Of all the gifts Holy Mother Church has bestowed on us, one of the greatest is the saints. These ordinary men and women, who lived extraordinary lives of heroic virtue while on earth, continue to demonstrate the timeless true beauty and greatness our Church has to offer.
As a Catholic high school teacher, I try to impress upon my students the need to reflect on the lives of those canonized by the Church, and appreciate their willingness to follow Christ whenever and wherever. This provides inspiration by helping one recognize the many attributes, which may pour forth from the Holy Spirit into the world, when one chooses to place themselves firmly in the presence of the Lord.
We tend to overlook, even ignore, the essential qualities God offers, such as peace, joy, patience, humility, chastity, love, etc. The saints constantly remind us to embrace Christ, and His ways, with a carefree confidence, despite any trials that may ensue. These holy ones often lived lives contrary to societal norms, but their actions reaped substantial benefits, and saved many souls in the process. St. Giles’ life is no exception as he offers much for us to consider today.
Born in Greece during the middle of the 7th century, St. Giles was never one to foster personal acclaim. In fact, his desire to live a more austere life prompted him to leave Greece for France in order to live as a hermit. His obedience to God was always greater than any personal endeavor.
As time went on, he became the abbot of a monastery dedicated to the rule of St. Benedict. Many sought him out and were converted by his holy ways. Others, such as Charles Martel, flocked to him to ease their troubled souls. It is no wonder that prayers to St. Giles are still invoked today by those preparing for a difficult confession. As word of this man spread throughout the land, many converged upon his monastery, as it neared its completion, to enter into the order, and serve the Lord in humble obedience.
The life of St. Giles is one that inspires us to embrace those moments of quiet solitude, where we can be alone with God, eager to hear of the plans He has in store for us. This can be difficult in a world that is constantly filled with noise and endless distractions. We can learn from St. Giles that even if we cannot avoid all of the commotion of everyday life, we can still attempt to master the art of piety. This is a precious gift that is much needed in our world today.
As parents, our ultimate goal is to ensure that our children have the best resources to lead successful lives. The question is, however, what is meant by “successful lives?” In contemporary worldly terms, this understanding of parenting translates into acquiring a six-figure (at least) salary, leading a Fortune 500 company, having a couple kids (so as to not leave too deep of a carbon footprint), etc. A worldly understanding easily contributes to anxiety and leads one to becoming overly concerned, questioning whether they done enough or if their children have enough.
This greatly differs from a Christian understanding of having a “successful life”.
The Christian understanding is exemplified through St. Giles’ parents. Though they were very wealthy, they recognized that true wealth was to be found in devotion to Christ. By this, St. Giles’ parents helped guide him on this path of salvation. Supplying children with the necessary ingredients to lead a productive life is certainly important, but understanding that God will provide the most reliable resources is essential.
St. Giles’ never settled for the empty promises of men, but for the eternal reward of heaven. Even throughout his time in solitude, he was well taken care of by our Lord, who sent him a female deer each day for nourishment. Events such as this further inspired him to live for God with passion and fervor, while always maintaining a humble servant’s heart.
This made him an embodiment of holiness for his brother monks to witness, and through their prompting, St. Giles was eventually ordained a priest. Following his death on September 1, 725, his burial site soon became a sanctuary for those seeking miracles and many were indeed experienced.
As parents, we are not obligated to foster lives of seclusion in our children. (Those who are called to a lead a cloistered life will receive the graces to do so). However, as Catholic parents, we are called to instill within them a life of virtue, holiness, service, and purity of heart. Our success is not to be measured in dollar signs and earthly forms of praise, but a divine reality, where the blessings are truly out of this world, and all become saints. This goal must be a part of our agenda from the start, just as it was for St Giles’ parents. The results will speak for themselves.
St. Giles’ desire to serve the Church was not based on a personal need for satisfaction, but on a selfless need to contribute to building the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. His life served as an example to others and demonstrated what can be accomplished when one places God at the helm. Promoting a life dedicated to the Lord is an expression of selfless love, and will create a path towards salvation that many will want to walk, just as it did for St. Giles. Let us pray that we may instill this in future generations, and that they will learn it by witnessing it in us.