I can’t imagine my faith life without the saints. Certainly, it would not be nearly as rich as it is. And if not for these holy men and women — who were very imperfect at times by the way — I likely would not be held as deeply bound to the Catholic faith as I am.
In times of doubt, when I am feeling like our leaders have let us down, when I am seeing so few signs of Catholics who are truly faithful, and when my own steadfastness wavers, I think of the many men and women through the ages who have, despite all of the hardships and obstacles that they faced as we do now, made it through their lives with Christ on their heart and lips; who lived lives of heroic virtue in the face of untold challenges.
It’s one thing to know and read about the apostles, who also achieved sainthood and, most, martyrdom, but another thing entirely to meet these otherwise ordinary children of God who did not have such a direct line to him necessarily, yet somehow were able to hold and transmit the seed of faith well and strong in the course of their ordinary lives, which, when held up to history and the light of day, become rather extraordinary, and for us, important examples of how to do this life well.
Right now, my Endow group is studying St. Teresa of Avila. I have always been drawn to this wise and lovely saint, someone considered a Doctor of the Church because of her profound spiritual insight and writings telling of it, but learning more about her through our study endears her to me all the more.
“As soon as I took the habit, the Lord gave me an understanding of how He favors those who use force with themselves to serve Him,” she once said upon succumbing to her life as a religious. “Within an hour, He gave me such great happiness at being in the religious state of life that it never left me up to this day, and God changed the dryness my soul experienced into the greatest tenderness.”
Think of the ways we’ve balked at living a life serving others instead of ourselves, or at the smallest sacrifices asked of us during the day. Here, St. Teresa shows that when we give ourselves to God fully and surrender, he will reward us and bring consolation.
When she was given the task by her superiors to write about her spiritual life, Teresa did not want to, for she had many other obligations that had her swirling about the monastery, but finally, she remembered how God works and was able to give her life to him once again.
“…knowing that the strength given by obedience usually lessens the difficulty of things that seem impossible, I resolved to carry out the task very willingly, even though my human nature seems greatly distressed.”
Again, our own human nature can yearn for something other than what God wants, and yet, as Teresa demonstrated, when we offer our work to the one who gave us the talents to deliver it, his grace meets us in our resistance.
This is just a small sampling of how the saints have offered me insight and courage to take on the spiritual life with zeal and confidence, and often with much hope, joy and humor — something Teresa used often to bring lightness to others. She is a truly enjoyable character, and one who has drawn me closer to God. More than a hero from past ages, she’s a friend I can call on now to journey with me, and pray for us all.
Not all saints are Catholic, but the Catholic Church, in its wisdom, has paid particular attention to these holy men and women who have gone before us, and whom we know, through miracles attributed to them, are now with God in heaven. Their examples provide guiding lights to us all. I would not want to abandon them any more than my own flesh and blood. They bring a spark to the Christian story that I have not found anywhere else but in the Catholic Church.
And that is one of the many reasons why, despite all the trials of our Church in this day, I am still Catholic — and happily so.
Q4U: Who is your favorite saint? What questions do you have about the saints – or a particular saint – that has never been answered?