I fell off the Saint wagon a while back, and sometime around Thanksgiving I couldn't stand it any longer and wandered on over to Conversion Diary and the Saints Name Generator to pray for an open heart and spin the wheel for a Patron Saint to study and to ask to pray with me in this New Year. It's a great tool, not to be confused with a Match.com for your Patron sort of thing as insofar as we know it's completely random, but a chance to get to know a new figure in the Church. These were real men and women in this world, many in what we would consider the modern time. It would seem that some Saints are more likeable or desirable or fantastic, I guess, than others, but they are all, were all, entirely human - not a perfect angel in the lot, but men and women of faith who struggled with their own brokenness, often physical, more often spiritual, and looked to The Cross anyway. Like the rest of us mere mortals, sometimes they ran to it, sometimes they crawled, sometimes they just lay in the road while they gathered the strength to lift their eyes to look upon it again. It is this common imperfection coupled with their encounter with the miraculous that draws us to them.
God uses the imperfect to impart miracles. The martyrs fortify us with our their own unfathomable courage, the early Doctors both satisfy our yearning for the concrete and delight our curiosity through their devotion to practical truths, the visionaries and mystics remind us that we are not dealing with only words on a page or a statue behind a stone altar but The Most Divine, moving through the planes of time and space, beyond all Earthly understanding, in ways only possible for the One True God.
Studying a single Patron for a given time offers a history lesson, at the very least, an example of devotion to follow and strive for, and in certain seasons, a prayer partner whose own earthly experiences have something relevant and valuable to teach us. Whether or not their circumstances mirror our own isn't really the point, though often those connections can be readily made - either way, it is a profound opportunity to experience intercession, to live the habit of asking others to pray with us, for us, and us for them.
My Patroness for 2013 is St. Bernadette. You can read more about her by clicking on her photo (yep, real person, got her on film) on the right.
- she was continuously and chronically ill and died fairly young
- she was a nun and a mystic who experienced visions at Lourdes, and immovable in her accounts of them
- she was utterly certain that healing comes about through faith and prayer
It took me some prayer and contemplation, but her being my Patroness this year isn't only a course of study, it's a perfect fit. Now if that's not just like the Holy Spirit I don't know what is.
My prayers this year, spiritual resolutions I suppose, are for:
1) compassion and empathy, particularly for those who suffer lingering and chronic illness and pain
2) a less cynical heart, open to the unexplainable
3) strengthened belief that prayers and faith can and DO lead to healing
If you haven't taken the opportunity to study the Saints, I hope everyone, Catholic and otherwise, does so and is able to learn from their lives and their examples of faith. It is academically enriching as well as spiritually encouraging, and sometimes just plain interesting.