I realize, as a Catholic, not all Christians, perhaps not all Catholics, and certainly not most non-Christians subscribe with enthusiasm to “I believe in…the communion of saints,…”( –Apostle’s Creed, the ancient baptismal creed of the Church). Yet, a wise priest I know once said to me, “Get over it! It’s a Christian Hall of Fame!”
Football has a hall of fame; baseball has a hall of fame; nations have halls of fame, why not Christianity? Critics of the saints contend they have the potential to deflect worship from God directly; with respect, I firmly believe they amplify our worship of God directly. By showing us how the Gospel might actually be lived in this life they, in fact, not only amplify our worship of God directly, they echo it so loudly and so clearly that the Glory of God resonates back into our “real world”; applied Christianity.
It is most encouraging to a weak and back-sliding sinner like me to read of the Apostles stumbling and fumbling around. (I sometimes picture Jesus like Moe Howard of the Three Stooges wanting to knock their heads together like Larry and Curly because they just don’t get it, saying “OK, you numbskulls!” with that perfect, unique, hollow coconut sound effect in the background. I know, I know, not very Jesus-like. Love my enemies? Pray for my persecutors? Bless those who curse me? Forgive and forgive and forgive? C’mon what are you smokin’?)
Eventually, no pun intended, they did get it. Tradition holds only John died a natural death.
These men and women, whom we call saints, many deeply and profoundly flawed often for the majority of their lives, finally got it and often in glorious and earth shaking ways. It gives me hope for myself that there is hope I might “get it” even just a little more before I meet the Lord face-to-face, God willing.
I also take great solace when reading the Lives of the Saints when I come across a challenge or a crisis of faith similar to what I have experienced or what I know others have experienced and how the saints, real men and women, suffered under similar circumstances or even much more dramatic ones, and what their non-intuitive, non-instinctual, but rather Christ-like response ultimately was.
I am an engineer I know because I can never be satisfied with pure theory, knowledge for the sake of knowledge; but, rather, I have an internal need to solve practical, “real world” problems, applied knowledge for the sake of a practical benefit. Scientists = pure science, knowledge simply for the sake of having new or more knowledge; engineers = applied science, knowledge for the sake of obtaining a practical benefit. And so, I have a deep affection, resonance, and amazement at the lives of the saints and their applied Christianity. Who needs Hollywood or soap operas, these stories are great!
If, at times, you could use a little encouragement in your struggles and on your faith journey, as I regularly do, I highly recommend familiarizing yourself more fully with lives of some of the Christian saints. I would be amazed if you could not take great courage and solace from them as I have often been able to do.
“No earthly pleasures, no kingdoms of this world can benefit me in any way. I prefer death in Christ Jesus to power over the farthest limits of the earth. He who died in place of us is the one object of my quest. He who rose for our sakes is my one desire.”
-St Ignatius of Antioch, 107 AD, third bishop of Antioch, Syria (St Peter, tradition holds, was the first bishop of Antioch, before becoming bishop of Rome), in his last letter to the Roman Christian community, on his way to execution by exposure to wild beasts in the Flavian amphitheater in Rome. He was also the first Christian writer to use the term “catholic” = universal and apply it to the Church.
“O holy souls that now rejoice without fear of losing your joy and are forever absorbed in the praises of my God! Happy indeed, your lot! How right that you should employ yourselves ceaselessly in these praises! and how my soul envies you, free as you now are from the affliction caused by the grievous offenses which in these unhappy days are committed against my God! No longer do you behold all the ingratitude of men and their blindness nor the multitude of souls being carried away by Satan.
O blessed, heavenly souls! Help us in our misery and intercede for us with the divine Mercy, so that we may be granted some part of your joy and you may share with us some of that clear knowledge which is now yours.
And You, O my God, make us understand what it is that You give to those who fight manfully through the dream of this miserable life. Help us, O loving souls, to understand what joy it gives you to behold the eternity of your bliss and what delight to possess the certain knowledge that it will never end.
O blessed souls, who knew so well how to profit by the gifts of God, and to purchase with this precious ransom so delectable and enduring a heritage, tell us how you won through Him such an eternal blessing! Assist us, since you are so near the Fountainhead. Draw water for those of us on earth who are perishing with thirst” (Teresa of Jesus, Exclamations of the Soul to God, 13).
O saints of heaven, I am the least of all creatures. I know my worthlessness, but I also know how noble and generous hearts love to do good. Therefore, O blessed inhabitants of the heavenly City, I entreat you to adopt me as your child. All the glory you may help me to acquire will be yours; deign, then, to hear my prayer and obtain for me … your love …” (Thérèse of the Child Jesus, Story of a Soul, 13).
Prayer to All the Saints
Lord, Your Beloved now live in eternal happiness and in the fullness of Your glory. Because of their love of You, they also care about me and my family, my friends, my church, and my neighbors, everyone. Thank you for the gift of their holy lives and their witness of their love for You. I ask them to intercede for me and my intentions and for those whom I love. I ask them to help us journey safely to You. Lord, give us their protection, so we too may come to enjoy the joy You have promised those who remain faithful to You.