Happy St. Patrick's Day! I find St. Patrick's story to be astounding and encouraging. He truly did love his enemies and lose his life for Christ. To know more about him than shamrocks, Ireland and green beer (something which he did not invent), I recommend you read this post from a fellow blogger.
I've decided to write about saints today since it is a very prominent saint's day. I had a friend tell me recently that she went to a Bible study group and was surprised that Protestants in the group referred to St. Paul merely as "Paul" when discussing his letters. I had to laugh. I had forgotten that, but of course it's true. Since I have converted, like fellow Catholics, it has become second nature to say St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John, St. Gabriel, etc..
But what do we crazy, silly Catholics mean by talking of or to saints, by asking them to pray for us? Aren't they dead? Shouldn't all supernatural conversation be limited to God our Father and Jesus His Son? What can the saints even do for us?
To express it simply, we view saints - those who lived, sacrificed and died for Jesus - as our big brothers and sisters in Christ. We do not view them as dead and unapproachable, just as many do not view their deceased relatives as being completely absent from their lives just because they are absent from this world. Saints are part of our Christian family, one body in Christ. Instead of being here with us, they are now with God - a great cloud of witnesses ( Hebrews 12:1) - for he is not the God of the dead but of the living, as Jesus told those tricky Sadducees (Mark 12:26-27).
Jesus also told the thief on the cross that he would be with him that day in Paradise, and so we believe that the saints are with God now. We ask them to pray for us - for "The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." (James 5:16, NAB) - just as we and all Christians regularly ask for the prayers of our neighbors, friends, and family.
On a more personal note, I have a confirmation saint, St. Therese Lisieux, who I view as a dear friend, my big sister in Christ, an ally who is rooting for me and helping me to keep my eyes on Jesus. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, was very eye-opening, encouraging and comforting for me as I read of some of her struggles that are quite similar to my own. My husband gave the book to me as a Confirmation gift. I was hoping for a necklace, silly woman, but I am grateful God provided spiritual nourishment instead. Just as I love reading the conversion stories and faith journeys of women in a Christian bloggers' group I was fortunate to join, reading about St Therese's life was a source of Christian inspiration for me, and it continues to be.
So, yes, we crazy Catholics do ask the many Christians who have come before us to pray for us to our Heavenly Father. We do indeed ask the angels, including our Guardian angels, to pray for us. At Holy Saturday Mass we sing the extremely beautiful "Litany of Saints" in which we ask saint after saint to pray for us, beginning with Mary, the angels and the apostles. Though there are many, many Christian saints that only God knows about, we also find a great deal of courage, encouragement and solace in reading the stories of the lives of those we do honor. They are our elder Christian siblings, and they are great examples for us.