It’s hard to play Fur Elise if you had never heard it … hard to pray the Breviary if you have never sat down with someone and seen how it is done … hard to back squat 300lbs unless you learn from someone who knows how to do it.
It is also hard to be holy if you’ve never gotten to know a saint.
I think it was this deep-down realization that got me interested in telling the lives of the saints last year when we all started writing for the bulletin and this past year digging into the sacraments has only deepened my love and appreciation for the saints. I cannot recount everyone we got to know last year, but how can I forget the zeal of St. Francis Xavier – bringing baptism to as many as he could?! Or, St. Don Bosco – his vision of the Eucharist as one of the pillars that holds us on the path to Heaven?! Or, St. Patrick – writing his own Confessio, recounting the tremendous mercy of God, offered to all of us in Confession? Or, Mary and Joseph – their loveliness and holiness in marriage?!
The thing is, we can study the scriptures and peruse the catechism, but if we never get to know concrete examples of the faith lived-out, we can struggle to turn the brain-knowledge of our faith into a heart transformed by grace and a life alive with God’s love. But if we do have those examples, not only can we be inspired by their lives, and we can see in them the Gospel incarnate again and again. But also, the saints are more than examples for us, they are friends and helpers along the way! They not only have run this race before us, they are now on the sidelines cheering and coaching us along the way. We see how they responded to the particular circumstances of their day, and we can speak to them about the particular circumstances of our day, and in friendship with them we grow in our friendship with God.
This year, our overall theme for parish catechesis will be continuing onto the third pillar of the Catechism (after the first – on the creed: the what we believe, and the second – on the sacraments: the where we are sustained in our belief; and before the fourth pillar of prayer: Who we are in communion with). This third pillar is the moral life – often called “Life in Christ”: the how we live out our faith – and though I am certain the other priests here will offer tremendous insights into our conscience, as well as the virtues, commandments, and beatitudes that composes our roadmap to sanctity, I am all the more excited to learn those things in and through the lives of our saints.
Every saint has wrestled with vice, and discovered virtue; has fallen short of God’s commands, and received His forgiveness and continued call. And they remain for us not only models, but continuing members of our Church, if in the life beyond! This week, I have not chosen any saint in particular, but I offer to all of us the question: Have I befriended any saints? St. Bartholomew (August 24th), St. Monica (August 27th), and St. Augustine (August 28th) are famous ones we celebrate this week. Do you know their story? Do you know what they struggled with? Do you know why they are a saint? What about St. Emily de Vialar (spent her life in care for the poor, Feast day August 24th), St. Zephirin (Pope, battled heresy, Feast Day August 26th), or St. Sabine (Roman Martyr, Feast Day August 29th)? There are so many saints, spend a few minutes getting to know them, and then spend a few minutes talking your life over with them!
– Fr. Dominic Rankin has long loved Pope St. John Paul II, but really got to know him better during his seminary studies in Rome, where the great saint lived so many years of his life, and is now buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. One day, praying at JPII’s tomb, he was saddened by the fact that he would never be able to join the great pope to celebrate Mass. And then God gave a great grace: at every Mass, everyone who is in union with Christ, is reunited around Him. And so, we cannot be closer to the saints, including those we love the most, than when we go to Mass. Which saints are with you in your pew? Which saints have I concelebrated Mass with?!