Why does the Catholic Church celebrate the lives of the saints?
It’s common to think that one can go it alone in this whole loving God thing, but the Catholic faith insists on a way bigger picture: the love of God poured out through Christ and His bride, the Church, so that every heart might confess God. Well that sounds all fluffy and pretty, but the fact is that God’s grace is not limited by space and time, such that the lives of virtuous and holy women and men are beacons of Christianity forever. The witness of sacrificing one’s life, literally as a martyr or figuratively as a completely selfless servant, is a tremendously powerful example for us. In fact, the word martyr comes from the Latin word for witness.
An awesome Biblical founding for the veneration of saints is Hebrews 13:7: “Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”
Alright, so I get that these men and women had lives that are worth celebrating. Why in the world do we pray to them, though?
People in heaven are pretty darn close to God. Take that back: people in heaven are in complete union with God: that’s a definition of heaven. They stand before the throne of God and offer prayers to him on our behalf (Revelation 5:8). They do this people they are people with perfected love: they’re saints! For us to ask for their prayers is to recruit an army of assistance for our souls. If we simply say, “Nah, I don’t need any saints to pray for me,” it’s as if we’re saying, “Bro, I can just do this whole loving God thing on my own. I don’t need a friend to hold me accountable, to invite me to deeper holiness, or just have a shoulder to lean on.” Salvation is a family affair, as Jason Evert wrote on Catholic.com, and the saints are exceedingly great family members to have.
What are practical steps to invoke the help of the saints in my life?
- If you don’t know when your patron and confirmation saint’s feast days are, give them a Google and put it on your calendar. Heck, nine days before his or her feast day, you could offer a novena for that saint. A novena is simply a prayer that you offer daily for nine days in a row – it doesn’t have to be anything extraordinary, but you can search around for some crazy good ones. PrayMoreNovenas.com is a great place to start.
- Lost something? Hit up St. Anthony for his prayers for your searching. Traveling? Ask St. Christopher for his prayers for a safe journey. Figure out all of the patron saints for whatever struggles you’re having in life. You’d be surprised how many saints they’re are – people just like you and I who said yes to God’s call a long ago but remain influential today by their examples and prayers.
- Get excited about the saints! It’s one of the coolest parts about being Catholic. Secular culture can easily forget that St. Patrick’s Day and St. Valentine’s Day are actually the feast days for saints, but we don’t have to forget the party!