Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Saints, why we need them as patrons

This weekend the most amazing lady the world has ever known will be canonized, Mother...err, blessed Theresa of Calcutta!  In honor of her sainthood, I wanted to talk about saints and why we need them.

As Americans, our history books are filled with courageous men and women who were founding fathers, fearless patriots, dedicated countrymen, strong leaders, fierce fighters, many of whom were willing, and did, lay down their lives for the country they believed in.  It is through their blood, sweat, and tears that America was built and their stories have inspired us through the years to respect what we have and aspire to be like them today.  Their faces are on our coins, buildings, on statues in town squares, their books fill our libraries, schools; their belongings are preserved in museums, their words quoted in documents, speeches, and along the way, they frame us in our thinking and desire to remain American.
In the same way, the saints are to the Catholic Church what these historic people are to our country.  They inspire us to be better, to love Jesus, respect the Church teachings and know she is worth fighting for.  They are our teachers and role models, and because they were human like us, we can relate to them more closely.  Like St Augustine, who said,
"O Master, make me chaste, but not yet!"
-St. Augustine
So Who exactly is a Saint?
I recently got turned on to Fr. Robert Barron and his “Word on Fire” website. In his “Catholicism” project, Fr. Barron talks about the saints and tells a story about when Simon Peter first met Jesus in Luke 5:3-11.  Basically, Jesus got into his boat and started ordering him around!  Unprovoked, uninvited, and unsolicited!   He goes on to say, “Jesus’ uninvited boarding of the vessel represents the invasionof grace, the incoming of the divine love into someone’s life.  Precisely because God is noncompetitive with creation, precisely because he wants human beings to come fully to life, this inrushing of grace does not destroy or interrupt what it invades; it enhances it and raises it to a new pitch.”  I love this, in nearly every saint story, you see where they succumb to their calling, allowing Christ to live His life in us, thus cooperating with grace. 
"Teach us to give and not count the cost."
-St. Ignatius de Loyola
"We are to love God for Himself, because of a twofold reason; nothing is more reasonable, nothing more profitable."
-St. Bernard of Clairvaux

They were mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers; they were old and young, religious and laity, and many different walks of life, such as lawyers, doctors, carpenters, and nurses.  Depending on where we are in life, what we do, and where we live there is a saint that we can relate to, follow their example, imitate their virtues, and ask them to pray for us.
"You cannot be half a saint; you must be a whole saint or no saint at all."
-St. Therese of Lisieux
"The nation doesn’t simply need what we have. It needs what we are."
-St. Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)
"Charity is that with which no man is lost, and without which no man is saved."
-St. Robert Bellarmine
John Paul II has made saints in many countries, too. For example, he canonized 120 Chinese martyrs, he canonized Mother Katharine Drexel, an American, and he canonized Sister Bakita, an African.

Each of these beautiful people suffered in one way or another.  Suffering is not always a terminal illness, a torturous imprisonment or death, sometimes suffering is depression, mourning  loved ones, daily trials that can and do overwhelm us, alcoholism, addictions are all ways that we can suffer.  But with suffering these saints shared their hearts, their lives, and love for Christ in His passion for us.  They learned to give it back to Him in atonement for their and our sins as well.  God formed them and gave them the strength to endure and persevere through their suffering and turn it around for good.  They even learned to appreciate and desire to suffer if that was how they could serve Jesus more fully. 

A young blessed, Chiara Bedano, 18 was beatified sept 2010.  She is a young girl who died of bone cancer in 1989.  She denied morphine at the end of her life saying that her pain is all she had to offer to Jesus. “I want to share as much as possible the pain of Jesus on the cross.”

“Don’t cry for me. I am going to Jesus. At my funeral I don’t want people to cry, but rather to sing with all their voices.” – Blessed Chiara during a medical crisis near the end of her life
If you have ever read about Bl. John Paul II’s life, he lost his mother at age 8, his brother soon after that, his father when he was in his early 20’s.  He learned painful separation and loss early on.  He learned to depend on our Holy Mother for intercession and guidance.  I was struck on how much his life looked like he was being formed for  his greatest job of all.  Through all the pain and suffering of his childhood, the struggles with Poland, he became one of strength, wisdom, and humility.

Personal note:  As a cradle Catholic, you would think I embraced the saints and the benefit of studying their lives, but I didn’t really grasp this as a young person.  Basically, studying them meant going through the grotesque murders and horrible torture stories of so many innocent people that I ignored this part of the Church.  I get nightmares so easily and that this was just too close to nightmare material for my liking.  I knew about the some of the saints…well how can you get through being a Catholic without someone telling you to pray to St. Jude to find something you’ve lost, or St Anthony for a sick or lost animal, St. Joseph to help you sell your house, or St. Michael for a safe trip somewhere.  But it wasn’t until we started homeschooling our daughters and they had to do “Saint reports” each week that the started to understand the value.  Each week they would read about a new saint and we would talk about them.  They were intrigued about how they were tortured and killed, ugh!  I couldn’t listen to them.  One day, we were watching a documentary about St. Agnes’ shrines and basilica.  The tour guide talked about her torture and martyrdom…she was only 12!  As homeschoolers, a few families got together each week and formed a small saint society; there the girls talked about the saints that were murdered for the faith and were swapping gory details, watching this documentary was too much and I ran upstairs and started to pray/ask God why these faithful and good people suffered such horrible deaths for being good!?  I was in near tears in overwhelming confusion with my hands clasped together in desperation, these words came to me, “I chose the stronger ones.” That made sense; suddenly I understood that these amazingly precious people were strong and fierce in their faith and love for Jesus.
I want to share with you a bit of dialogue from St. Catherine of Siena with our Lord about Obedience:
Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena about Obedience with Our Lord
And if you ask Me where obedience is to be found, and what is the cause of its loss, and the sign of its possession…… will find it in its completeness in the sweet and amorous Word, My only-begotten Son.
So prompt in Him was this virtue, that, in order to fulfill it, He hastened to the shameful death of the Cross.
What destroys obedience?
 Look at the first man and you will see…. It was pride, which was produced by self-love, and desire to please his companion.
This was the cause that deprived him of the perfection of obedience, giving him instead disobedience, depriving him of the life of grace, and slaying his innocence, wherefore he fell into impurity and great misery, and not only he, but the whole human race, as I said to you.
The sign that you have this virtue is patience, and impatience the sign that you have it not
What caused the great obedience of the Word? The love which He had for My honor and your salvation.
Whence proceeded this love?
From the clear vision with which His soul saw ….. thus always looking on Me, the eternal God.
He was faithful to Me, His eternal Father, and therefore hastened as one enamored along the road of obedience, lit up with the light of glory.
And inasmuch as love cannot be alone, but is accompanied by all the true and royal virtues, because all the virtues draw their life from love, He possessed them all, but in a different way from that in which you do.
Among the others he possessed patience, which is the marrow of obedience, and a demonstrative sign, whether a soul be in a state of grace and truly love or not.
Wherefore charity, the mother of patience, has given her as a sister to obedience, and so closely united them together that one cannot be lost without the other. Either you have them both or you have neither.
This virtue has a nurse who feeds her, that is, true humility; therefore a soul is obedient in proportion to her humility, and humble in proportion to her obedience. This humility is the foster-mother and nurse of charity, and with the same milk it feeds the virtue of obedience.
The garments given it by this nurse is self-contempt, and insult, desire to displease herself, and to please Me.
Where does it find this?
 In sweet Christ Jesus, My only-begotten Son. For who abased Himself more than He did! He was sated with insults, jibes, and mockings. He caused pain to Himself in His bodily life, in order to please Me.
And who was more patient than He?  … He patiently embraced His injuries like one enamored, fulfilling the obedience imposed on Him by Me, His Eternal Father.
Wherefore in Him you will find obedience perfectly accomplished.
He left you this rule and this doctrine, which gives you life, for it is the straight way, having first observed them Himself.
He is the way, wherefore He said, ’He was the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’
For he who travels by that way, travels in the light, and being enlightened cannot stumble, or be caused to fall, without perceiving it.

For He has cast from Himself the darkness of self-love, by which he fell into disobedience; for as I spoke to you of a companion virtue proceeding from obedience and humility, so I tell you that disobedience comes from pride, which issues from self-love depriving the soul of humility.
The sister given by self-love to disobedience is impatience, and pride, her foster-mother, feeds her with the darkness of infidelity, so she hastens along the way of darkness, which leads her to eternal death.

"We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials." -St. Teresa of Avila
“A great deal depends on the importance that John Paul II attributes to martyrs. (John Paul II beatified 1,032 and canonized 402 martyrs) The history of the Catholic Church is, in fact, a history of martyrs. I often say that the Church has never taken off the red tunic of martyrdom since her birth. It has been a constant. Also, we have to remember that John Paul II comes from a country with a history of Catholic martyrs.
"If this is the way You treat Your friends, no wonder You have so few!"
-St. Teresa of Avila
Martyrs are a treasure for the Church, a precious inheritance. Their courage is not explainable in natural terms. It is supernatural. They stimulate us to be ready to give our lives. Today there is the tendency to live without sacrifice and live in comfort. The martyrs tell us that life is not a matter of pleasure, but of living supernatural values. Their importance to the Church is immense.”

How does one become a saint?
Now the Church doesn’t make saints; God makes saints, and the Church recognizes the saints that God has made. The Catholic Church is in the business of fostering sanctity, so there could never be too many saints. 
So in 1588 , Pope Sixtus V created the Congregation of Rites.
On 29 June 1908, the Congregation of the Discipline of the Sacraments was erected, leaving the Congregation of Rites to deal with canonization causes and it only took 61 years for the Vatican to see that a name change was in order, so in 1969 the Congregation was re-named Congregation for the Causes of Saints.
Here they investigate potential cases for canonization, to consider proposals, and decide whether the case may be taken to the Pope
A team studies each case, which as you know is a process that takes years, and they even have their own physicians to analyze reported miraculous healings.
While not secretive, the Congregation is often slow and reluctant to release news on a particular Cause in order not to spread rumours or cause sensationalism.
Bl. John Paul II canonized more saints than any other pope because he believed we needed more good examples to live by.   He was convinced that God is extravagant in making saints, and that the Church should recognize that. The world always needs examples of men and women who have lived their lives nobly, courageously, generously. The world especially needs such witnesses today, when a thick fog of cynicism hangs over us.
Under Pope John Paul II, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, has beatified 1,338 men and women and canonized another 482 — which is comparable to the beatification and canonization numbers of the four previous centuries combined. John Paul II has canonized hundreds of lay people. More than 220 lay beatifications and 245 are lay canonizations. Many people don't know this.
Stages of becoming a saint:
1.      Venerable
The title of a person who has been declared heroic in the Theological Virtues of faith, hope and charity and the Cardinal Virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance.

2.      BeatificationLatin: ( beatus, blessed; facere, to make)

The declaration by the pope as head of the Church that one of its members deserves for saintly life as confessor or heroic death as martyr, to be entitled Blessed, that is, regarded as dwelling in the happiness of heaven. The declaration is preceded by a double process, the first consisting of an examination into the life, virtues, writings, and reputation for holiness, or martyrdom, of the Servant of God in question, conducted ordinarily by the bishop of the place in which he or she died or lived a long time. In the case of a martyr no miracles are required in this first process, but they are required for others. The second process, known as the Apostolic process, is instituted by the Holy See in case the first inquiry shows that there is a likelihood of proving that the Servant of God practised virtue to an heroic degree, or died by the heroic death of martyrdom. To go further and obtain canonization, miracles are required for both martyrs and confessors.
3.      Canonizaton:  (Latin: canonizare, to canonize)
Declaration of the Sovereign Pontiff that the faithful should venerate as a Saint one who had already been beatified. Beatification permits veneration of the Blessed one in certain places or communities: canonization commands it everywhere. The decree is issued only after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints has accepted proof of two miracles through the intercession of the Blessed who had been formally beatified, occurring after the beatification and of three miracles for one whose beatification had taken place without the ordinary process. The Saint is now entitled to the full honours of the altar, though the Mass and Office may not be extended to the entire Church. The canonization is solemnly celebrated in Saint Peter‘s and a solemn novena or triduum is made in another church of the city chosen for this purpose; this same nine or three days service may be also held elsewhere within a given time following the canonization
Relic of the saints:
Veneration of saint relics is similar to that of which we give to images.  We do NOT venerate the relics for their own sake, but for the sake of who they represent.
 There are three degrees of relic:   1.) a body part of a saint   2.) clothing/books/etc. used by the saint.   3.) articles that touched the body or other relic of saint.
Relics are in the bible, even God honored relics, in the IV book of Kings a dead man was restored to life when his body touched the bones of Eliseus.   Remember the woman with the hemorrhage who merely touched the cloak of Jesus?  God used a material object as a means to transfer Christ’s healing grace.
Does anyone know what we have as a relic of bl. John Paul II?  Ans.: 2 vials of his blood taken for more tests just before he died.

Intercessory Prayer:
The saints pray for us from Heaven much like our friends, relatives, and we ourselves pray for special needs and concerns in our lives.  We are also their intercessors praying for the Church suffering, those in purgatory and each other here on Earth.  It is through these prayers that God hears our free will desires for help and guidance.
The Church is comprised of all believers living and who have lived and are now beyond this life either in Purgatory or in Heaven.  She has both a visible and invisible body, but all the same, we are one body, one family.
The Communion of Saints
·        The Church Militant: are those of us here on earth fighting for Heaven against the devil and the temptations of the world
·        The Church Suffering: are those souls in Purgatory suffering their just punishments before obtaining heaven.
·        The Church Triumphant: are the souls in Heaven because they won the battle against the temptations of the world and are now enjoying their eternal reward.

As Catholic Christians, we are pounded by questions and critical attitudes about what we believe and what has been passed down through the years as heresy.  One of the biggest has been whether we pray TO Mary and worship her and why we put people that have gone before us between Jesus and God.  I have been asked why I talk to dead people.
Now does this get in the way of praying directly to Jesus?  We pray directly to Jesus all day long, all the time, but remember, the Church is more like a family.
"Let us go forward in peace, our eyes upon heaven, the only one goal of our labors."
-St. Therese of Lisieux
"On the question of relating to our fellowman – our neighbor’s spiritual need transcends every commandment. Everything else we do is a means to an end. But love is an end already, since God is love."
-St. Teresia Benedicta (Edith Stein)
"You learn to speak by speaking, to study by studying, to run by running, to work by working, and just so, you learn to love by loving. All those who think to learn in any other way deceive themselves." -St. Francis de Sales:
What’s wrong with lifting up such lives and celebrating the grace of God that makes such saintly people possible?

1 comment:

Allison said...

WOW! This is awesome. Will be sharing.