When in doubt, pray to the saints
Unknown saints can play just as large a role in our daily faith lives as famous ones.
If a saint is anyone who has died and is in heaven with God, as the Catholic Church defines the word, there are a lot more saints up there than the few famous ones the church has canonized.
Heaven must be filled with regular folks who led very good and, in many cases, exceptional lives but might not have had friends in high enough places to recommend them for canonization. The church recognizes them anonymously as part of what we call the “communion of saints,” but let’s face it—people like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, St. Anthony, and St. Francis of Assis are the celebrities of the Catholic Church.
All the other unknown saints, who are just as able to join with us in prayer, can play just as large a role in our daily faith lives as their more famous counterparts.
Take all the saints who were teachers or principals during their tenure on earth—how many people call upon them? What a powerful group of saints. If we have a child who is struggling in school, shouldn’t we ask a saint who was a teacher to pray with us for our child? That teacher-saint probably knows better than anyone what our child needs and can be a firm ally.
I have prayed to these ordinary saints for both some of the biggest challenges in my life and also some of the most trivial. I figure that the saints, having lived here on earth, appreciate both sets of concerns. I’ve prayed to social worker saints for our foster daughter’s uncertain situation and to plumber saints for bad clogs.
I’ve prayed to doctor saints for an aunt with a serious health problem and mechanic saints when it was 30 below zero and the minivan wouldn’t start.
Does everything always turn out the way I want? Of course not. But praying to these unknown saints gives me a sense of the amazing community of believers I am a part of. It reminds me that the millions or billions of people in heaven are mostly people not so different from the people I see around me. It reminds me that the folks I come in contact with each day—the grocery clerk, the mailman, my next door neighbor—are souls who might one day be saints.
Praying to saints makes me think of all the very much alive people I know who are so quick to lend a helping hand. During difficult times, praying to these ordinary saints helps me remember that our time here on earth is just a small slice of eternity. Important, yes, but not the final word.
In our relationship with God we can only glimpse what those who have gone before us can now see fully. Our friends, our relatives, our neighbors, and many, many people we haven’t met are living with full knowledge of God’s love. They stand ready to guide us in our journey—eager to help us find the place they know so well. They have walked the very roads we walk now, and they understand what it is to struggle and be human. They stand ready to help. We only need to ask.
This article was originally published in the May 2009 issue of At Home with our Faith
Image: Jan Paweł Bochen on Unsplash