During the Church’s rite of exorcism, when the exorcist priest leads the beautiful Litany of Saints, we, his team, ardently respond, “pray for us”. We count on their intercessory power and protection. Saints relics are also present. Their help is real and efficacious. We, the Church militant, rely on the powerful aid of the saints in heaven, known as the Church triumphant.
After the legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313, commemoration of the martyrs and saints appeared throughout the Church in various areas. Both the feasts of All Saints and of All Souls evolved in the life of the Church independently of paganism. According to some accounts Pope Gregory III (731-741) dedicated an oratory in the first St. Peter’s Basilica to honor all the saints on November 1st.
Annually we honor all saints in heaven—most of whom do not have a feast day on the liturgical calendar. Catholics have a profound spiritual bond of friendship with favorite saints. A priest friend taught that we do not choose them—they choose us. They do so according to God’s plan for salvation.
Personally, I have been enriched by the friendship of saints who have accompanied me in perceptible ways. Reading the lives of the saints, their writings and experiences, strengthens our faith, hope and love by God’s design. Theirs is a legacy meant for us to imitate and build upon.
Saints, our victorious family, are a reminder of the universal call to holiness, the duty and privilege of our baptismal inheritance. For He has chosen us to be with him in eternal beatitude. Therefore, Saint Peter taught the call to holy living.
Therefore prepare your minds for action, discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:13-16).
Saints prove that holiness is possible, desirable, and attractive. They are a sign of God’s unfathomable mercy for humanity; the fruit of Christ’s perfect bloody sacrifice.
Grace: Saints are Intercessors
Only God’s grace can make saints. Faith informs us that saints reside in glory. While worshipping him, they intercede for the Church on earth— for you and me. “Given the fact that saints have the faculty of interceding for us even if we do not pray to them, for greater reason do they intercede for us when we ask for the help of their prayers, presenting to God their merits”, said Fr. Francesco Bamonte.
In Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), he says, “The great men and women of God were great intercessors. Intercession is like a ‘leaven’ in the heart of the Trinity. It is a way of penetrating the Father’s heart and discovering new dimensions which can shed light on concrete situations and change them.”
There are many accounts of saintly intervention throughout the history of the Church. Think of St. Therese of Lisieux who promised that she would spend her heaven showering roses of grace upon earth. Countless times people have received “roses of grace” (sometimes real, red roses!) at the precise needed time through the intercession of “The Little Flower”.
Protection: Saints are Mighty Warriors
I was a student for the Association of International Exorcists (AIE) Course in Rome last year. An example from one of the priest professors, exorcist Fr. Bamonte, confirms that saints are mighty warriors against evil.
In my experience as an exorcist, I have found that no extra-liturgical prayer is so hated, feared, and opposed as the Holy Rosary. I would like to share a brief interchange that occurred while I was picking up a Rosary during an exorcism. The demon exclaimed, “That is a thing that I cannot stand. I cannot stand it! That stupid old person named it correctly. He gave it the appropriate name. He called it a ‘weapon’ because it is a true weapon against us.”
‘To those words, I said, “In the name of Jesus, who is the stupid old man to whom you are referring?” The demon responded, “Pio.” I asked, “Padre Pio of Pietrelcina? The demon said, “Yes!”. I retorted, “He is not a stupid man. He is intelligent, wise, and devout.” And the demon said, “For us, Pio is a stupid man. And now, again that stupid man is working alongside that Nazarene and the Woman who is up there.”
Indeed, saints in heaven are part of the exorcist priest’s team. Very often the demons exclaim with pain that certain saints have shown up to help liberate a person, and assist the priest. Personally I have heard them name, St. John Paul II, St. Gemma Galgani, St. Maria Goretti, St. Ambrose, St. Paul, St. Catherine of Siena. Saints are part of God’s provision for spiritual battles; they are warriors to aid you and me.
Victory: Family of Saints
We learn from the family of saints that victory is possible with God; that we can win the spiritual battle against ourselves (flesh), the world, and the devil by grace. Saints are proofs of Divine Love. They intercede for our victory in Christ.
The Catechism teaches (2725), “Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The ‘spiritual battle’ of the Christian’s life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.”
At the AIE Rome course mentioned above, Fr. Bamonte shared another example of a saint intervention during an exorcism, “One time, with a relic of St. Maria Goretti, the devil cried out, ‘That little goody-goody, so perfect, a little holy roller. She’s hurt me so much, that little b…. But I take consolation in the fact that there are millions unlike her and that’s good enough for me.’”
This quote reminds us of the unfortunate truth that many people on earth are “unlike” the saints; and seemingly have no interest in attaining sanctity. Yet, Christ calls you and me to persevere to grow in virtue, to cultivate holiness of life, so that we may reside in glory with the saints in Paradise. So great an inheritance is worth our time and attention; our cooperation with God’s grace that is always sufficiently abundant.
Lord Jesus, thank you for the grace, protection and victory of the saints. Graciously fill us with a desire for the authentic holiness. Amen.