When you begin to live your Catholic faith and develop a deep relationship with our Lord and His Church, you quickly realize you cannot live it alone. We become more saintly by learning to serve our Lord through those around us and by having good friends to encourage us. But another thing that we must consider is the role the saints play in leading us to Christ. The saints are our companions leading us to what they already have; union with God. The saints show us that holiness is possible.
In the Catholic Church we have a Liturgical Calendar, which assigns a day to celebrate a particular saint. The genius of living the calendar of the Church is that we can more closely live our life with the saints!
Part of the Communion of Saints Gathered around Jesus
The month of August is a time when I get to acknowledge many of the saints who have played a role in my faith life, especially in discerning my vocation to the priesthood. Some of the saints that have influenced me include: St. John Vianney (August 4
), St. Dominic (August 8
), St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14
), St. Rose of Lima (August 23
), and St. Augustine (August 28
While each of these saints merit a post, I want to highlight St. Rose of Lima and how she has worked in my life. Most people don’t know much about St. Rose, who was actually the first canonized Saint from the Americas and she is the Patroness of the Americas. St. Rose was born in Lima, Peru in 1586. Even as a little girl she was known for her incredible beauty, which earned her the name Rose. St. Rose continually downplayed her beauty through prayer and penance to give all the glory to God. Over time she developed a desire to live completely for God. While her parents sought a marriage for her, she led a life of solitude on their property, living as a Dominican nun. St. Rose would live out her life in prayer and charity to the sick and poor. She passed away at the age of 31 in 1617 having touched the lives of many in Lima, both the poor and the rich.
St. Rose of Lima
You might ask: what does ascetic saint from the sixteenth century have to do with a twenty-first century priest?
Example of Christian Holiness
(Catechism of the Catholic Church #2030)
When I entered college I had never heard of St. Rose of Lima. During my first semester, I was introduced to a tradition of receiving a saint for the year. In this case, it was receiving a saint for the academic year, who you could learn more about and who would be a “holy protector” or a patron saint for you. When I picked my saint from the hat, I must say I was a little disappointed to see the name of St. Rose; I had never heard of her! How providential it was in hindsight. Over the course of that year I came to appreciate St. Rose, as a woman of deep holiness. While the penances she took on would be considered severe by today’s standards she continually sought to live fully for God, and to decrease her own desires. This is something I am still very much working on! Little did I know that St. Rose would remain with me well beyond that year, inspiring me to follow and live for God more and more.
Companions in Prayer
Throughout my college years I was discerning the priesthood at various levels of seriousness. St. Rose of Lima continually guided me through this time; from finding her prayer card in a pew during a difficult time to discovering a stained glass window with her image in the Chapel. It became a great comfort to be able to turn to her in moments of stress or uncertainty and to know she was praying for me.
Once I entered seminary, I picked up a biography on St. Rose of Lima and I came to realize another way she was working in my life. The book detailed how in the last month of her life she confided to her friend, a Dominican brother (and future saint) - St. Martin de Porres, that she desired to help an underprivileged young man be able to pursue the priesthood.
While I was not underprivileged, I saw God’s plan to place St. Rose in my life at a time of discernment to nudge me towards seminary. She had done her job well!
Intercession of the Saints
St. Rose continues to intercede for me now that I am a priest. She has truly become a friend who inspires me and keeps my focus on becoming closer to Jesus Christ. Her icon is place next to my office desk to remind me of this. While many other saints have helped me in my journey, St. Rose holds a special place in my life and my vocation.
I am grateful for the communion of the Saints that God gives us to keep us moving forward on our journey to heaven. Pope Francis on All Saints Day (November 1) put it well when he said, “…the Feast of All Saints ‘reminds us that the goal of our existence is not death, it is paradise! The saints, the friends of God, assure us that this promise does not disappoint,’ he added. ‘In their earthly existence, in fact, they had lived in profound communion with God. In the smallest and most despised faces of their brothers, they saw the face of God, and now they contemplate him face to face in his glorious beauty.’”
In the saints we find selfless individuals pointing us to Christ. Thankfully, we have both our friends on earth (family, friends and parishioners) and our friends in heaven (the saints) to encourage us towards God.
Here are some good resources on growing in relationship with the Saints:
Fr. Jim Martin has an entertaining book on the role of various saints in his life and vocation. It can be found here
My Life with the Saints
Get a companion saint for the year:
To learn more about St. Rose of Lima:
Sr. Mary Alphonsus,
St. Rose of Lima,
TAN Books and Publishers, 1982, p. 283.