mother to five children. When her husband passed away she established a school in Boston, Massachusetts, to educate her children. She also opened a Catholic girl’s school in Baltimore, Maryland. She is the patron saint for Loss of Parent or Child.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Lord God,
You blessed Elizabeth Ann Seton 
with gifts of grace as wife and
mother, educator and foundress,
so that she might spend her life
in service to Your People. 
Through her example and prayers,
may we learn to express 
our love for You in love for our
fellow men and women. 
We ask this through our Lord
Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with You
and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. 
Amen.

If you like this prayer, you'll love these prayer cards!

Elizabeth Ann Seton

The Story of St. Stephen, the First Martyr

The Story of St. Stephen, the First Martyr | Catholic Faith Store
The Story of St. Stephen, the First Martyr | Catholic Faith Store

On December 26, we celebrate the feast day of St. Stephen who is considered the first martyr. In some parts of the world like Denmark, Germany, Finland and the Republic of Ireland this date is considered a public holiday and it coincides with Boxing Day which is also known as the second Christmas. 


St. Stephen is the patron saint of deacons, altar servers, stonemasons and casket makers. Saint Stephen lived an exemplary life as one of the seven deacons appointed by the Apostles to perform charitable acts to the poor. As his feast day draws near, let us look back to his life and legacy and look for lessons we can learn from it.

The Life of St. Stephen

Saint Stephen was one of the first deacons ordained by the Church. The name Stephen is Greek and according to Acts 6 he is a foreign-born Jew or a Hellenist who spoke Greek. The Hellenists were a minority in the Christian community and they complained that their elderly widows have been neglected.

In response to this pressing concern, the apostles decided to select seven deacons to help them extend their pastoral care to those in need. These deacons were therefore important not just for the pastoral care they provided to the impoverished but because they helped the apostles focus more on teaching.

As the oldest of the seven ordained deacons, Saint Stephen was given the title of archdeacon. He was also recognized for his exemplary gift as an evangelist. Miracles and great preaching were attributed to him and he would engage in important discussions in the synagogues of Diaspora Jews in the capital.

Trial and Martyrdom

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Now Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke.

Acts 6:8-10

St. Stephen’s popularity stirred up animosity among the Jews, particularly members of the Synagogue of Roman Freedmen. Different members of the synagogues would challenge Stephen’s teachings but he bested them in debates. This only fueled further hostility among his enemies and soon they made false testimonies against him.

St. Stephen was charged with speaking blasphemous things against Moses and God. This accusation provoked a public outcry and the local population demanded that he be tried and sentenced. His opponents dragged him before the Sanhedrin, the supreme rabbinic court in Jerusalem.

In front of the Sanhedrin and his accusers, Stephen gave a long speech about the history of Israel and the blessings that God had given upon His chosen people. This speech is recorded in Acts Chapter 7.

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“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always oppose the holy Spirit; you are just like your ancestors. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They put to death those who foretold the coming of the righteous one, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become. You received the law as transmitted by angels, but you did not observe it.”

Acts 7:51-53

He talked about how, despite God’s mercy and grace, Israel had become disobedient. He then denounced his listeners as “stiff-necked” people who turned against the Holy Spirit just as their ancestors did.

The crowds watching the trial were enraged after being rebuked. Stephen then looked up and told them that he saw the heavens open and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. The crowds, however, covered their ears and dragged him out of the city where they stoned him to death.

The Story of St. Stephen, the First Martyr | Catholic Faith Store
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As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 7:59-60

Even in his final moments, St. Stephen displayed a forgiving spirit and even asked God not to hold the sin of his attackers against them. His words and actions capture some of the most important teachings of Jesus which is about loving our enemies.

Legacy

Christians buried St. Stephen but the location of his tomb was not specified. It was only in 415 AD that a priest named Lucian had a dream that revealed the site of St. Stephen’s remains. A name inside the tomb confirmed that the gravesite was indeed St. Stephen’s. The relics of the first martyr were then brought to the church of Hagia Sion on December 26, 415 which made the date his feast day.

In religious art, St. Stephen is traditionally depicted with stones, a Gospel Book, a miniature church and a martyr’s palm branch.

The English word martyr is derived from a Greek word which literally means “witness.” In the same way, each and every Christian is called to bear witness to Jesus Christ. This does not necessarily mean shedding blood. Being a witness means we are to be living testimonies of our faith and manifest it by being righteous in our thoughts, words and actions.

Revisiting the Christmas Story

Revisiting the Christmas Story | Catholic Faith Store


Revisiting the Christmas Story | Catholic Faith Store



In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.

This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.

And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

While they were there, the time came for her to have her child,and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.

The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.

And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Luke 2:1-14


The Christmas story is referred to many times throughout the Bible. It captures the beautiful gift that God gave to humankind which is the gift of His only son, Jesus Christ. Christmas reminds us of how Jesus became human in order to save us but it is not just the account of his birth. The Christmas story also lets us see how Christ’s arrival transformed the lives of the people surrounding Him.

As Christmas Day draws near, let us revisit the Christmas story to remember what this occasion really stands for and learn spiritual lessons from it. It is an opportune time for us to reflect on the birth of Jesus as well as the different people who are part of this beautiful event.

Miraculous Birth

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”

“And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God..”

Luke 1:34-35

One of the most important figures in Jesus’ life is His mother, Mary. Jesus’ birth is extraordinary because He was conceived through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Mary herself experienced an Immaculate Conception which means that she was free from sin from the moment she was conceived in the womb of her own mother.

In the same way, Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit. When the angel first told her the news that she would be the mother of God’s Son she was surprised because she was a virgin. The angel assured her that there is nothing impossible with God and at this point Mary accepted her remarkable role as “the handmaid of the Lord” with humility and obedience.

Lessons from Mary:

We have a tendency to feel proud and gloat over our achievements or positions. Mary’s devotion to her role as the Mother of God inspires us to be humble and have a heart for others. She raised Jesus righteously and remained steadfast in her faith. Not once did Mary brag about the incredible gift she was given nor did she demand special treatment from the people around her.

God loves us all and like Mary He has a purpose for each of us, a purpose that we should accept with humility and gratitude.

A Test of Faith

Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

Matthew 1:19-21

Joseph is another important person in the Christmas story and Jesus’ life. To better understand the context of Jesus’ birth we need to remember that Joseph and Mary lived in a society that followed rigid rules and traditions and many of these were favorable to men. That said, Joseph had the right to leave Mary and protect his reputation when he found out that she was pregnant.

Joseph’s first reaction was to divorce Mary quietly so as not to shame or endanger her. However, God intervened and sent an angel to reveal the remarkable nature of Mary’s pregnancy. After hearing God’s revelation about Jesus’ birth, Joseph obeyed and accepted Mary as his wife.

Lessons from Joseph:

Joseph’s steadfast devotion to God’s plans is inspiring to us Christians. From his example we learn the importance of trusting our Heavenly Father and setting aside any selfish desires that we might have. When the angel revealed the news to Joseph in a dream, he had a choice to go with the easy and very human path which is cling to his pride, doubt everything and abandon Mary. This was an important test of faith and Joseph chose to obey God and thus help bring about the fulfillment of Jesus’ coming.

Just like Joseph, we sometimes face important choices that would entail putting our complete trust on our Heavenly Father. This can be extremely hard at first especially if we are conditioned to be self-reliant and independent. However, when we realize that God loves and understands us more than anyone can, it only makes sense to trust Him and let Him guide our choices.

Joyful News

Revisiting the Christmas Story | Catholic Faith Store

All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

Luke 2:18-20

On the night of Jesus’ birth, a host of angels announced to a group of shepherds that a savior had been born in the town of Bethlehem. At first the men were terrified at the extraordinary sight before them. The angel, however, assured them that he had good news and the shepherds accepted the announcement of Jesus’ birth with great joy and gratitude in their hearts.

This part of the Christmas story is very interesting to note because during that time, shepherds were generally regarded to be at the bottom of the social ladder. People did not consider them to be important members of society and yet they became a witness to an amazing event.

Lessons from the shepherds:

The shepherds in the Christmas story are a good example of how God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things. The men in the fields were not powerful or influential people, they were lowly workers tending sheep and yet God chose to send His angels to reveal the good news to them. After hearing about Jesus’ birth the shepherds immediately set out to see the Christ child and praised God for this rare privilege.

God values us regardless of our social status and achievements. More important, He wants each one of us to be part of His desire to spread the news of salvation.

What other lessons did you learn from the Christmas story? How do you plan to apply these lessons to your own walk of faith?

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