In March of this year, I had the great blessing to spend a good amount of time with an advance copy of the beautiful book Seven Saints for Seven Virtues by Jean Heimann. Jean’s publisher had invited me to pen the book’s foreword. Honestly, for me this task of writing something to compliment an author’s work is always daunting. Such was the case with Jean’s book, because I’ve so long admired the work she’s done on her blog to keep us all in daily communion with the saints. I wanted to write something that would sum up my respect for Jean and the many ways in which she has drawn me closer to my faith. I’m not sure if I succeeded in expressing that emotion in the ned, but this one paragraph from that foreword gives you a sense of what I found in Jean’s book:
As you’re about to read in Jean Heimann’s book, we are never alone in striving to live a virtuous life. Within these pages, you will meet saints who point the way for us by nature of the way they lived. Again, I challenge you to look beyond the haloed illustrations of these holy men and women in order to find in them companions for a journey that can be daunting and perilous but also filled with infinitesimal blessings. The saints are our role models. Because they were fully human—and as such prey to the same deadly sins that trip us up—they show us that we, too, can fully give of ourselves exactly where God has placed us. To the saints, we turn for friendship, companionship, and intercession when the vices that tempt and taunt us feel too insurmountable to overcome.
Today, I’m happy to share an interview conversation with Jean Heimann. I strongly recommend Seven Saints for Seven Virtues as a great gift for you or a loved one this Christmas!
Q: Please briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
I am a Catholic wife and mother of one adult son. I am a freelance writer with an M.A. in Theology, a psychologist and educator, a parish and diocesan presenter, and an oblate with the Community of St. John. I have been blogging for eleven years at the award-winning blog, Catholic Fire. I have also written for five other blogs and currently write for both The New Evangelizers as well as Catholic Fire. I am a member of the Catholic Writers Guild and Catholic Writers Online. My articles appear regularly in the National Catholic Register and in other Catholic periodicals.
Q: Jean, tell us how Seven Saints for Seven Virtues came to be. What motivated you to write this book?
I have been interested in the saints since I was a child and renewed that interest when I returned to the Catholic Church after a long absence. In fact, the saints helped draw me back to my faith. I developed a deep admiration and devotion toward the saints, who drew me closer to the Heart of Jesus. It is my sincere desire to reach out to others, who may be away from their faith or perhaps lukewarm in their faith, to draw them into a more intimate union with Christ, by presenting them with holy heroes, to emulate. I also wanted to inspire those seeking to lead a holy life with a practical guide for doing so.
Q: You’ve long been a “go to” resource for me when it comes to learning about the lives of the saints. How did you select the saints for this book? Has your relationship with the saints changed since writing the book?
Before I began Seven Saints for Seven Virtues, I prayed about which saints I should write about and the Holy Spirit guided me in their selection. I also have a personal relationship with the saints I write about in the book, that is, I communicate with them on a regular basis in my daily prayers and ask them to intercede in specific situations. These particular saints possess the seven heavenly virtues that are in opposition to the seven deadly sins, which I discuss in the book. They are, in fact, heroic models of the virtues. The saints and their corresponding virtues include: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta – charity, St. Agnes—chastity, St. Pope John Paul II—diligence, St. Joseph—humility, St. Catherine of Siena—kindness, St. Monica—patience, St. Augustine—temperance.
Since writing this book, I believe that I have developed an even closer relationship with the saints, and when people ask for prayers for a particular intention, I find myself saying, “I will go to St. Joseph and ask him to help you” or “I will ask St. Monica to pray for your intentions.” I have been an avid prayer warrior for many years and have always done this, but it seems to come more automatically now. I also pray a daily litany to my favorite saints for the special intentions of my family and friends.
Q: Are there any of the seven virtues that constitute a particular struggle or challenge for you personally? How does emulating the role model of a saint aid you in trying to live out that virtue?
I have personally struggled with the virtue of patience for many years now. I sometimes think that the Lord puts me in situations that challenge my patience in order to build up that virtue within me. Suffering and hardships, after all, do help us to progress in patience. Developing patience requires sacrifice, courage (fortitude), and self-control (temperance) on our part. When we look at St. Monica, who had to live with an embittered and critical mother-in-law and an angry, irritable, unfaithful spouse, as well as deal with a wayward son, my problems seem small in comparison.
The way she coped with these crosses was to pray with persistence to Lord for each of these individuals. She endured her mother-in-law’s daily criticism and complaints, her pagan husband’s irritability and infidelity, and her son’s immoral, decadent lifestyle by praying for each of them. St. Monica never gave up on any of them, but prayed for nearly twenty years! Look at the results of her persistence in prayer – three converts from her own family! I think praying for conversion of your own family members has to be one of the most challenging responsibilities we have. St. Monica practiced this virtue every day of her life. In daily life, when we practice doing something, our performance improves. The same thing happens with virtue. The more we practice being patient, the better we get at it. When we deal with situations or people that try our patience, if we pray with persistence, we, too, can see improvement in the virtue of patience. I have witnessed this in father’s life. He was not typically a patient man, but through persistent prayer in times of trial and suffering, he learned to develop the virtue of patience. He also asked God for the graces he needed. Grace is a precious gift that God will not refuse us. All we need to do is ask.
Q: What are your hopes for this book?
I hope and pray that this book will bring many people back to the faith and that those who are practicing their faith will grow in holiness. We were all created to be saints and I hope that as my readers peruse this book, they will discover the miracle of God’s great love for each one of us and the extraordinary graces he gives us not only to transcend our fallen nature, but to excel in holiness. Like the Blessed Mother, each of the saints had a fiat – that crucial moment in which they said “yes” to God and gave their lives totally to him. I pray that they, too, will say “yes” to God and allow him to work in them and through them.
Q: Are there any additional thoughts or comments you would like to share with our readers?
I just want my readers to know that I am praying for each of them as they make this spiritual journey to sainthood. I have also been asking each of the saints in this book to pray for them.
Thank you, Lisa, for writing the beautiful forward for Seven Saints for Seven Virtues and for endorsing it.
Thank you for the honor of interviewing with you. God bless you!