Saints & Seekers
All ten saints are being held up as great evangelizers by the USCCB. Most of the saints are both great models of faith for us to follow and also pivotal figures in the history of Christian faith.
For example, St. Augustine’s Confessions is a classic story of the Christian struggling with sin and searching for God. Augustine also is a towering figure in early Christian thought and is indispensable for understanding early debates about grace and free will, the Church and salvation, and the relationship of the Church to the world. Another one of the ten saints, St. Jerome, was the translator of the Bible into Latin. Christians today, the USCCB writes, can “follow in his evangelizing footsteps by loving the Word of God.”
In sum, this is a fresh and inspiring list of ten saints. If you’re still looking for ways to deepen your faith in this upcoming year, this is a great place to start.
(Note: All of the below descriptions are provided by the USCCB.)
1. Sts. Peter and Paul – Peter and Paul laid the foundations of the early Church and are among the most venerated saints. Peter was the first to profess that Jesus is the Son of God, and the papacy is built on his witness. Paul’s mission trips expanded the reach of the young Church, and his writings articulate our faith.…
It’s something I’m sure every faithful Christian has experienced at least once: you prayed for something specific—a new job, a new house, or perhaps a cure from illness or injury—and you didn’t get it.
Well, you’re not alone.
Even some saints prayed for certain things that they did not get.
A case in point in Blessed Alexandrina, an early twentieth century Portuguese saint whose feast day was earlier this month. As a child, Alexandrina reportedly was regarded as something of a tomboy and a prankster. She lived an active life, singing in her local church choir and was an avoid nature lover.
But, at the age of 14, a violent assault put an end to all that. When she was alone with her older sister and another young woman, three men entered her house and attempted to rape the women. In attempt to escape being violated, Alexandrina jumped out of a window and became partially paralyzed as a result of her fall. For a time, she was “still able to ‘drag herself’” to Mass, according to her Vatican bio, but over time, her condition gradually deteriorated until she was completely confined to her bed, where she’d remain for 30 years until her death.
Alexandrina reportedly prayed hard for a miraculous healing, even “promising to become a missionary” if her paralysis were cured, according to the Vatican bio.
It never happened.
Instead, over time, Alexandrina learned that God had something else in store for her: he was calling her to be a “victim” soul and identify with Christ’s sufferings on the cross.…
Newly canonized Saint Kateri Tekakwitha obviously has a special meaning for Native Americans, but she’s already being held up as a powerful inspiration for other faithful Christians in many other ways.
One is reminded of St. Paul, who wrote in 1 Corinthians 9 that he had “become all things to all, to save at least some.” Much the same could be said about St. Kateri regarding the many ways she can inspire Christians at different points in their faith journeys—based on reactions to her canonization in the Catholic News Service and First Things magazine:
Courage to be a Christian in a Hostile Culture: Converting to Catholicism as a Native American in the nineteenth century had to have been an extraordinary act of courage. And, as might be expected, St. Kateri was ostracized by her community. Her fellow tribesmen pelted her with stones when on her way to a local chapel and she was calumniated as a “sorceress and seductress,” according to First Things. She eventually had to go into exile. “I think many young people today are embarrassed about embracing the Catholic faith because they live in a secular culture that’s hostile toward religious experience,” said Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, himself of Native American descent.
An Inspiration to Women: For some, it’s not her Native American heritage as much as it is her lowly position as a woman in her society that is inspiring their faith.…
Pope Benedict XVI officially named seven new saints yesterday. Who are these new models of heroic virtue and godliness and what is their significance?
Most of the coverage of the new saints in the U.S. media has focused on the two American saints—including the first Native American saint—the others haven’t gotten much attention. Below is the complete list of all seven new saints and why they are important:
Pedro Calungsod: A catechist from the Philippines who was martyred as a teenager while on a Jesuit mission to Guam in the seventeenth century. Pope John Paul II described Pedro Calungsod as a model and inspiration for young people in his 2000 homily announcing he was to be a Blessed: “From his childhood, Pedro Calungsod declared himself unwaveringly for Christ and responded generously to his call. … Young people today can draw encouragement and strength from the example of Pedro, whose love of Jesus inspired him to devote his teenage years to teaching the faith as a lay catechist.” Pedro Calungsod is only the second Filipino to be canonized, and, needless to say, it’s a huge event in his native country. According to a Zenit report, the Catholic Church in the Philippines is launching a “nine-year spiritual program” based on the life of this new saint.
Jacques Berthieu: A Jesuit priest and missionary who was beaten to death in Madagascar in 1896 when he refused to renounce his faith. In his homily, Benedict pointed to Berthieu as a model for priests and contemporary Christians facing persecution.…
In a general audience a few years ago, Pope Benedict XIV described our relationship with the saints in some particularly moving terms:
There are very dear people in the life of each one of us to whom we feel particularly close, some of whom are already in God’s embrace while others still share with us the journey through life: they are our parents, relatives and teachers; they are the people to whom we have done good or from whom we have received good; they are people on whom we know we can count.
Yet it is important also to have “travelling companions” on the journey of our Christian life. I am thinking of a Spiritual Director, a Confessor, of people with whom it is possible to share one’s own faith experience, but I am also thinking of the Virgin Mary and the Saints. Everyone must have some Saint with whom he or she is on familiar terms, to feel close to with prayer and intercession but also to emulate. I would therefore like to ask you to become better acquainted with the Saints, starting with those you are called after, by reading their life and their writings. You may rest assured that they will become good guides in order to love the Lord even more and will contribute effective help for your human and Christian development. [emphasis added]
My question for readers is: Who is your companion saint? Who has accompanied you on your faith journey?…
Yes, yes—and so much more. It turns out that guardian angels not only protect us from ourselves and others, they also do everything from pray for us to help us better understand divine truths. Indeed, if all life is a journey towards God in heaven, Aquinas says we can imagine guardian angels are assigned to protect us along the path, in much the same way that guardians might protect a medieval pilgrim on a country road.
Here’s just a few things that guardian angels do for us:
1. Moral guidance: While it is up to God to fill us with grace and virtue, it is left to reason to “discover the proper methods to make perfect the good of virtue,” according to Aquinas. It is in this regard that guardian angels assist us by bringing us the precepts of God.
2. Enlighten us: Aquinas says that angels can enlighten us to divine truths. There are several ways our guardians can do this: they can cause an imaginative vision or dream and they can also affect how our senses perceive the world around us.
3. Affect our will: Changing the will from within is God’s sole prerogative, but angels can still indirectly affect our will through our intellect, according to Aquinas.
4. Intercessors on our behalf: Guardian angels also act as intermediaries between us and God.…
Among the firmament of early Church Fathers, the star of John Chrysostom (347-407) shines especially bright. He’s best known for his homilies and the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom, still celebrated in Eastern churches.
As his biography in the Catholic Encyclopedia is at pains to stress, Chrysostom was not one to have his head in the clouds, devoting himself primarily to erudite treatises on arcane matters of dogma or speculative theology (as worthy as those intellectual pursuits may be). Rather, his genius seems to consist in a great depth of theological insight which he communicated to the common man with clarity and richness in language, hence his surname, which means golden-mouthed.
Here are just a few gems of his oratory:
On wealth: Do you pay such honor to your excrements as to receive them into a silver chamber-pot when another man made in the image of God is perishing in the cold?
On loving things of this world: [H]ow long shall the love of things present so occupy us, superfluous as they are and unprofitable? since wealth consists in superfluities, in which no advantage is. How long shall we be nailed to vanities? How long shall we not look through and away into heaven, not be sober, not be satiated with these fleeting things of earth, not learn by experience their worthlessness? Let us think of those who before us have been wealthy; are not all those things a dream? Are they not a shadow, a flower?…
This observation Pope Benedict XVI made in a homily a few years ago about St. Augustine really stuck with me—here’s the full comment:
Pope Benedict—St. Augustine was a man who never lived superficially; his thirst, his restless and constant thirst for the Truth is one of the basic characteristics of his existence; not however for ‘pseudo-truths,’ incapable of giving the heart lasting peace, but of that Truth that gives meaning to life and is the ‘dwelling-place’ in which the heart finds serenity and joy. As we know, his was a far from easy journey: he thought he had found the Truth in prestige, in his career, in the possession of things, in the voices that promised him instant happiness; he committed faults, he experienced sorrows, he faced failures but he never stopped, he was never content with what only gave him a glimmer of light. He was able to look into the depths of his being and realized, as he wrote in Confessions, that the Truth, the God whom he sought with his own efforts was closer to him than he himself, that God had always been beside him, had never abandoned him, was waiting to be able to enter his life once and for all (cf. III, 6, 11; X, 27, 38). As I said in a comment on the film made recently about his life, St. Augustine, in his restless seeking realized that it was not he who had found the Truth but that the Truth, who is God, had come after him and found him.…
Saint Paphnutius, the Egyptian monk and bishop whom the Catholic Church honors today, certainly shared in the action and passion of his time. Paphnutius lived through the Nicean Council and the transition from the era of persecution under pagan Rome to the era of Constantine. Had more information been collected about his life at the time, it sounds like it would have made for a riveting biography.
Just based on the biographical scraps cobbled together by the Catholic News Agency, he lived a truly storied life.
A disciple of St. Anthony of the Desert, Paphnutius started out as a desert hermit. He later became a bishop and was tortured for his faith by the Roman ruler of Egypt in the early 300s. The account of his suffering is gruesome: he had his left leg partially mutilated and his right eye cut out. When that failed to get him to renounce his faith, he was sentenced to the mines.
Paphnutius lived to see the tide turn towards Christianity. After Emperor Constantine converted in 312, the tortured bishop suddenly became a revered figure in the imperial court, as CNA puts it: “Constantine is said to have met frequently with the bishop from the Upper Thebaid, showing his respect by kissing the wound left by the loss of his eye.”
The restored bishop went on to participate in the Ecumenical Council at Nicea, which upheld Christ’s divinity and left us with the Nicene Creed.…
That isn’t to say that we should give up on discussions about the value of tradition or the authority of the Church. But if your aim is to defend the Catholic teachings on say Mary or the Eucharist, you’re going to send evangelical jaws crashing to the floor faster than you can say sola scriptura by diving into the Greek text of Luke 2 or launching into the Old Testament typology of the Eucharist.
However, there is an exception to this rule: Augustine.
For Reformed Protestants, Augustine enjoys a unique status as an authority figure. Showing that a particular Church teaching has its roots in Augustine is bound to get a non-Catholic Christian to think twice. And, it turns out that many of the most controversial and least understood Catholic beliefs and practices are already present in the writings of Augustine. Just a few examples include: Eucharistic adoration, cooperating with God’s grace, the sinlessness of Mary, veneration of the saints and their relics, a formal and sacramental priesthood, and the primacy of the Pope.
There are no doubt many areas where Protestants legitimately feel they have found a kindred spirit in Augustine. His description of the sinner’s inner struggle with sin in the Confessions certainly resonates strongly with evangelical culture.…