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Life lessons from the saints

Alice Foddy and Genevieve Peters  |  08 May 2019

Two of our young writers share the stories of saints they encountered while travelling to different parts of the world – each offering some perspective on their own life’s challenges.

Broadening our horizons 

Saint Brendan, born in fifth century County Kerry, Ireland, is regarded by many nowadays as one of the most influential voyagers in Catholic history. Making the decision to leave the Irish winter and journey across the Atlantic Ocean in search of paradise, Saint Brendan, like many of us, simply was not content with the restrictions of his everyday life.

I first encountered this particular figure during my travels in Ireland in December last year.

Across Australia, Year 12 students everywhere were winding down from the whirlwind of our final year of school. For those of us with plans of going to university, final year became a kind of monotonous routine, a back-and-forth of assessment and preparation over 10 long months. Our exams carried a weight like never before, and our performance in those exams would determine, for the most part, our path to university and the future.

Following all this stress I made the radical decision to leave my home, just like Saint Brendan, and travel across the world.

During my journey I was lucky enough to take a trip to County Kerry and see for myself the place where Saint Brendan was born and raised. Littered with rock-ribbed, craggy cliffs and dark, stormy beaches, it was easy to see how his spirituality had grown in such surroundings. The rain, the clouds and the (peaceful yet lonely) silence, however, helped contextualise his decision to leave.

Over the years, Saint Brendan’s journey has become infused with folktale and myth. Estimates on the number of people he took on his voyage range between 14 and 60. Some claim he battled sea monsters, while others credit him for discovering numerous Atlantic Islands, and even coming across America.

Although the details of the story vary, Saint Brendan’s bravery and wanderlust remain undisputed. His courage in leaving his home for a higher purpose is evident in the risks he faced, not least of all the danger of sea travel at the time. While I was travelling, my family were only a Facebook call away. Saint Brendan did not have these luxuries, a detail I found inspiring in certain lonely moments in far-away places across the world.

Saint Brendan broke free of his comfortable, everyday life and decided to do something radical. As young people, I think it’s important that we widen our horizons when we have the chance.

Following Year 12 especially, it can be useful to get a perspective as to how large the world is. When faced with exams, ATAR scores, and university offers, our personal values and health can often be disregarded.

Looking after our mental health isn’t like achieving a certain ranking. Sometimes, as Saint Brendan so
aptly displayed 1400 years ago, it’s about taking a trip across the seas. 

By Genevieve Peters


Finding hope and strength in difficult times

When I attended World Youth Day Panama earlier this year I received a small book about the saints from South America. I was excited to read names and stories that I had never heard of before.

On the way home, I read about Saint Joselito Sanchez. Joselito was a teenager living in Mexico in the early 1920s. At the time, Catholics in Mexico suffered great persecution; priests were executed and churches confiscated.

Joselito followed a group of rebels fighting against the government. During conflict, he was captured. The government soldiers mutilated his feet, and then forced him to walk to the town’s cemetery. All along the painful journey, he refused to denounce his faith. He was finally killed with the same weapon. At the end of his life he drew a cross in the dirt on the ground and kissed it. He was 15 years old.

Like Jesus, St Francis of Assisi and many other saints, Joselito found that the life he was forced to live was unreasonable. His story reminds me that God isn’t asking us to sit and wait or sit in a Church pew for an hour each week. He is asking us to get dirty for what we believe in.

Just like Jesus was afraid, I am sure that Joselito was also very afraid. This personally inspires me into action whenever I am feeling hopeless or scared.

Currently in my life, I consistently feel depressed about the world around me. I am challenged by the teaching that my marriage needs to be fruitful, because currently, I don’t want to bring a child into the world. I sometimes wonder why I should bother trying to make a difference in the world when the future feels so bleak, particularly when it comes to environmental issues.

But then I am reminded by these figures that through courageous, faith-driven action, change can be made. God was with Joselito, walking with him through battle, giving him strength to walk to the cemetery, and easing his pain in the last moments of his life.

God is also here with us through the battles, and the big decisions, and when we stand up and get dirty for his cause.

By Alice Foddy


Topic tags: saints

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