You can tell a lot about people based on the company they keep. Look at Our Lord and his Twelve Apostles. Peter was rather hard-headed, the brothers James and John were social climbers, Thomas had his doubts and Simon the religious Zealot and Matthew the imperial tax collector were pretty far from each other on the political spectrum. Still, Jesus called them to follow him and walk in his company. Jesus saw each of them for who they were, and by the help of his mercy and grace, ultimately who they could be. As Our Lord called these individuals to journey in faith together as apostles, Jesus continues to call each one of us to a life of holiness in community with others: the communion of saints. On our faith journey we never travel alone, but are encouraged by “so great a cloud of witnesses” who have gone before us, competed well, finished the race and kept the faith. (Heb 12:1)
The saints all have their stories
The apostles provide only a few quick examples, but you can easily find similar themes running throughout the great “cloud of witnesses” that the Church calls the communion of saints: holy men and women, apostles, martyrs, virgins, pastors and religious throughout the ages. God’s work in the lives of the saints is something beautiful to behold; he takes ordinary men and women and gives them the extraordinary grace to persevere in “running the race.” The saints did not start at the finish line (many started far, far from it!), but in the end, through their faith in Jesus Christ they were awarded the crown of life. Or, to put it another way, Jesus Christ is the king who wears a crown of victory adorned with the multi-faceted jewels of his saints. The life of every saint shows forth a different facet of what life in Christ looks like. The saints seek no glory for themselves but teach us to give glory to God. The saints do not look for praise for their deeds but teach us to praise God by our deeds.
The saints all have their struggles
The aspect of Jesus’ life that all the saints knew and felt was sacrifice — the Resurrection is promised, but only through the cross. The saints all found the courage to take up their crosses in union with Christ, their savior. While their sufferings were not always the same as those of Christ (see Col 1:24), the saints knew that they were not alone in their sufferings. They knew that Christ was mysteriously present to them in their times of need with a savior’s compassion (in the truest sense of the word com-passion,“to suffer with”). The saints teach us to persevere through struggles, hold firm to the faith and pursue holiness in every aspect of our lives. While some saints suffered in body, “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb,” (Rev 7:14) others suffered through emotional crises, disappointments in relationships, loss of family and friends and trials of faith.
The saints all have their specialties
The Church names many of the saints as patrons for various countries and peoples, professions and occupations, items and objects of daily life. Maybe a heavenly patron was chosen for you when your parents picked your first or middle name, or maybe there is a saint associated with your birthday, baptism day or wedding anniversary. Many Catholics choose a patron saint that inspires them or that they want to imitate for their confirmation. The saints we choose or the ones chosen for us are neither accidental nor coincidental: they are part of God’s providence for us. The saints are not distant, idle or fair-weather friends who occasionally grace our lives with their presence: they continually intercede for us and plead our cause before the face of God. At Mass, we join in the song of the angels and saints who are present as our earthly liturgy joins with and points toward the heavenly one.
Prayers that God will raise saints in our time
O God “you are glorified when your Saints are praised … and in their struggle the victory is yours.” – from Preface II of Holy Martyrs
Pray: In communion with the saints who gave their lives, the martyrs, we pray for those who continue to suffer persecution for the sake of God’s kingdom, for those who take up their crosses daily and for those who lay down their lives for their friends.
O God, “you strengthen the Church by the example of the holy lives of your pastors, teach us by their words of preaching and keep us safe in answer to their prayers.” -adapted from the Preface of Holy Pastors
Pray: In communion with the saints who shepherded our Church, the holy pastors, we pray for those who lead our Church today over rough and stormy seas to the safe harbor of our heavenly homeland, and for a strengthening in the universal call to holiness for all and the vocation to ordained ministry in the church.
O God, in your saints “it is right to celebrate the wonders of your providence, by which you call human nature back to its original holiness and bring it to experience on this earth the gifts you promise in the new world to come.” – from the Preface of Holy Virgins and Religious
Pray: In communion with the saints who found the pearl of great price in Jesus, the holy virgins and religious, we pray for a renewed consecration and spirit of holiness among all people, and for Christian men and women to be as a leaven in the world to raise those who are lowly to see the heights of God’s glory.
Remember that the goal of our every effort to unleash the Gospel is to make disciples and then to make saints. Archbishop Vigneron said it best: “The long-range hope is that we’re going to have just an incomparable number of beatifications and canonizations of men and women, and young people, and priests, and monks, and sisters and everybody from the Archdiocese of Detroit. So many people, we won’t have enough days for their feast day.”