Short Update: Went through the rite of acceptance, and then I felt compelled to pick a Patron Saint. The Rite itself was beautiful and thought provoking and has challenged me in ways I never thought it would. It was hard to say goodbye to my protestant faith in some ways, but I am happy with the choice I have made. So here’s my thought process on that whole deal, with a heavy focus on patron saints. Also make sure to check out the Secret Vatican Spy, She’s got a few really interesting things going on at her blog you might like to take note of. Thanks for reading.
The Patron Saints
So, I’m in the process of picking a Patron saint. I’m researching and thinking about who in the canon of saints relates to me strongly so that I might have a friend to pray with from the communion of the saints. Some people imagine this means that I’m walmart shopping for who will be my stand-in for Jesus, since I never pray to Jesus anymore now that I’m Catholic. I want to set up as many mediators between myself and Jesus as possible obviously, to protect me from the grace of Jesus, and keep myself bound to religion. I mean, I get that people don’t understand, so I’m here to dispel some myths, and let you in on my thought process.
Firstly, picking a patron saint is not like picking a pokemon, you do not send these icons or people out to do your battle for you. You do not keep them in a little necklace and let them out to fight the bad spirits whenever you see fit. You do not get a special Jesus outfit, or a challenge to “catch ’em all” forgetting Jesus in the midst of the process.
There are three things a Patron Saint is:
1) A Prayer Partner
A patron saint is someone who we can relate to, or seek help from in our following Christ. My process in picking a patron saint has been difficult, but I often pray that St. Augustine pray with me, both him and Pope John Paul II. I ask them for prayer, not because I cannot go before the Father, but because it helps to have prayer partners. Just as in life we have people pray with and for us, for special graces or anointings, if you’re a charismatic, or just lead us in prayers of repentance or other such prayers. Patron saints do this same thing, they are pastors for all the faithful.
They are our prayer partners.
No, not the send me 35.00 and I will grant your wish or heal your entire family with this little vial of oil, but real prayer partners, the kind we can have REAL communion with because they are even more in Christ than we are. Surviving conversion can be hard, but it can be made easier when you have prayer partners, both living and dead praying with you along the way. We turn to them in Christ, with the faith that they are with Him, and with that confidence we ask them to pray with us, just like a spiritual director or pastor would who is alive.
2) A Role Model in the Faith
The saints are our role-models in the faith, they inspire us. They, are the pastors in the faith, they continue to lead us towards ever deeper communion with Christ. The communion of saints is the spiritual solidarity which binds together the faithful on earth, and the saints in heaven. It is through the unity of the same mystical body which has Christ as its head.
Patron saints are people to whom we turn for solidarity in prayer. For Catholics, in the Christian worldview there is a thin veil between life and death and that veil is made nearly invisible through Christ who is the Head of the Church, both of those who are living, and of those who are dead. Indeed the scriptures say that he is God of the Living and not of the dead (Mark 12:27).
Often when we feel alone or overburdened we turn to prayer partners in life, pastors or teachers, the saints are the guiding light of the Church in what it means to follow Jesus. They are not Jesus, no one worships saints, at least no real Catholic worships saints.
The saints are role models, just like good protestants turn to the life of St. Paul or Abraham for inspiration and guidance, the same Holy Spirit has been available in all of time and space to lead those in Christ. Those same people became foundational examples of the work of Christ, we call those people saints. Not because we are not saints, but because these people stand a cut above, and their stories of God’s interaction with them is worth remembering.
Surviving conversion into the Catholic faith is made more tenable if you have role models, maybe other converts. Some that have helped me are G.K. CHesterton and Bl. John Henry Newman. Both those men have made profound impact in my life and led me into a deeper connection with Christ through their writings, through their faith.
3) A Friend, who is praying WITH you
A Patron saint is not a mini-god or mini-goddess. They are examples, and leaders. We look to them to help us know what it means to follow Christ. Just like many Christians might look to either the apostles, or their local pastor or a pastor that they know as an example of the faith, so too the Catholic Church does this, she just does it with style. To call these people saints is not to say they are the only ones in heaven, but rather, the Church can validate that they are actively helping people on earth with their prayers from within the very presence of God.
They are not deities, they do not pray instead of you, they do not grant special favors, they pray with us to God the Father, for the final redemption of all things. They and their miracles are just like the miracles of the faithful in life, they are in and by and through Christ, and ot one thing that they do can be done apart from Him.
Good news Everyone!
Since starting this post, I have picked a patron since starting this post. and he’s an amazing man. St. Maximus the Confessor is a very special saint to me. When I first moved to Florida a while back, I got my hands on the Philokalia one afternoon, and started reading. Over and over these writings would hit home. I was in a Barnes and Noble bookstore, but I could not help it, I was in tears, and in my little corner, looking out the window, I had made a connection with a great pastor of the Church and a man of heroic Virtue.
St. Maximus reflects a personal hope as well. He is honored in both East and West, and it is my sincere hope that the Church reunites East and West into One Body. St. Maximus is not only a profoundly personal teacher through his writings, he is an symbol of what could someday happen. I often ask for his prayers with me, for the reunification of the Church, and I also seek to follow his example in courage, and boldness.
An Orthodox site offers this on St. Maximus:
As a theologian, he taught, against those who sought to compromise the Faith for the sake of political and religious unity, that Jesus Christ was the incarnate Son of God, fully divine,and fully human, thus having two complete wills, natures, and energies. For his stubborn confession of Christ the Truth, St. Maximus was persecuted by compromising imperial authorities, put on trial three times, and finally, having had his tongue and right hand with which he had so eloquently defended the Faith cut off, he was sent into exile, where he soon died on August 13, 662.
St. Maximus is also in many ways the Aquinas of the East, his writings have shaped Eastern Christianity for many generations through the writings of the saints they have complied into a book called the Philokalia. St. Maximus’ writings hold heavy academic weight and yet are spiritually available, and thus I seek to follow his profound and luminous example. If only we had the boldness to remember saints like St. Maximus who have suffered bodily harm for the Faith.
It is with his shining example in mind, that I enter into the Roman Catholic congregation, bridging a gap between East and West in my memory of this saint, and in all the outflow of my life that results from my contemplation of his teachings on Jesus. May we all be so bold. Amen.