Anchored by the Classic Learning Test

Kimberly Begg on The Saints That Inspired Other Saints

October 26, 2023 Classic Learning Test
Anchored by the Classic Learning Test
Kimberly Begg on The Saints That Inspired Other Saints
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode of Anchored, Jeremy is joined by Kimberly Begg, author, Director of Programs and General Counsel of the Ortner Family Foundation, and Project Advisor for Run with Saints. The two discuss the inspiration for her new book, Unbreakable: Saints Who Inspired Saints to Moral Courage, and the stories of the three saints that the book focuses on. To close, Kimberly and Jeremy consider how the ordinary person can live a life of heroic, saintly virtue. 

Listen to Kimberly’s previous Anchored episode.

Today’s episode of Anchored is brought to you with support from America’s Christian Credit Union. Find out how ACCU can be the banking partner to your school or family by visiting

Jeremy Tate (00:02.858)
Welcome back to the Anchored Podcast. Folks, we have with us today, returning Kimberly Bagg, author, attorney, speaker. Kimberly is the director of programs and the general counsel at the Ordner Foundation. We've talked a lot on the Anchored Podcast about Michael Ordner. He's a member of the board of directors here at CLT. We're big fans. And Kimberly is also the project advisor for Run With Saints. And so if you are in your 20s or 30s, looking to connect with other passionate Catholic

Run with Saints is a great resource to check out. Kimberly, welcome back to the Anchor Podcast. So Kimberly, Chelsea Nemig had you on the Anchor Podcast maybe a year or two ago, and so we'll put that in the notes for folks to go back and listen to as well. This conversation today, we're really gonna be focusing on a book that I just devoured. I was on a flight to Spokane last week, and there and back.

Kimberly (00:39.017)
appreciate you having me on. Thanks, Jeremy.

Jeremy Tate (00:59.758)
I couldn't put it down. I was hoping to sleep, but it was honestly too good. It was honestly too good to sleep. The book is Unbreakable, How Saints Inspired Other Saints. That might be, is that the right subtitle? Saints Who Inspire Saints to Moral Courage. You focused on three saints in this book. Kimberly, I'm wondering if we could start off and just hear a little bit about the origins of this idea.

Kimberly (01:12.969)
It's unbreakable, saints who inspired saints to moral courage.

Jeremy Tate (01:28.202)
writing a book and it sounds like maybe something that you hadn't done before. Is that right?

Kimberly (01:32.969)
This is my first book. While I've always enjoyed writing, I never really thought that I would be writing a book. It very much feels like the work of the Holy Spirit. But I guess the way that this particular project came about, a few years ago, I gave a presentation to a group of high school and college students for Young America's Foundation. And I was talking about one of my favorite heroes, Blessed Yergy Papiushko. If you're not familiar with Father Yergy, he was the heroic...

chaplain of the Solidarity Movement, and he would give these amazing masses for the Fatherland, and 20,000 people would show up to hear him talk about the truth of the God-given rights of the Polish people and really expose the lies of communism. You know, this was after World War II, this was during communist control of Poland. Well, Father Jurgy continued to speak out, even though he knew that his life was in danger. In fact,

His friends had told him for many years, go to the Vatican, save yourself, you are not safe here in Poland. And he just refused, because he felt like he was on this mission as a courageous truth-teller. Of course, he was hunted down by the communists. He was brutally tortured and killed. But in doing my research for this presentation, I made this amazing discovery, which was that his favorite saint, whom he learned about—

a boy going to his grandmother's house reading Knights of Immaculata, which was a newspaper that Saint Maximilian Kolbe founded. So he learned about Saint Maximilian Kolbe going to his grandmother's house and he was just a young boy. And when I made that discovery, it just made his entire life make sense to me, you know. You wonder how does somebody have the courage to stand up there day after day knowing that your life is in danger?

Jeremy Tate (03:05.437)
Yes, Maximillian Colby, yes.

Kimberly (03:26.985)
when you don't have to, you know. Nobody was making him give these masses. This was his idea. He had, you know, every option to turn down the opportunity to be the chaplain for the Solidarity Movement. But he exhibited so many extraordinary acts of courage throughout his life. And knowing that as a young boy, he had learned about and started to love St. Maximilian Kolbe and that St. Maximilian Kolbe was an inspiration throughout his life, among others, really just made his whole life make sense to me.

Jeremy Tate (03:57.327)
Hey, incredible. And again, Max Moen and Colby, 20th century saint who gave his life, took the place of a prisoner condemned to death at Auschwitz. And in the book, you spend a lot of time on Max Moen and Colby. I mean, you're really focusing not just on these three saints, but you do a really a deep dive into the saints that inspired them, again, to heroic greatness. Let's kind of take through them, if we could. Starting with Joan of Arc. And there's three saints that you focus on in the book.

I mean, I'm not kidding, Kimberly. I didn't know a whole lot about Joan of Arc before. Next to only Jesus, she may be the most interesting person to ever live. I mean, she's just an amazing, amazing life. Why did you pick Joan of Arc?

Kimberly (04:33.801)

Kimberly (04:40.425)
First of all, I knew that Joan needed to be in this book. I just kind of knew it in my heart. But I have to tell you, I was terrified of St. Joan of Arc. I was terrified to write about her because she is this ginormous figure, and there's so much information out there about her. In fact, there is more known about Joan of Arc than any other human being that ever listed before her. So you have her trial cr-

transcripts. You have the transcripts from the interviews with all of the witnesses, people knew here. So there was an enormous amount of material to go through and then to decide what makes it into the book. You know, she also is just this such a mysterious figure because, you know, she's visited by these three saints, one of them being an angel, Saint Michael the Archangel, and then these two, these two teenage martyrs who were martyred

in the fourth century, the early fourth century, as a result of the diocletian persecutions. Well, again, just like Father Yergy, when his life started to make sense, when I realized that St. Maximilian Kolbe was this great inspiration for him, the same thing happened with St. Joan of Arc, because Joan was a teenager, she was 16 years old, when she left her house for the very first time.

and she was on this just absolutely insane mission. So her very, very first mission was to convince the captain of a fortress to give her an escort to travel 350 miles to go see Charles VII, the Dauphin of France, the rightful king, and convince him that he should give her an army to lead.

to drive the English out of France. Okay, so that whole thing seems so impossible, right? So the fact that she ever... No.

Jeremy Tate (06:28.895)
But was there any precedent for this? I mean, were there other examples of teenage girls, teenage women leading troops?

Kimberly (06:37.577)
No, there wasn't. There was this legend in France that France would be saved by a virgin. So I think she had that in her favor because this was a very well-known legend. But no, I mean, this was the 15th century. This was, you know, we think of women now as, you know, bold and courageous and, you know, girl boss, and I can do everything. But this was not the case. In fact, one of the many little battles that she had to fight, you know, before even going off,

and leading an army was she had to convince a judge not to force her to marry a young man that her parents actually tried to force her to marry. But marriage, as you know, is a sacrament in the Catholic Church, and it requires the consent of both people. And Joan did not consent to this marriage. Her parents desperately wanted her to marry, thought it was time for her to settle down. She was a simple farm girl, and they did not know.

what God had in store for her life.

Jeremy Tate (07:41.515)
The part that was so mysterious to me is, I mean, men would go and they'd study for years, you know, to lead troops. They'd study the art of warfare and all of this. And she has incredible kind of genius knowledge, I mean, of actually, you know, choreographing and leading and planning out attacks and battles. I mean, and she was illiterate. She couldn't have read any books. I mean, there's...

Kimberly (07:49.321)
Thanks for watching!

Kimberly (08:01.609)

Jeremy Tate (08:06.646)
It's hard to attribute this to anything other than just supernatural insight. Is that fair?

Kimberly (08:11.465)
Yeah, and even secular authors and secular researchers who have looked into their her life have basically said the same thing Nothing else makes sense except divine intervention here. You know the fact that she knew exactly the moment When to charge exactly the right strategy She also always put herself in harm's way First so she was always the first one to um, you know to have to scale a wall you know, she was the first one to

always to lead her troops out, because she had complete confidence that this was God's will. And that is why she is such a good example, I think, for our young people today. We get all very confused about all of the earthly things that we want, measuring success on our own earthly and men's terms. But St. Joan of Arc was somebody who realized that really the only thing that mattered in her life was following God's will. And so,

She might have been a little apprehensive at times. When she was struck by the arrow, she realized it was very painful to be wounded in battle. That might've come as a little bit of a surprise to her. At first, she tried to keep going because she knew what her mission was. But in the end, she knew that all that really mattered was following through and doing God's will, doing what she was made, put on this earth to do.

Jeremy Tate (09:30.474)
How has she been interpreted differently? I mean, I'm thinking about, you know, pre-feminist movement, Joan of Arc, you know, is this hero, but like right now she's taking on, in some ways she kind of fits now for roles that have been, you know, newly embraced, I think, by women, you know, in society.

It's still new, like 50 years, 40 years, that women have had access to a lot of sports and that kind of thing. I love your insight there.

Kimberly (09:59.145)
Well, one of the reasons I think she is such an inspirational figure is because her mission was so unexpected, right? And we can see God working through her in very, very mysterious ways. You're right, though, that in modern day, the feminists love to claim her. They're claiming her as transgender because one of the attacks against her, a major part of her conviction as a heretic.

was that she was a cross dresser and that she was, you know, worshiping witches and she was into sorcery and basically that she was she was doing the opposite of what she was doing which was was living her life according to Christ's wishes for her life, right? But yes, she has very much been hijacked by the left because they don't understand that being faithful to Christ was the most important thing and the driving force every single step of her life.

Jeremy Tate (10:56.766)
And she would insist that her soldiers went to confession. And I loved that part. It was beautiful, you know?

Kimberly (11:02.249)

and she insisted that they not use foul language. And she wept, you know, she wept at the killing that had to happen because of battle. 

Jeremy Tate (12:46.159)
Joan of Arc's death. Let's talk about Joan of Arc's death for a minute. I mean, it is horrific what humans would do to humans back then. And I almost had nightmares that night. And I've known that they do this, but the fact that...

Kimberly (12:47.337)
Okay. Okay.

Jeremy Tate (13:07.918)
just how slow this must have been, you know, lighting a fire under her, you know, and it, and this was a, this was a long process, but she is faithful and is focused on Christ till the very, very end throughout horrific or a horrific death.

Kimberly (13:22.505)
Yes, and not only the fact that it did happen, but why it happened. It happened because a bishop was seeking power and was very angry that he had chosen a side in the Hundred Years' War between France and England, and he assumed that England was going to win. Everybody assumed that England was going to win. And he was mad. He wanted revenge at this girl because he envisioned himself—

being very high up in the hierarchy of the English Catholic Church. England, of course, wanted to claim France as its own and run France as an English area.

Jeremy Tate (13:55.784)

Jeremy Tate (14:06.616)
Wow. All right, let's move on. Next saint, and I can't get the name right, and I'm not even going to try. In Mexico. Okay, okay, fantastic. And a young boy, is he, he's 12, is that right, or?

Kimberly (14:12.649)
St. Jose Luis Sanchez Del Rio.

Kimberly (14:19.689)
He's 14 years old.

Jeremy Tate (14:22.078)
He's 14 years old. Okay. Incredible story. And if you could maybe give our audience a bit of context for it. And by the way, Kimberly, we have an audience here, maybe 50, 50 Catholic, not Catholic. And so some of this is all very weird because the story in Mexico, this starts off with missionaries being very unsuccessful. And then you have this dramatic apparition and, and conversion. Well, Juan Diego's converted and then he has this encounter. Can you, can you share that story first?

And you recount this story in the book as well.

Kimberly (14:53.321)
I do, yes, because one of the inspirations for St. Jose was Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego. And if you're not familiar with the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this was the way that Mexico became converted from a very pagan Aztec culture. In fact, it was the most brutal culture that had ever existed. It lasted about 100 years.

in Mexico, the Aztecs, and human sacrifice was a very natural part of the way of life of the Aztecs. They actually had quotas of a number of people that had to be sacrificed in each town with a temple. It was horrific. They would tear their hearts out, and they would throw the bodies down into these awful pits. And they even believed that they would receive special...

special powers, special gifts from the gods, if they included children in their sacrifice. And by the way, the more tears that the children cried, the greater the sacrifice. What's really interesting about the child sacrifice that happened in the Aztec culture, is it only happened with the consent of the parents. And this is so fascinating, because when we think of Our Lady of Guadalupe, she is shown as a young,

Jeremy Tate (15:55.929)

Kimberly (16:17.225)
pregnant mother. And, you know, she is invoked as that patron saint of the pro-life movement very much because, you know, babies are not slaughtered without the permission of their mothers. And so looking back at the history of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when she appears pregnant to St. Juan Diego in Mexico, it's just some very, very interesting foreshadowing that's going on there. But if you don't know the story of St. Juan Diego...

Something that was new to me that I learned in doing my research is he was only a Christian for a matter of weeks You know understand that you know the zeal of a convert So, you know, he sees this lady appear to him He recognizes right away that this is not somebody of this world and you know, he really recognizes that she has been sent by heaven He tells her go to the bishop. I would like a church built here. So he obeys he goes to the bishop

who by the way, believes that he has this zeal of a convert and there's no way, right? That this vision is real and there's no way that he really has been sent on this mission. He goes back to Our Lady. This is my absolute favorite part of the story. He says, send somebody else, send a nobleman, send somebody who is going to be believed by the bishop. And she says, no, my child, this is your mission alone.

And by the way, that's something that Saint Joan of Arc repeated many times on her journey. She believed that she was the only way to save France. And Saint Juan Diego also is told, the only way that my will will be accomplished is if you are the one to carry it out. So he goes to the bishop, you know, after going to him, he actually visited him three times. He says he wants a proof.

that this really was a woman from heaven who was coming to visit and this really was God's will to build this church and He ends up coming back to the bishop showing him flowers that you know are not in season in the winter That were growing up on tepeyac hill Which was impossible at that time of year But most importantly he is wearing a tilma which is made of cactus fiber and on it is this vibrant beautiful

Kimberly (18:40.873)
image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, exactly how St. Juan Diego had seen her. And this is the same tilma that is preserved in Mexico today. And to get back to the story of St. Jose, you know, at the time of this control of Mexico under Plutarco Calles, when he outlawed Catholicism, I know I'm jumping ahead here a little bit, but

there was an attempt by revolutionaries to destroy the cathedral that is the home to this tilma. And everything around it is destroyed. This revolutionary planted a bomb. It explodes. But the tilma is perfect. The tilma is untouched after all of these years. But to get back to the story of St. Juan Diego, you know, after this story gets out and after he's working with the bishop and they're evangelizing—

After the visit of Our Lady of Guadalupe, nine million Mexicans were converted in nine years, and by 25 years, virtually the entire country of Mexico was converted from this very brutal pagan religion to Catholicism.

Jeremy Tate (19:52.853)
So I think about the young boy, I'm still not going to get it right, the 14 year old, as he's going to his death, he's invoking, you know, our lady.

you know, Vivo Cristo Rey, you know, Our Lady of Guadalupe, really, really powerful image. So this young boy, he fights for a group during this period, and he's too young to fight, but he kind of begs and pleads, and they let him in to be a part of this. And then he fights heroically, sacrificially, gets captured, gets tortured. Why did you choose this young saint?

Kimberly (20:21.513)

Kimberly (20:31.497)
He chose me. That's the simplest answer that I can give you. It's true. I'd actually came up with a list of 12 saints who were inspired by other saints, mostly just from the books that are in my house and the saints that I loved. But I never really made the decision what saint to write about next. And as it turns out, I had a word limit of 50,000 to 60,000 words. I completely underestimated how difficult it was going to be.

to tell the stories as fully as I wanted to. For example, to be able to tell the stories of what kind of an education these young people received in order to help them find the courage and live courageously for Christ out in the world. So, his was actually the second chapter that I wrote. And it just really felt like the Holy Spirit wanted him in this book.

Jeremy Tate (21:24.954)
Incredible. And Kimberly, the last one, and I've been hearing more and more about this priest, and I've been pronouncing it Jersey, but it's totally not right. How do you pronounce the name?

Kimberly (21:34.857)
Yerzy Popiuszko. It took me about three weeks to get, and I'm Polish too, so it took me about three weeks to get this pronunciation right.

Jeremy Tate (21:40.877)

Okay, and he's blessed. He's not canonized yet that will. Wow. Okay.

Kimberly (21:46.953)
He's blessed. He's blessed. But the first time I learned about him, he was not. It was before the beatification process. And a dear friend of mine had introduced me to him and had said that visiting his grave site in Poland was the most profound spiritual experience of his life. And this is somebody who had visited a lot of pilgrimage sites in Europe. So that really got my attention. And also just to see, you know, how heroically he stood up for truth when there was so much fear in Poland at the time,

What was it that gave this also very frail priest, he'd had health problems his whole life as a baby, he was baptized two days after his birth because his parents were afraid that he was not going to live. So they wanted to get him baptized. But what was it that gave him the courage to speak truth to the lies when so many other people were too afraid to do it?

Jeremy Tate (22:26.702)

Jeremy Tate (22:35.31)
Wow, incredible. He has this deep relationship. Max Millie Colby is a hero for him. What were the other influences in his priesthood?

Kimberly (22:54.153)
Well, a really important one was blessed Stefan Wazinski. And if you're not familiar with him, he was such a force in Poland. He was the primate of Poland. And again, he was a Cardinal during the communist occupation, the communist control of Poland after World War II. And the communists wanted to use the church for unholy purposes.

And by the way, the exact same thing happened in Mexico. And there was a very courageous bishop in Mexico who, you know, similarly said, no, you know, we have to we are going to shut down the sacraments, which they did for a period of time in order to protect the church from being used as an instrument for evil. Right. So the communists in Poland were trying to do the exact same thing. And Cardinal Stefan Wijnski absolutely refused. They really thought that they could manipulate him.

But time and time again, he kept speaking out, giving these courageous homilies about the rights owed to all people as human beings made in the image and likeness of God. So this is a theme that really, really animated young Yergy. So Yergy first learned about Cardinal Vijinsky when he was in high school. He was a teenager, and during this time, he continued to learn about-

St. Maximilian Kolbe and read about his life. But it was at this time that he also discovered the homilies of Cardinal Vazhinsky. And he just was so animated by them. He knew he wanted to be a priest. But instead of going to the local seminary, which is where everybody expected him to go, he went all the way to Warsaw. And the reason he went to seminary in Warsaw is because Cardinal Vazhinsky was the rector there. So he ended up learning under Cardinal Vazhinsky and training under him.

Jeremy Tate (24:43.842)
Kimberly, I gotta ask you this question. I was just thinking about this as I was reading the book and that chapter. You know, you give a pretty in-depth, you know, accounting of a kind of Polish history and how ferociously they held on to their Catholic faith and their own history and heritage. And then it's kind of like after they basically won, you know.

then they kind of become indifferent to it within a generation or large parts of the population. Right? I mean, it was like you couldn't pry it away from them. Nothing on earth could pry it away from them. It was incredible. I mean, the way that they, I mean, you talk about the education and how extensive kind of secret schools were to preserve both Catholicism and Polish heritage. How does that happen? It's a depressing question, but do you have thoughts on that?

Kimberly (25:35.785)
Hmm. It is depressing. Well, you know, the Poles, for many, many years, were these expert preservers of their culture. And Poland, by the way, was founded on Catholicism. So they consider the birth of Poland—they actually call it the baptism of Poland. So that was actually one of the great contributions of Cardinal Wijnski, was he celebrated the millennium. It was the millennium celebration, you know, which just happened to land—

during the occupation of Poland by the communists. So it was really this brilliant way to remind the Polish people what their roots were. But you're absolutely right, because time and time again, and generation after generation, the Poles had to fight to pass on their Polish heritage and to pass on their Catholic heritage to their children. So for example, St. Maximilian Kolbe.

So St. Maximilian Kolbe was born during the 123 partition of Poland, and he was born in the Russian-occupied part of Poland. So Russia, of course, wanted to wipe out all of Polish culture. They took over the schools. They installed Russian teachers. And the Polish people had to send their children to these schools.

Well, the response was to make sure that they were giving their kids a Polish education at home and a Catholic education at home. So, you know, fast forward years into the future. And now we have, you know, the Soviet influenced communist state in Poland and the exact same thing. So two years after Jerzy Popiuszko was born, the communists take over the schools.

They make it illegal to teach your children outside of the communist school system. They impose this Marxist curriculum that is going to be taught across the board. And what do the families do? They pass on their beliefs and their culture and their heritage at home. Like you said, they have a secret network. Stefan Vijinsky's family, the exact same thing. Their families were a part of these secret schooling.

Kimberly (27:50.345)
the secret schooling network, and they made sure that they were able to raise their children to have very strong Polish and Catholic beliefs.

Jeremy Tate (27:52.89)

Jeremy Tate (27:59.682)
Kimberly, final question for you. I read this book and I'm thinking about, I mean these are extraordinary individuals who did extraordinary things inspired by other extraordinary saints. But for a lot of folks, I mean you don't get a chance to...

to fight the English or lead troops into battle like this, or B14 and to stand up against the commies and all of this. I think in some ways upon reflection, for most of us, our lives are fairly mundane compared to these great saints. What does it look like for the soccer mom, soccer dad, or whatever, to live a life of heroic saintly virtue?

Kimberly (28:42.665)
Yeah, I would say that if, you know, anybody who's listening to this, who's thinking, wow, I just don't have a lot of opportunities to practice courage in my life. I don't think that that's actually true. I think that they're probably turning the other way and probably avoiding opportunities. We are living in a post-Christian culture. We are living a culture that, you know, not only confuses vice and virtue and good and evil, but demands universal celebration of evil.

of eternal truths that have always been understood by human beings, because the truth is very much written on our hearts. Every single day, we have opportunities to do something courageously for Christ and the world. The difference is that the saints in this book, they found those opportunities early on and they never stopped. And the Holy Spirit kept encouraging them to be going out into the world to inspire others. And I think that those of us...

who are looking around and thinking, well, I live this kind of a boring life and not much is really expected of me. I just don't think that's true. I think in this day and age, we're getting a lot of advice from Catholics, from conservatives to kids, keep your heads down, get a good grade, don't cause any trouble. You wanna be successful in business, don't stick your neck out for others. That is the worst soul endangering advice that I can ever imagine.

That was also another inspiration, because I have noticed really good people, and some people I really admire giving kids this advice. And if you are a kid, and you're gonna choose the easy way out, and you're going to side with lies when you know that the truth deserves to be stood up for out in public life, there is no way that as an adult, you are going to be able to pass on these truths to your own kids, and help others in society the way that Christ is.

Jeremy Tate (30:08.846)

Kimberly (30:36.393)
has designed your life to be a part of it.

Jeremy Tate (30:40.149)
Wow. Yeah, we're here with the one and only Kimberly Bagg, author, attorney, speaker. Kimberly, where do folks get the book? Where do we go?

Kimberly (30:48.393)
It's available at, it's on Amazon, and it's also on my website,, where I have a 17-page companion study guide that can be used for homeschool curricula and family discussions and school curricula and just personal reflection.

Jeremy Tate (31:05.351)
It is so inspiring. It is a great read. Again, I truly could not put it down. Kimberly, thanks for what you're doing. Thanks for what you're doing as well with both Run with Saints and the Catholic School playbook. Maybe a word about those each before we close as just kind of as a refresher. We've had Michael Ortner on. Run with Saints, is this kind of a social media kind of app to connect young 20s, 30 Catholics?

Kimberly (31:30.153)
Sort of, but no. We want Catholics to live offline in community with each other. So it is a platform, it is online, it is a way for people to find each other, but the platform itself is not the community. You know, the platform is the community builder, you know, so that so the organizations that are holding events can get the word out about wonderful events that they're hosting, so that individuals can organize.

you know, special events and find new people in their own communities, so that they can find good Catholic schools, so that they can find employers, and that people can live just out in the world together in community. And then Catholic School Playbook, which is another project of the Ortner Family Foundation, is something that I've been involved with since the founding of the project. This was Mike Ortner's wonderful idea, which was, you know, there's all these amazing schools that are involved in the renewal of Catholic education right now.

All of them are doing some things extraordinarily well. Let's share all of this. Let's share the best practices of those thriving Catholic schools that are out there that are really reclaiming the Catholic intellectual and sacramental traditions and are building these robust communities of learners.

Jeremy Tate (32:42.24)
Love it. Again folks, before you forget, order your copy of Unbreakable. It truly is a great read. Kimberly, thanks so much for being with us today.

Kimberly (32:49.289)
Thanks, Jeremy.