Wise People From the Past Give Us Wisdom for Today

Three books from Emily Jaminet, Teresa Tomeo and Msgr. James Shea look to the Christian winds that once blew across our land.

Covers of books by Emily Jaminet, Teresa Tomeo and Msgr. James Shea
Covers of books by Emily Jaminet, Teresa Tomeo and Msgr. James Shea (photo: Ave Maria Press / Sophia Institute Press / University of Mary)

I did not see much of a future for mankind 20 years ago, but then both God and humanity surprised me — God with his patience and humanity with its depravity. Spiritual warfare is such a long and tortuous battle. Can we be done now?

The devil’s strategies have been deployed incrementally. A few decades ago, most liberals would have been repulsed at hideously made-up drag queens mocking nuns, blaspheming Jesus, and targeting innocent children on stages and during library story times.

Before mutilation and harmful drug treatments for children became vogue, even the likes of Bill and Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden once defended marriage as between one man and one woman. Welcoming men into women’s bathrooms and honoring them for beating females in sports had not even been imagined yet.

Although there never has been perfection at any time in history, prevailing Christian winds once blew across our land. I have come across three books that harken to those winds with wisdom from past generations to fortify us for the downdrafts ahead.

The Power of the Sacred Heart

In Holy Habits from the Sacred Heart, Emily Jaminet draws on the Sacred Heart devotion as her family heritage. “Like the air they breathed, devotion to the Sacred Heart has filled our homes now for four generations,” she wrote. “God kept his promises to our family through sickness, wars, sorrows, and joys. In life, they stood firm in their trust and faith, and in the end, they died confident that Jesus was victorious, that they were dying in him and his sacramental love.”

Jaminet offers supernatural balm by reinvigorating the promises Jesus gave us through the Sacred Heart devotion. She explains that Jesus appeared to the French nun, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque (1647-1690) revealing his flaming, thorn-encircled heart, showing his burning love for mankind and inviting us to find refuge in it. The origins of the Sacred Heart devotion, Jaminet notes, began with St. John laying his head on Christ’s chest near his beating heart at the Last Supper.“

“The love of Christ transformed past societies and can renew lives today,” she writes. “The heart of Jesus has beat for us continually. He wants us — and our society — to rouse from our confused and distorted state and to allow our hearts to be renewed and restored with his love.”

Whatever we are going through, Jaminet reminds us that the Sacred Heart beats for us, for everyone, and will give us supernatural hope and graces. “For the war of the world is against principalities and God gave us our own one soul to begin with and to go forth from there,” she wrote.

Insights from St. Margaret Mary and other personal accounts throughout the book help to overcome sin or spiritual “blockage,” ignite faith, surrender, and enthrone Jesus over our home and family for him to lead us to peace and joy.

Wisdom from Rosie

Everything's Coming Up Rosie by Teresa Tomeo, radio host of EWTN’s Catholic Connection, taps into sayings that were once the cornerstone of Catholic families. Her mother’s advice echoes in her mind these days. Mine too. Now. I simply expected a few old pearls of wisdom delivered in her mother’s New Jersey accent: “Awfa it up to God and Put it at the Foot of the Crawse. … Listen to Your Mutha. … Nevva Get Too Big For Those Britches.” That there is, but Tomeo expands those pearls through Scripture, the saints and Catholic teaching.

The chapter Awfa it Up contains insights on uniting our suffering to Christ’s. The fact that Rosie bore many hardships in life makes this lesson to her three daughters especially relevant. Tomeo elaborates by bringing Father Spitzer’s explanation on how redemptive suffering is connected to the purification of love: “The idea is that we can be purged of what we might call inordinate attachment to this world so that we are seeking first God’s Kingdom but doing it exactly as Jesus describes it in the Beatitudes. He says blessed are the poor in spirit. That means humble-hearted.“

Spitzer also points us to St. Thérèse of Lisieux as teaching that offering up our suffering to the Father can be an act of self-sacrificial love for our redemption and the world. “We have no idea the good that can come from our suffering because God is in control of it,” he said. “God is the one redeeming it. God is the one using it for the redemption of the world. … Just offer that pain up so that God will transform it into grace and shower it down upon the world, especially for the souls in most need of his mercy.”

Apostolic Zeal for a New Generation

“At every point, the One who came as light into darkness to establish a kingdom of truth and love has been opposed by the darkness. The light continues to shine; its origin is in God himself, and the darkness cannot overcome it.” That is the opening in the book From Christendom to Apostolic Mission: Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age, a series of conversations assembled by Msgr. James Shea, president of the University of Mary.

The book proposes evangelistic strategies for the ills confounding our post-Christian culture. Understanding how the spark of apostolic zeal has slipped away encourages us to tap into the Holy Spirit for the challenges ahead. We are led through Christian history when zeal, truth, and the Holy Spirit was all the Church had. From 12 apostles and a humble assortment of disciples, cultures of Christendom grew but eventually fell into complacency and hostility. Shea explains that rather than the Church being set apart from the culture, it has been smothered by it.

Yet, he rejects predictions of defeat of the Church, a spiritual organism with roots in heaven. “What sociological survey could have predicted the conversion of an ancient and sophisticated civilization at the hands of a small group of uneducated laborers?” Shea asks. “What numerical analysis could have surmised the explosion of the monastic movement? Or the conversion of all the pagan peoples of Europe? Or the appearance of a St. Francis and his thousands of followers in a few short years? Or the apparitions of Our Lady of Guadalupe and the conversion of Mexico? Or, for that matter, the conversion of a single soul?”

Although Msgr. Shea says a shift in our thinking and approach is urgent, he is hopeful “Our task,” he writes, “is to understand that we are living in a new apostolic age, to trust that the Holy Spirit is at work, and as St. Paul says, the more that evil is present, the more grace abounds.”