Growing up in a small town, the topic of saints was always a conversation starter when questioned about my faith. “What is a saint?” “Do you worship them?” “Those are just good people; why do you label them saints?”
I have been asked all of these questions and more regarding sainthood. I may not have always done my best to answer the questions, but as I’ve grown up, the saints have become an important factor in my faith life.
Since my confirmation in May 2018, I have frequently prayed to the saints on the issues of everyday life. For instance, when dealing with issues that require courage, I commonly pray to St. Michael the Archangel, asking him to give me the strength to do what is needed in the situation at hand. I also sing, so before performing, I always say a quick prayer to St. Cecilia, patron saint of music, to help me perform my best and calm my nerves. In exceptionally stressful moments, I even find myself naming any saint that comes to mind and asking them to pray for me.
Inspiration is also found in the saints. There is a patron saint of pretty much everything under the sun. St. Maximillian Kobe is the patron saint of drug addicts, prisoners and the pro-life movement. He was very fond of praying to the Virgin Mary, and most of his life was influenced by his vision of her. St. Maximillian is well known for taking the place of another man in a Nazi concentration camp, which ultimately led to his own death.
St. Maria Goretti is the youngest canonized saint at 11 years old. Her story is tragic, as a man sexually assaulted her and she was stabbed multiple times after fighting back. She was rushed to a hospital but ultimately died. Her assailant was arrested but remained unrepentant for his actions until he had a dream in which Maria forgave him. After this, he reformed his life, and after being released from prison 27 years later, he went to Maria’s mother and begged for forgiveness. On June 24, 1950, Maria Goretti was declared a saint, and her assailant was in the audience.
As God’s creations, we are all saints in the making. Often we have to remember that what’s right isn’t always popular, and what’s popular isn’t always right. Today’s world is filled with temptations for teenagers and children through social media and the internet. There is no way to avoid being exposed to opinions that do not match the teachings of our Church.
Likewise, the saints also went through such struggles, although I doubt it involved TikTok. Blessed Bartolo Longo was a satanic priest before immersing himself in his faith. St. Mary of Egypt was a prostitute for 17 years and found Christ Jesus on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem that she was on to try to get more clients. Now, St. Mary of Egypt is the patron saint against sexual temptations. Even St. Paul, after his “Saul to Paul” conversion, spoke on the struggle of living a life of faith. In a letter to the Romans, he admits this, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want.” (Romans 7:18)
St. Mark Ji Tianxiang was an opium addict up until the time of his death. He could not receive the holy sacraments for 30 years and finally prayed to God for martyrdom so that he could join him in heaven. Rebels captured St. Tianxiang’s family, and he begged them to kill him last so that none of his family members would have to die alone. He is now the patron saint of drug addicts. Let us not forget that the saints began as just humans, who themselves had temptations and struggles of sin.
Through the lives of the saints, we are taught how to live as Catholic Christians. Obviously, we cannot expect to save a young boy from choking like St. Blaise or be burned at a stake for fighting to defend the faith like St. Joan of Arc. However, the saints teach us to live as strong, faith-filled individuals. As we live our lives, our goal should be to become saints. In relationships, whether friendship or romantic, our goal should be to help the other person towards heaven, and likewise, sainthood. In the words of Mother Teresa, also now a saint, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
Madeline Kennedy, a member of Sacred Heart Church in Charleston, graduated from Charleston High School in May and will study at the University of Arkansas this fall.
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