Note: Earlier this month I was introduced to Blessed is She, a Catholic site and community by and for women dedicated to sharing faith primarily through daily scripture devotions, blog posts, and social media campaigns. One such campaign is #BISsisterhood. Every Thursday, Blessed is She hosts a link-up for social media and blog posts focused on a specific topic; anyone is welcome to chime in with their thoughts on the topic on their blogs or on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. In light of the approaching Solemnity of All Saints, this week’s topic is the Communion of Saints. Here are my thoughts on it!
My earliest memory of the saints was in eighth grade. As part of confirmation preparation, all the students in my class had to dress up as their confirmation saint for All Saints Day mass and give a 30-second presentation on their saint before the final blessing. Though I had been in Catholic school since Kindergarten, it was my first real brush with the saints aside from what little I knew about my school’s namesake, St. Bernadette. I decided to take St. Rita as my confirmation saint, partially because I liked what she’s the patron of (difficult situations and hopeless causes), but mostly because I thought her name sounded pretty when included in my full name. I didn’t give much thought to her after my confirmation.
Until I started to look back on the rough patches in my life since being confirmed—bouts of anxiety, a sudden faith crisis that struck halfway through college, struggling to find work and fulfillment after I graduated (while still battling that faith crisis. Ouch.). Such incidents combined with my decision to choose St. Rita as my patron made me wonder if we don’t choose saints as much as they choose us. Maybe St. Rita herself, knowing the difficulties I would face later in life, made our paths intersect as I was pondering who my confirmation saint would be. Maybe her prayers and her help were what prevented me from totally losing hope during those difficult times. As silly as my reasoning for choosing her was, she’s proven to be quite the intercessor and advocate. And as my spirituality is becoming more and more anchored in humble yet confident trust in God, I can continue to turn to her for guidance, as she placed all her trust in God through the most trying times of her life—from her abusive marriage to the death of her sons to the difficulty she faced entering her religious community.
Trust. It’s become my mantra lately, thanks also to two other great saints that have befriended me, St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina. St. Therese is revered and imitated for her childlike trust in God. St. Faustina received messages from Jesus in which He begged souls to trust in His great love and mercy. These saints entered my life separately and for differing reasons—Therese because I was intrigued by her spirituality of littleness and simplicity, Faustina because she is the messenger of something I dearly love, Divine Mercy. What a delight it is that a saint I knew so little about but felt compelled to pick as my confirmation saint is loved for the same attribute that my two current favorite saints possessed so fiercely: bold, unwavering trust.
These two favorite saints of mine also seem to be the answer to a prayer I remember making some eight or nine years ago. I wasn’t committed to my faith and to Christ at that point in my life, but I was intrigued by certain aspects of it, and of Him. One of those was Christ’s suffering—specifically, the ache He feels from being rejected, from His love and mercy not being trusted. I remember reading about that suffering and all I wanted was to alleviate it, even to share in it in some small way. I didn’t understand what I was asking for or why I wanted it so much. But I did. And I don’t know if my desires were ever fulfilled. Until just recently. I just finished the book Consoling the Heart of Jesus, which draws on two saints quite heavily (guess which ones!) and which describes the spirituality of consoling Christ in His heartache and rejection. As I read that book, I remembered that prayer I made eight or nine years ago, and I realized that the book was an answer to that prayer. And my love for St. Therese and St. Faustina made sense in a whole new light—the light of that consoling spirituality, an attitude and a desire that they both possessed.
Though my love for the saints is still relatively new, being caught up in such a friendship has been nothing short of an adventure. They have proven to be faithful friends and helpers. They have answered prayers and have taught me much about how to live in union with Christ. I have witnessed why this group of holy men and women is known as the “communion” of saints. “Communion” implies an intimate connectedness. It’s why the Eucharistic feast is called “communion;” we are receiving the fullness of Christ in the most intimate way, making Him a part of us and us a part of Him. So it is with the saints. They are not some far-off reality, people that we learn about only in books. They are still with us, walking with us, praying with and for us, and pointing us toward Jesus. We are included in that communion. It’s not us and them. It’s us with them. It’s those who have attained true holiness and who are now in heaven helping us to reach that same goal of holiness and union with our Savior. Just like there is room for us in the divine perichoresis (a word that can be understood to mean “dance”) of the Triune God, so we are invited to enter into the lives and stories and strivings of the saints. They are for us, not just for God and themselves. Those above and those here below on earth are all connected. What a thought!
Here’s to the saints. May we know that they know us, and may we strive to know them. May we see them not as distant historical figures but as close friends and advocates. And by growing closer to them, may we also grow closer to Christ.