Befriending the Saints
Sometimes our faith can become stale and stagnant and we desperately grasp at frayed floss to keep hanging on. Whether you are a Catholic from infancy or a convert well into your adulthood, faith relies on more than what we can see, as St. Paul reminds us (see 2 Corinthians 5:7). Befriending the saints can give us a boost when we feel lost, lonely, and afraid of trusting God.
Living a wholehearted Christian life is becoming increasingly difficult. Our Christian worldview is being eradicated by rising secularism. If we lose the ability to be intentional about setting aside moments each day for solitude, we will lose our faith without realizing why or how.
But the saints somehow bring us back home. We are inspired by the dramatic flash of St. Paul’s conversion and equally so by the quiet fidelity of St. John the Evangelist. We are drawn by the leadership of the holy St. Leo the Great and the courage of St. Martin of Tours’s military service-turned-soldier-of-Christ. Our hearts fill with compassion at the poverty and racial injustice St. Martin de Porres endured, but mostly by his excellence in clemency.
We long to do great things for the poor when we read about St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Meanwhile, the tireless work for educating and catechizing Italian immigrants of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini reminds us that this is our work, too. The missionary spirit of these women, as well as St. Rose Duchesne’s work with the indigenous people of the American Midwest and West, carries on within us, too, as we strive to love all people we encounter—from conception to natural death.
The work we are called to do is the work of the saints. But we need the histories and legacies of the saints to bolster the belief that we, too, are called for something greater than acquiescing to the world’s clamor.
November is a month that often gets swallowed into the beginning of the holiday season, but as Catholics, we end the calendar year with a beginning in mind, too—the beginning of a new liturgical year that moves us from dormancy and death to eternity. That is why we begin November with the heroism and virtue of all saints, canonized and unknown, and move into the commemoration of all holy souls.
Death and life—these comprise the life of our faith and the faith of every person, saint or saint-in-the-making.
How to Befriend the Saints
Start with an important date in your life.
If you haven’t already found a kindred spirit with a saint, look on the calendar to see whose feast or memorial the Church celebrates on or around your birthday. Also, you can use other milestones, such as a wedding anniversary or date of death for a loved one. Select one or two to whom you feel drawn.
Read about the life of that saint or saints.
A rudimentary search online should offer a goldmine of information about the saint or saints to whom you want to grow closer in friendship. As long as this isn’t some obscure person, you should be able to discover books or at least background information that will give you a richer, fuller understanding of the trials and adversities that saint overcame – and how.
Find novenas, prayers, and devotions to that saint.
The beginning of every relationship often feels awkward and forced. You can continue your acquaintanceship with the saint of your choosing by offering traditional prayers, such as novenas or even chaplets. Later, you may likely move to a more organic and natural conversation with them.
Wear a blessed medal of your special saint.
Wearing a blessed medal of your adopted saint is an intimate and constant reminder for us to strive for virtue throughout ordinary—and especially difficult—days. I have often unconsciously fiddled with my Miraculous Medal when I am anxious or on the verge of erupting at my kids in anger, only to have those feelings quelled by a calm I cannot explain. My thought is that we don’t always live as if the saints walked with us, though we know deep down they do. Wearing a medal can help us in our spiritual journey, even as we offer a brief aspiration or cry for help.
As you deepen your devotion, talk freely about your saint’s intercession.
Friendship relies on reciprocity. It’s important to move from a superficial knowing to a deepening of fondness for a person. It might sound strange at first, since the saint you have chosen is a person physically distanced from you. But the give-and-take of this relationship will enliven you, because you will learn how to move from asking to thanking. And your saint will always, always lead you to the Heart of Jesus, your True Love.
image: Old Wayside shrine in Wieliczka via wjarek / Shutterstock