Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy All Saints' Day!

I hope you're all enjoying a lovely All Saints' Day today!

Catholic devotion to the saints is often somewhat misunderstood by non-Catholics. To many, I suppose, Catholics seem to have a nearly pantheistic approach, as we turn to this saint or that one in prayer to ask them for help with our daily needs.

We don't, of course, worship the saints; nor do we pray "to" them in the sense in which that is usually meant (though, of course, as a shorthand you will hear a Catholic ask "Did you pray to St. Anthony?" when an object is lost). When someone refers to praying "to" a saint, he simply means that he is asking that saint to intercede for him to God. It is always God who answers our prayers.

Why, then, turn to the saints at all? It is simply because they have gone before us to Heaven; having endured this earthly life, they each followed God's call to holiness in an exemplary way. By thinking about them, reading about their lives and studying their journeys to God we can learn much to help us with our own daily struggles and tasks. Because they so well learned how to imitate Christ, we can learn to imitate Him too by imitating them.

The various traditions regarding saints' patronage of this or that cause, profession, etc. arose usually out of some incident in the saint's life, or some concern he or she had, or some promise he or she made in this life, or some similar thing. Thus, many Catholics seek St. Anthony's help to recover a lost object because, according to the website:

One source of the well-known patronage for the recovery of lost objects comes from a legend that, long after Anthony’s death, his old prayer book was kept as a treasured relic, and one day it disappeared. People prayed for help in finding the lost item, a novice found it and returned it; he later admitted that he had “borrowed” the book and returned it after receiving a vision of an angry Anthony.

From the same website, here are some interesting patron saints:
Do you have a favorite--or unusual--patron saint to share? Please add his/her name in the comment box!


Annie said...

Awesome blog!!! :)

Andrea said...

I am so glad you posted the interesting patron saints! I have terrible dreams all the time, and never thought to consider whether there would be a patron to beg for intercession!
St. Raphael and I are going to get to be friends.
Erin, I love your blog. Thanks for the amazing and thought provoking posts!

The Sicilian said...

The next time a non-Catholic doesn't understand the role of saints, you can use this analogy to explain it:

When you were a child, and you asked something of your father, did you ever ask your mother to intercede on your behalf? (Perhaps it was the other way around at times.) If so, then you should understand what the saints do. God knows, my late Mom was always the intercessor on her children's behalf.

L. said...

St. Clare of Assisi (whom I chose when I was confirmed) is the patron saint of television, because reportedly when she was too ill to go to mass, she was still somehow able to see and hear it projected on the wall of her room.

Why they didn't make her the patron saint of hallucinations, I'll never know.

freddy said...

L.: Because St. Clare was viewing something real, whereas an hallucination is seeing something unreal, or a distortion of reality.

Although, come to think of it, much modern television is rather like hallucinations, isn't it? :)

Nârwen said...

There's a patron against rats, but no patron for rats !

I protest this ! (So do my rats !)

L. said...

Freddy -- exactly. Seems kind of strange territory to assign a saint.

Who is the patron against rats? We had them at our last house in San Francisco, and this was when my husband was far away and I had to kill them myself. I could have used a little extra power there....

(These weren't cute pet rats. They were roof rats with nasty rat teeth, and presumably rat fleas and germs. Shudder...)

Nârwen said...

>Who is the patron against rats?According to the link in the above post, St. Gertrude of Nivelles.

Siarlys Jenkins said...

So Joan of Arc is the patron saint of cafeteria Catholics? Of those who resist the interference of Bishop Burke and Archbishop Chaput? Even though she WAS tried and condemned by a church trial, this seems like a strange linkage, since she is said to have been fervently devout.