Jim Graves is a Catholic writer and editor living in Newport Beach, California. He previously served as Managing Editor for the Diocese of Orange Bulletin, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Orange, California. His work has appeared in the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Cal Catholic Daily and Catholic World Report.
I asked six diocesan bishops in different parts of the United States about saints they’re devoted to and recommendations for the average layman on developing one’s spiritual life. Here are the thoughts they shared:
Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, California
“I believe our overall goal should be to make the Church a place where people can experience Jesus Christ. The better we do this through prayer, worship, the sacraments, our homilies and works of mercy, the better people can experience Jesus Christ.
Once we have people coming to church, we can start talking to them about morality. A man can learn to be chaste by leaving the bar scene and marrying the woman he loves. He gives up his old life because he loves a person, his wife. In the same way, a person can leave an immoral lifestyle when he comes to love a person, Jesus Christ. I believe it is the same principle — giving up what is harmful to us by falling in love with a person.”
Bishop Peter Christensen of Boise, encompassing the entire state of Idaho
[Explaining that he spends much of his time on the road visiting parishes, using the time in the car to pray and prepare his homilies.] “While some bishops may travel with someone to help with the driving, I go by myself. I prefer it that way. I like the solitude. I don’t listen to music. I pray and say the Rosary, or think about things. It gives me a lot of time to myself. Not everyone would like it. One recent trip had me on the road 16 days straight.”
Bishop John Doerfler of Marquette, the upper peninsula of Michigan
“My favorite [saints] include St. John of the Cross, who is my patron, St. Francis de Sales, St. Thérèse and St. Thomas More.
As a young man, my heroes included Pope St. John Paul II … When I was a seminarian, I studied theology at North American College in Rome. I had the privilege of serving Mass for Pope John Paul II. It was the beatification mass of St. Katharine Drexel, and they wanted American seminarians to serve at the Mass. I was one of the lucky ones whose name was pulled out of the hat.
I met Pope John Paul briefly after Mass. I remember my exchange with him. I assured the Holy Father I was praying for him. He said, ‘Well, we’ll pray for each other.’
… [In regards to spirituality, I recommend] the basics, like weekly Mass and regular confession, go without saying. I’d also especially mention three other things: the Rosary, Lectio Divina or praying with Sacred Scripture, and Eucharistic adoration.”
Bishop Donald Hying of Madison, Wisconsin
“I’ve always been impressed by [St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s] unique life, short though it was. She didn’t accomplish anything in the eyes of the world, but she did love God in an extraordinary way in the ordinary things of life. She is the saint of simple people; I’d classify myself as one of those simple people.
… I’d tell [the average layman] to start with attending Mass regularly on Sundays and holy days. Go to confession once a month. Pray daily; when you start, it may be for just 10 minutes.
Develop a devotional life. This might mean praying the Rosary, or a devotion to a particular saint, some activity that will feed your heart and spirit. Do some form of service to the poor or sick. Go on an annual retreat.”
Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs
“[Pope St. John Paul II is] a real hero to me. I’m impressed with St. Thérèse, the Little Flower, and I’ve been reading her Story of a Soul which teaches us how to live a simple but saintly life. I also like St. John Neumann, the former Archbishop of Philadelphia, because of his simplicity, dedication and wisdom.
… I was trained early on in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. If one is well led, these can be a beautiful source of spiritual enrichment. As far as contemporary programs, I’d recommend the work of Dan Burke of the Avila Foundation, the wonderful Augustine Institute and the Denver Biblical School.”
Bishop Larry Silva of Honolulu, encompassing all the islands of Hawaii
“I often take pilgrimage groups to a tiny peninsula on the island of Molokai known as Kalaupapa. This is where St. Damien and St. Marianne Cope ministered to people with leprosy (Hansen’s disease). It can only be accessed by a small (9-passenger) airplane, by foot via a switch-back trail on a 2,000 foot cliff, or by mule on the same trail. A couple of times I intended to go there on a day trip, but the weather turned bad during the day so the small planes were not allowed to fly in. Without being prepared to spend the night, I had to do so, along with members of our group. The people there are always accommodating and help us make do.”