By Amanda Pizzolatto (Rated G)
Many denominations claim that praying to the saints are sacrilegious as they are dead and only God can answer prayers. Yet we continue to ask others to pray for us. The concept is the same with the saints who, proven through miracles obtained by God, are very much alive and living with Him in Heaven. Though their bodies remain buried in the ground, their spirits are very much alive, as God is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. That being said, while I could continue with the theological aspects and arguments concerning the definitions of prayer as viewed by different denominations, that is ultimately not the point of this article. Yes, I started thus to get that out of the way, but the point of this article is a thank you to the saints who have been a major influence and part of my life. But before I get to that, let me ask you this: have you ever thanked a piece of art for existing? Have you ever thanked an artist for creating something that made an impact on your life in some way? The same goes for God and the saints, for God is the Artist, and the saints, and us as well, are His art.
The first piece of art I most appreciate from God is perhaps His greatest, that of the Blessed Virgin Mary. What a masterpiece. While one could argue that Jesus is the ultimate masterpiece, He is still the Artist as well. Mary is fully human, and fully beautiful, and fully our Mother as well as that of Christ’s, as we are His brothers and sisters. She, who was created to be without sin in preparation of carrying the God-made-Man, has a special place in the Heart of her Son, His Father, and the Holy Ghost as she was instrumental in their plan to bring salvation to the world. That is one reason why I am grateful for her. I am also grateful to her, for she has appeared many times in our history and has given us many messages as well as the ways to stop offending our Lord so much. She, with her tender, motherly heart, has aided us in every way possible, according to the Will of God, to help as many of us get to Heaven. For that is her goal as well as that of the Trinity, to see us in eternal joy with them. Whenever I have had moments of distress or I am seeking peace and change, I turn to her. I could go straight to God, but He came to us through her, and I can get to Him through her as well. She has made her will one with God’s Will, so what He wants for us is what she wants for us as well. I thank you, Mary most holy, at whose feet lie our enemies, for your strong will and your caring heart. I thank God for having made you.
Her husband, St. Joseph, is equally as important. Having been chosen specifically by God to care for His Son and the woman who bore Him, St. Joseph had to be a particular kind of virtuous and be gifted with a strength to resist any and all temptations in order to work with God’s Will. He guided and guarded the treasure that is God’s Son and His Mother very well. He listened to the angels sent by God to warn him of impending danger and got the Child and His Mother to safety. Now he is sought for protection over the Church and many women ask him for aid in finding good husbands. I thank you, Joseph, protector of the Holy Family and the Church, for your strength and wisdom. I thank God for having made you.
Among the first members of the Church were the martyrs. Tales of these brave men and women have been passed down for centuries, though now legend has become interwoven with fact. One of those martyrs was a particular favorite of mine, St. Agnes. She was a consecrated virgin, basically married to Jesus but not a nun. Many men pursued her, but she turned them all down. One man in particular was enraged that she refused his advances and was the one who got her arrested on the charge of following Christ. Despite several miracles proving she was a favorite of God’s, she was beheaded. Her purity and strength did convert many people to the Faith and many young women look up to her as an ideal role model. She has two feats: the first, on January 21, is her official feast day and is celebrated like other feast days; the second, on January 28, is in commemoration of her apparition to her grieving parents and to assure them that she was in Heaven, eagerly awaiting their arrival. Since the change in the liturgical calendar in recent years, the latter is no longer an official feast, but many might still celebrate due to their love of this sweet saint. I thank you, Agnes, whose name means lamb, for your purity and chastity in your holy pursuit of the Lord. I thank God for creating you.
Another saint who was a martyr was the young Philomena. Desired by the Prefect of the area where her parents had moved, she, like Agnes, turned him down, preferring the King of Heaven and Earth to a mortal sovereign. And like Agnes, the man she spurned got her arrested, tried, and convicted. Multiple miracles occurred, like Philomena being rescued from drowning, to show God’s favor, but she was eventually executed by arrows. She was buried, and laid forgotten for years, until she was exhumed from a catacomb. A paper mache doll was made around her bones and had a procession to take it to Mugnano, Italy where she was enshrined at the altar of the Church of Our Lady of Grace. But she has made her mark on the world with multiple miracles, including cures and changing the doll which houses her bones thereby making it clear she is rather displeased with her casing, and she has had a major impact on several saints. Yet despite the miracles, there is still debate regarding both who she is and her sainthood. But based on the fact that she answered my own petitions and got me to my best friend’s wedding and back home without a hitch, I think she is most certainly a saint residing in Heaven. I thank you, Philomena, the little wonder worker, for your reliability and eagerness to help those who ask you for aid. I thank God for creating you.
This next saint, who died at a young age but was not a martyr, was St. Dominic Savio. He has had perhaps the least interactions with me prayer-wise, though I did have a crush on him for a bit. With his gentle demeanor and quickness to serve God, he certainly struck a chord with me. Being under the special tutelage of St. John Bosco, Dominic had a way with many people, including his great teacher who would join him in Heaven years later. Similar to St. Agnes, Dominic appeared to John Bosco to assure him that he was alright, but also to be warned, for the devil was not liking the great saint’s work with the young boys in the town. In his war against humanity, the devil sought, and would claim, many of the boys who John taught. But Dominic also brought hope. Most would find solace and protection in the mantle of our Lady, who would watch over the efforts of the order John created. But during his life, Dominic did his best to influence his friends to do good for the love of God. He even took a punishment when he was wrongly accused of pulling a prank at school, thinking it better than the punishment the culprits would have gotten and to act more like Jesus. Hence why he has become the patron saint of the wrongly accused, along with choirboys and altar servers. I thank you Dominic, God’s little boy, for your meekness and desire to do good. I thank God for creating you.
This next one, though not yet canonized, is regarded by many to be a saint. Only a Blessed currently, Imelda Lambertini, like Dominic, passed away at a young age. But unlike Dominic, her death occurred in the aftermath of a miracle. Growing up, Imelda held a fierce love for the Lord, and especially for His presence in the Holy Eucharist. At the time, the youngest one could begin receiving Holy Communion was fourteen. Imelda was determined to receive Him as early as she could. As such, she entered into the nearby Dominican convent at the early age of eleven. She worked hard and was diligent with her prayers, though her constant prayer was the petition to finally receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. She went to the priest and begged to receive, but was turned down. At Easter the following year, a whisper entered her mind that she would finally receive Him that day. The moment to receive finally came, and she was passed over at the Communion rail. Heartbroken, she stayed after Mass in tears, begging Jesus to come to her, and boy did He ever. The other nuns finally noticed that Imelda was absent from her duties and one went in search of her, only to find a miracle. The Host was glowing and was hovering over Imelda’s head! The nun ran to get the priest, who promptly gave Imelda her first Holy Communion. The nuns let Imelda have some time in thanksgiving, but when they went to check on her again after hours had passed, they found her dead and the church smelling of roses and lilies. Many miracles were attested to her, raising her to the status of Blessed, but not much has undergone in the process of Canonization. Though it is evident she is in Heaven, perhaps one day, here on Earth, we can officially call her a saint. I thank you Imelda, oh blessed lover of Christ, for your firm faith and fierce love of our Lord in the most blessed Sacrament. I thank God for having made you.
This next saint is also a Dominican, but probably a little more important to me as she is the saint I chose for Confirmation. St. Rose of Lima is known mostly in South America, as her birthplace is Lima, Peru. She was a beautiful child who, upon hearing her brother give a mock sermon about vanity, followed in the footsteps of St. Catherine of Sienna, her favorite saint, and cut off her hair. Also like St. Catherine of Sienna, Rose became a Dominican tertiary and stayed at home to help around the house and continue in her life of prayer. In fact, it was through her prayers that Lima was saved from pirates. It was also through her prayers that many sick people were cured, those these were also attributed to the Infant of Prague statue set up in her little infirmary room, a room in the house set aside for Rose to tend to the sick and homeless. She became so renowned and revered as a saint that, when she died at the age of thirty-one, they had to bury her in secret so that the throngs of people would not take every piece of clothing off her body as a relic, even though the funeral was a public event. Her shrine sits in the convent of St. Dominic in Lima, alongside her fellow Peruvian saint, Martin de Porres. I thank you, Rose, oh flower of Heaven, for your desire to help others and to become a bride of Christ. I thank God for making you.
Speaking of St. Dominic, the great Founder of the Dominican order deserves his own slot on this list as well. He, and basically his whole order, have been among my favorites for many years, while others who I am just now finding out about are joining them on that list. As for Dominic himself, his birth and his work was foretold to his mother in a vision of a dog carrying a burning branch that lit up the world. As such, dogs have been a constant symbol of not just Dominic, but of the whole order as well. The fact that the word Dominican can be split in such a way that it could also mean “dog of God” came into play as well. But by far, the one thing Dominican is best known for is the spreading of the devotion to the Holy Rosary, the prayer beloved by the Queen of Heaven herself. It is rumored that a form of the Rosary had already begun to spread in favor with the people, but Dominic gave us the definitive version, that of ten Hail Marys per mystery, fifteen mysteries in total bringing to mind the lives of Jesus and Mary. Another thing the Dominicans are known for is their connection to education. Many of Dominic’s followers came from the greatest universities, prime material for the Order of Preachers. In fact, two of the Doctors of the Church were spiritual children of Dominic: Thomas Aquinas and Catherine of Sienna. Other Dominicans were gifted not just with eloquence, but also a fiery love that burned so bright that the flames of Dominic’s torch could spread. For example, Hyacinth of Poland, received into the order by Dominic himself, went on to become the Apostle of the North.
To endt, one can’t help but give a big thank you to our guardian angels. Day in and day out, they have to sit and watch us as we make the worst decisions we could, either careless mistakes or willful sins. Sometimes their whispers will get through to us and we make a good decision. But more often than not, we tend to ignore them, unless we need something. They are given to us to guard and guide us on the way to Heaven, and a great big thank you to God is in store for assigning to us a constant friend and guardian.
These are just a handful of the saints that have come into my life and had an effect on it. Others, like St. Anthony, St. Therese of Lisieux, and St. Anne, have come more into my life than ever before and I am looking forward to the trip I’m making through life with them aiding me. Who knows if more saints will get added to the list. But for now, I am grateful for these, and am grateful for the entire communion of saints. A great big family is waiting for us in Heaven, and I hope I get to meet them.