A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Shamrocks and Saints

Posted on: March 17, 2014

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t have a drop of Irish blood in me, so as a child, I looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day for the Shamrock Shakes. Until I was an adult, I never heard about the legend that St. Patrick drove all the snakes from Ireland—or, more importantly, about his work to establish the church in Ireland.

And so I wonder how many of the saints and blesseds we know only by name and not for their good works or the sacrifices they made for their faith—think St. Patrick, St. Nicholas, St. Christopher and St. Valentine, to name just a few—and how many we know nothing about.

The Catechism tells us that the Church “is the place where we know the Holy Spirit (…) in the witness of saints through whom he manifests his holiness and continues the work of salvation” (s. 688). That the saints “share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings and their prayer today” and that we “can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world” (s. 2683).

The media have made us more aware of the life and work of blesseds and saints such as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta and St. André Bessette, as well as of beatifications and canonizations, such as the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II on Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, 2014. But what do we know about the saints and blesseds who lived before the 19th and 20th centuries?

We all need positive role models in the faith, especially if our circle of family, friends and acquaintances doesn’t include many believers. Learning about the efforts of saints and blesseds to hold onto their faith and reading the writings and prayers they have left for us can encourage us in our own faith journey.

When the youth in my son’s confirmation class were asked to choose the name of a saint as their confirmation name, many of them, through their research, “discovered” saints who could serve as role models for them and intercede for them. For example, in searching for a patron saint of athletes, my son learned about St. Sebastian, whose biography on Catholic Online points to “his energetic way of spreading and defending the Faith.”

To learn more about the saints, including St. Patrick, visit Catholic Online, which offers biographies of many blesseds and saints on its “Saints & Angels” page, or pick up a copy of Bert Ghezzi’s Voices of the Saints: A 365-Day Journey With Our Spiritual Companions for a look at 365 well-known and lesser-known saints and blesseds.

May we be inspired by the example of the blesseds and saints and ask their prayers for us and for our world.

Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.

~ St. Dominic, quoted in s. 956 of the Catechism

I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.

~ St. Thérèse of Lisieux, quoted in s. 956 of the Catechism

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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