“For me to be a saint means to be myself” (Thomas Merton).
Children have an uncanny way of truly believing that they will get what they ask for from God, without hesitation. It is truly admirable; the “mustard seed” type faith that we hear about in Scripture. For as long as I can remember, I have always had a “Saint buddy.” Someone whose help I would call upon if I ever needed anything. Of course, as a child, those needs were miniscule. “St. Therese, please help me to get the role of Flower in the Nutcracker.” “Mama Mary, give me a sign that he likes me back.” Or better yet, “St, Anthony, please help me find my mom’s necklace that I borrowed without her permission.” You get the idea.
But then life happens, and we grow up. We start to view those kinds of strong, assertive prayers as naive and improbable. Additionally, we fall for the lie that praying for ourselves is selfish. We forget that the Lord wants to grant us the desires of the heart. We also fail to remember that we have POWERFUL friends in heaven to intercede for us. We have real-life heroes and heroines who fought the good fight -- whose lives we can model in our pursuit of holiness.
Our journeys with Christ can sometimes feel very lonely, and we may be judged by society and even our coworkers or “friends” as we lead lives that are incredibly countercultural. But that is the great pearl of the Christian faith: that we were not made to walk this journey alone. We were created for community, both on earth and in heaven. Friendships nourish our souls and enrich our lives in unique and unrepeatable ways. Especially during these times of social unrest, pandemic, social distancing, and isolation, it is absolutely vital that we are turning to our communities for support, and being that support for others. Here on earth, we have our friends and families, our religious communities, and our parishes. In heaven, we have the saints.
We were created for community, both on earth and in heaven. Friendships nourish our souls and enrich our lives in unique and unrepeatable ways.
A way that I have been able to make the saints seem more personable to me is to choose a patron saint of the year. You can even do this more frequently, like once a month or even once a week. There are many ways to pick a patron saint. A good place to start is your namesake, or your Confirmation saint. You can choose a saint who exemplifies a virtue you want to grow in, or a saint who lived a similar lifestyle to you. There are patron saints of different hobbies, sports, jobs, or vocations.
There are a few saints who have stood out to me throughout the different seasons of my life. St. Therese of Lisieux is my Confirmation patron, and she is my go-to gal for all things morality and the Christian life, and when I am struggling to love those around me. When I am going through a season of suffering, I look to Blessed Chiara Luce Badano. Blessed Chiara, who died at age 18 in 1971, was a model of redemptive suffering, and one of my favorite quotes from her is, “At this point, I have nothing left, but I still have my heart, and with that I can always love.”
My favorite thing about both of these saints is that they are RECENT!! The saints are not only 1st century martyrs. There are young and old, boys and girls, men and women who walked this earth less than a hundred years ago. And there are even more recent soon-to-be saints, such as Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and newly Blessed Carlo Acutis (who only died in 2006). This is PROOF to us that we all have a place reserved for us in Heaven. When we think of the “Communion of Saints”, or “All Saints”, those phrases can be intimidating. It is true - there are hundreds of thousands of saints in heaven, many of whose names we do not even know. But that should also give us hope, that there is room for us. We are called to pursue sainthood right now, in our current state of life. Salvation is not for the elite, the perfect, the cream of the crop. If you look at our saints, many of them led very normal lives before having conversions. They all had one thing in common: they echoed the universal call to holiness, and their lives shined with the joy of the Gospel. Sainthood is attainable for every single one of us, no matter our social class, wealth, or past.
This is PROOF to us that we all have a place reserved for us in Heaven.
It is a great tragedy that we go through our lives, forgetting our friends in heaven. It is an even greater tragedy that we view sainthood as unreachable, or “too lofty” for us. I hope this month, you will make a resolution to choose a patron saint. Just as making earthly friends takes effort, time, and intentionality, you can expect the same with the Saints. So be patient and open to the workings of the Holy Spirit as you find your saintly companions. It is my prayer that you will then be able to call on your chosen patron saint(s) to help you, to lead you Home, and to inspire you to join their ranks.