The saints ‘next door’

Every Christian has a goal, a longing in their heart, a yearning to become a saint.

Yes, a saint.

It’s not about holding an important office in the ecclesiastical hierarchy or having supernatural gifts (only a few are granted these). Rather, it’s about God calling every person to follow a certain path that, if pursued, will bring out the best of the person. While few saints are actually canonized, the vast majority are, as Pope Francis calls them, “the saints ‘next door,’” those who form part of “the middle class of holiness.” In other words, most are anonymous saints, who with their good works can transform their surroundings, making them more Christian and more human.

This is the main message of Pope Francis’ new Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate (Rejoice and be Glad), published April 9.

Holiness does not consist in pretending to have another’s qualities but about rejoicing in one’s own and glorifying God with them. It can be forged in the activities of daily life, such as abstaining from gossiping, listening to a family member who needs help or talking to a person on the street that is in need.

Yet the fight to reach holiness has two subtle enemies: Gnosticism and Pelagianism. Gnosticism consists in having a faith trapped in subjectivism and interested solely in having a certain religious experience, in seeing oneself as someone greater for having a deep understanding of certain doctrinal aspects, in obliging others to submit to one’s own theories or in using religion “to promote [one’s] own psychological or intellectual theories” and considering the rest of the faithful as nothing more than the “ignorant masses.” But the pope reminds us that true Christian wisdom “can never be separated from mercy towards our neighbor.” It is useless to be a great theologian if these teachings don’t transform one’s daily life.

The second vice, Pelagianism, derives from a heresy that arose in the fifth century, holding that personal effort is sufficient for salvation but forgetting that Jesus calls us first — he “firsts” us (“primerea”), as Pope Francis would say. This vice brings about many bad habits of showing only social and political achievements and boasting about practical matters. “We unconsciously complicate the Gospel and become enslaved to a blueprint that leaves few openings for the working of grace,” the pope says.

Francis refreshes us in his new apostolic exhortation with the much simpler text of the Beatitudes, which stands contradictory to a society that primes individualism and competition. For the pope, this text is the “Christian identity card.” Living with simplicity and meekness, being thirsty and hungry for justice, crying to be consoled, being pure in heart and merciful, working for peace and being persecuted for righteousness are some of the aspects that make a Christian reflect Christ himself.

In the 21st century, we still have many saints that combat evil by living out this beautiful biblical passage – which is translated in attitudes such as joy, patience, apostolic audacity, the formation of communities and constant prayer – making sanctity possible in our day, as Pope Francis highlights in Gaudete et Exsultate. His exhortation that reminds us that “even amid their faults and failings, [the saints] kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.”

COMING UP: Catholic Charities joins with St. Raphael Counseling to increase services

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Two Catholic counseling agencies serving the Denver Archdiocese have united to expand services to the community, officials said. The change was effective May 1.

St. Raphael Counseling, founded in 2009, has partnered with Catholic Charities’ Sacred Heart Counseling (formerly Regina Caeli Clinical Services), which was established in 2011. The two are now one ministry under Catholic Charities of Denver sharing the name St. Raphael Counseling.

Licensed clinical psychologist Jim Langley, co-founder of St. Raphael’s, will serve as director.

“Frankly, it seemed kind of silly for two entities to be doing the same thing from the same pool of resources,” Langley told the Denver Catholic.  “I reached out to [Catholic Charities] … to see about removing obstacles. It really must have been from the Lord because there weren’t any big obstacles.”

The combined resources mean clients seeking care aligned with Catholic values will now have access to more therapists and locations: a total of 18 clinicians at 11 offices and six schools across the Front Range region, including Denver, Littleton and northern Colorado.

In the coming months, St. Raphael’s will accept more insurances and will introduce diagnostic testing for behavioral and learning disorders and Autism to families at affordable cost, Langley said.

“We are excited to welcome the team of psychologists from St. Raphael Counseling to Catholic Charities,” said Amparo García, interim president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Denver. “Under Dr. Langley’s guidance, and with his expertise and business acumen, the team has built a trusted and professional counseling service that is faithful to the Church and compassionate to those in need.

“We are optimistic that offering expanded services in a combined organization will provide an added benefit to the community.”

St. Raphael’s offers individuals, couples and families clinical counseling services for issues ranging from depression and anxiety to grief and addiction. It also offers marriage preparation, school counseling, psychological evaluations for seminary applicants, and counseling for priests and religious. It provides outreach and education through presentations and retreats that integrate psychology and spirituality.

St. Raphael’s is named after the Archangel Raphael, who in the Old Testament Book of Tobit is sent by God to help the young man Tobias confront nature and evil. Raphael helps to bring healing to Tobias’ family. Of Hebrew origin, Raphael means “God heals.”

“The name was chosen very deliberately,” Langley said. “We [as therapists] are only instruments of God’s healing, God’s medicine; it’s ultimately God who heals.

“One of the ways the Lord has given us as a path to holiness is through our own brokenness,” he added. “We all have emotional wounds and the healing of these wounds helps us to become the saints God made us to be.

“We work with individuals and families to help them face their woundedness, their brokenness. We do it in a way that is supportive of their Catholic values and can leverage all the awesome, beautiful things about Catholic spirituality that can help us grow as people.”

The recent suicides of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain and fashion designer Kate Spade show that no one is immune from depression and suicidal thoughts, Langley said.

“Even St. Therese [of Lisieux] said there were moments when she was tempted by the medicine bottle on the nightstand,” he noted about the saint who was named a Doctor of the Church in 1997. “We think of her as being a joyful saint, yet she too struggled immensely with depression.

“If people are struggling, they need help,” Langley said. “But counseling isn’t just for people with big issues. It’s also for those who have normal issues and are trying to have a healthy family life.

“There’s nobody who doesn’t need support and good human relationships.”

RAPHAEL COUNSELING

Visit: straphaelcounseling.com

Phone: 720-377-1359