A friend’s ailing foot has been bothering her with some pain. After consulting her doctor, she told me she may need to have a surgery. On hearing this, I suggested to her to pray to Brother Andre. I explained to her that Brother Andre had miraculously healed many patients. Now Brother Andre is St. Brother Andre whose canonization took place on Oct 17, 2010.
Some people do not understand why we need to pray to the saints. If we can pray to the Father directly, why do we need to pray to the saints? In fact, all our prayers are addressed to the Father even when we pray through the intercessions of Holy Mary or any saints.
The Father could have saved us without sending His own Son being born of a virgin called Mary. Jesus could have saved us without dying on the cross. He could have saved us without a church. He could have saved us without giving us saints as our role models. However, all these are not in God’s plan. The plan that God has chosen is ‘an incarnational plan of salvation’. In this plan, God wants to have some intermediaries in our human history as our role models. It is, therefore, appropriate to pray through Holy Mary or these saints because they are part of this ‘incarnational plan of salvation’.
When we take up our daily crosses, we do not only have the support of our loyal friends who regularly pray for us. We also have the prayers of those saints who have gone before us. Some of these saints faced sickness, physical disability, loneliness, disappointment, anxiety, poverty, temptation, suffering, etc. just like us. Since they were able to overcome these difficulties, they are qualified to serve as our role models and inspirations in times of hardship.
We may wonder how these saints achieved their sainthood. The fact is these saints made use of different paths to achieve their sainthood.
In Chapter 17 of The Way of Perfection, the author St. Teresa of Avila wrote, “……… it is important to understand that God doesn’t lead all by one path, and perhaps the one who thinks she is walking along a very lowly path is in fact higher in the eyes of the Lord.”
Gary Thomas, an American Protestant writer, expresses the same idea in his book Discover Your Soul’s Path to God. In this book, Gary Thomas thinks there are nine ways to demonstrate our love to God: The naturalists love God out of doors. The sensates love God with the senses. The traditionalists love God through ritual and symbols. The ascetics love God in solitude and simplicity. The activists love God through confrontation. The caregivers love God by loving others. The enthusiasts love God with mystery and celebration. The contemplatives love God through adoration. The intellectuals love God with the mind.
Not only were the saints led by God by more than one path, and not only did they demonstrate their love to God in nine or more than nine ways, they also came from all walks of life, and with different backgrounds. They were composed of the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless, the educated and the illiterate, male and female, young and old. The fact that they came from all kinds of backgrounds let us know that saintliness can be achieved by anybody.
In fact, it is God’s will that each one of us should become a saint. “In a word, you must be made perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 48)
Some may think the saints are so unreal and distant to us. However, we should not forget that every time when we attend a mass, we are invited to sing ‘Holy, holy, holy Lord’ with all the angels and saints. The boundary between the congregation on earth and the saints in heaven is erased at that moment. Although we do not hear their singing voices, we sing together with them with one accord. After all, the saints are not as distant as we thought.
We need the saints because we need to be reminded that God’s commandments are indeed possible. Human feelings and weaknesses can be conquered with the help of God’s grace. The saints were just as human as we are. They had their struggles, their doubts, their failures, and their faults. They overcame these difficulties because they knew how to cooperate with God’s graces in extraordinary ways.
Every one of us was uniquely created by God, and so were the saints. However, all the saints share one common virtue – humility. Many of them were so humble that people who were close to them were not aware of their holiness. For example, in 1903, a Scottish priest came to Carmel’s parlor to elicit a possible canonization of Marie Francoise Therese Martin, later known to the whole world as St. Therese of Lisieux. Upon hearing this, the Mother Superior replied, smiling, “In that case, how many Carmelites would we have to canonize?” Another example was one of the older Mothers who lived with St. Faustina said to her, “Get it out of your head, Sister, that the Lord Jesus might be communing in such an intimate way with such a miserable bundle of imperfections as you! Bear in mind that it is only with holy souls that the Lord Jesus communes in this way!” (Divine Mercy in My Soul #133) St. Brother Andre was an extremely humble man. He asked many people to pray for his conversion. It is amazing to learn that a future saint was so humble as to ask many people to pray for his conversion.
Saints are those who have survived the trial. Saints are sinners who keep repenting. Saints are those who remain transparent to let the light of God shine through. St. John, however, said they are all dressed in white.
Then one of the elders asked me, “Who are these people all dressed in white? And where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you should know better than I.” He then told me, “These are the ones who have survived the great period of trial; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:13 – 14)