by Father Mark Goldasich
Well, the usual cast of characters showed up: Michael, Elizabeth, Joseph, Francis and Sebastian. But they were joined this time around by a whole slew of relatively unknowns: Thekla, Gertrude, Faustina, Apollonia, Isidore, and Madeleine.
You’ve probably guessed by now that the people named above are all saints and they were some of the confirmation names chosen by the 43 kids confirmed at my parish this past Saturday night by Archbishop Emeritus Keleher. Although I had at least a passing knowledge of most of these saints chosen, there were a few that threw me a curve. (Yes, Thekla was definitely one of those!)
As we get ready to celebrate All Saints Day at Masses this weekend, I suggest that we dedicate this month of November to rediscovering the saints. After all, the church presents them to us as models of faith for us to follow. Most of us, though, know little more than a few saints, and then it’s probably just their names and some very general facts about them.
For example, what about the two listings of saints in Eucharistic Prayer 1? Take out a piece of paper and a pen and write down all that you know about “Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian.” When you’re finished with that, tell me about those saints mentioned a little later in that same eucharistic prayer: “Matthais, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecelia, Anastasia.” Uh-oh. I’ll bet there’s a lot of blank space on your paper, isn’t there?
That’s exactly why I’m proposing November as a time to get to know at least one saint a little better. A good starting point might be to Google the name of a saint that you’re interested in. From that initial introduction online, you can discover books and articles that will transform that saint into a living, breathing human being for you.
Or check out the daily Mass readings that are listed in the column to the left. On many days, you’ll see a name listed there. That’s the saint of the day. Reading about the saint will usually give you some hint as to why this particular date was chosen for his or her feast day. Because this month is chock-full of feast days, you can get to know quite a few saints using this simple method.
Another way to get acquainted with holy women and men is to examine patron saints of professions or conditions. The tagline for iPhone commercials is: “There’s an app for that.” We Catholics might rephrase that to read: “There’s a saint for that!” There are saints for dentists, lawyers, writers, beekeepers, tanners, bakers, actors, athletes, and sailors, and there are saints to help with life’s struggles — headaches, cancer, eye diseases, lost items, mental anguish, etc.
I’ve already picked out an “almost” saint to study. His name is Solanus Casey (1870-1957), a Capuchin priest who has been declared “venerable” by the church — one of the initial steps to being declared a saint. He’s the first man born in the United States to be given this designation. The title from a book about him intrigued me, ”Thank God Ahead of Time” (Cincinnati: St. Anthony Messenger Press; 2009; 282 pgs.; $16.95). It comes from Father Solanus’ writings: “Therefore we should thank [God] frequently for, not only the blessings of the past and present, but thank him ahead of time for whatever he foresees is pleasing to him that we suffer.” Now, that’s trust in God! I look forward to learning from author Michael Crosby, OFM Cap., how Father Solanus became “a Christ-figure for many people.”
Perhaps the best way to celebrate the month of November, though, is to live out our faith as the saints did. My mom’s neighbor Patty handed me a little piece of paper several months ago that she said inspires her. It’s a quick reminder of how to grow in holiness each day. Although I don’t know whom to credit for this, I’m grateful to pass on its wisdom:
“Why were the saints, saints? Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful; patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.”
I’m tempted to say that it isn’t so simple and it’s impossible to live this way. But then there is that whole company of saints to prove me wrong.