January is National Mentoring Month. Since I’m an editor for a company in the training industry, I’ve been writing and editing a lot about the topic this month. It started me thinking about mentors outside of work and, specifically, in the Church. Who are my spiritual mentors?
I can group them into three categories: the people I have personal relationships with, the saints I have (long-distance) personal relationships with, and the people I look up to but don’t know. (I’m stretching the definition of the word “mentor” here, but bear with me.)
So, who are the people in my life I can consider spiritual mentors? My friends in the Raleigh Catholic Young Adults Group, for sure. They inspire me and have helped enrich my prayer life ever since I got involved in the group last year. I also have to include a shout-out to my Confirmation sponsor, a friend of my mom’s whom I don’t see often enough anymore but who made a big impact on my spiritual development in high school, meeting with me once a week to help me prepare.
Then there are the saints that I pray (way not often enough) to, including:
St. Therese of Lisieux, my Confirmation saint, who inspired this blog. It may seem strange to those who know me well that St. Therese was my Confirmation saint and someone I consider a spiritual mentor. After all, I would be a terrible cloistered nun. I am chatty (actually, now that I think about, it, occasional times of forced silence would probably be good for me), impatient, and don’t spend enough time listening to God (or other people, for that matter). But that’s part of the reason why it’s important for me to pray for St. Therese’s intervention – because she knows the struggle and knows the rewards that come from working through it. Too often, I want my will to be done, not God’s. St. Therese reminds me that trusting in God’s will instead will actually be more rewarding.
St. Mother Teresa, one of my childhood heroes. A saint I can remember seeing on TV! I read about Mother Teresa when I was growing up and wanted that same drive to help others. Again, it’s a virtue I have to pray for, because I’m as selfish as any other human. But, I do tend to be driven by purpose, and if I pray that my purpose is aligned with God’s, maybe, with His help, I can make some difference in other people’s lives. (Coincidentally – actually, probably not – Mother Teresa chose her name after St. Therese!)
St. Joseph, the foster father of our God. I feel like St. Joseph gets downplayed a lot in popular culture. Mary, people tend to get – or at least talk about. And I’m not saying that’s wrong, because, duh. Mother of God. But St. Joseph also said “yes.” He also made huge sacrifices to do the will of God. And he loved Mary and Jesus with everything he had – just like we should. I started praying to St. Joseph for certain special intercessions a few years ago, and he’s always been there for me.
Finally, there are spiritual leaders still with us, whom I do not know personally but whom I look up to a great deal. Pope Francis, of course. His humility has inspired me since I saw him bow to the crowds in his first appearance as pope. I pray that he continues to bring people back to the Church as long as God lets us have him here on Earth.
Then there’s Immaculée Ilibagiza, author of “Left to Tell.” She survived the Rwandan genocide hidden for about three months in a bathroom with seven other women, praying the rosary constantly. The grace she showed in the midst of terrible suffering – and the incredible forgiveness and compassion she’s demonstrated since then – are virtues to aspire to, for sure.
Finally, there’s the Catholic bloggers and podcasters I’ve started following very recently, who share their stories with others with great honesty and vulnerability. My current favorite is Leah Darrow, whom I’ve been gushing about to everyone I know since I read her book (“The Other Side of Beauty”) over Christmas. (Seriously, read her book. It’s great.)
I definitely have great mentors in my professional life, whom I look to for guidance and whom I’ve developed wonderful relationships with. But, ultimately, it’s the spiritual guidance I receive from the people I’ve described here who (I hope!) will help me, one day, get to Heaven.
Now, that’s a mentor.
Who are your spiritual mentors? Share in the comments!