November 13, 2015


Saints are guiding stars on our way to Christ

November is the time of year when we honor all the holy women and men, living and deceased, whose example inspires us in our journey of faith.

A year ago, in a column for The Criterion on “the universal call to holiness,” Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin quoted a beautiful reflection by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in his encyclical “Saved by Hope.” “Life is a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives.”

In his column, the archbishop observed that the people who are “true stars guiding our way are the light of hope because they point us to Jesus Christ, the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history.”

People who shine with the light of Christ are called saints. These are the men and women who have gone before us, and who know the way to true happiness and peace.

Many of the saints have been officially recognized by the Church through a process that results in the solemn proclamation (canonization) that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace.

But during the last 2,000 years, many other holy women and men have given themselves wholeheartedly to Jesus Christ without being declared saints by the Church. These are the saints we celebrate on Nov. 1, the Solemnity of All Saints.

More recently, Archbishop Tobin has written, “All the saints, living and deceased, look to Mary to find their way to Jesus, her divine Son. We look to this simple woman from Nazareth to learn how to live as Christ wants us to live, as saints, holy women and men who respond with courage and integrity to the demands of the Gospel.”

How do Mary and the saints show us the way to Christ? Obviously, through the witness of their daily lives, the choices they make, their willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others, and their devotion to Christ. The saints’ words and examples are helpful guides to daily Christian living.

Saints are men and women who know how to pray. They are people who in times of difficulty, as well as in good times, raise their minds and hearts to the Lord. They continually seek God’s will in their lives. They share with him their hopes and frustrations. Through their prayer, they strive to be in constant contact with God.

There are many different styles of prayer modeled for us by the saints. But prayer itself—understood as personal communication with God—is the constant, unifying factor. If we want to be happy and to find true peace in Christ, the saints tell us, we should pray often and from the heart. We should cultivate a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who is both our brother and our Lord.

It has been said that every saint has two passionate loves that he or she shares with others. The first is adoration, a love for the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, which we receive at Mass and adore in the Blessed Sacrament. The second is devotion in which every saint also gives witness to her or his love for Mary Immaculate, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ.

Can you think of a saint who didn’t center his or her life around the Eucharist, or who dismissed devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as old-fashioned or as merely pious sentimentality? The saints have very different personalities, and their forms of spirituality are often very different, but Eucharistic adoration and Marian devotion are experiences that every saint has in common with every other saint!

A friend once told me the story of a mother and young son who stopped to pray in a church with many beautiful stained-glass windows. The boy kept interrupting his mother’s prayers, asking her who was pictured in this and that window. The mother would explain, “That’s St. Joseph.” “That’s St. Andrew.” “That’s St. Margaret Mary.”

The boy was silent for a few minutes, then he said, “I know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a saint.”

“Why, Billy,” the mother replied, “you don’t even know what a ‘saint’ is.” “I do so,” the boy said. “A saint is a person the sun shines through.”

May the saints teach us to pray always, to be united with Christ in the holy Eucharist, and to look to Mary as a sure guide in our efforts to seek her divine Son.

And may the light of Christ shine through Mary and all the saints to inspire us and show us the way.

—Daniel Conway

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