Why not have 10,000 Holy Warriors at your side?
Author James Martin, SJ remarked “Sometimes I think that the one reason we begin praying to a saint is that the saint has already been praying for us.”[i] What a remarkable idea. Perhaps we do not have to find a saint but let the saint find us praying? Nonetheless, Martin had developed an affinity for St. Aloysius Gonzaga during his time training with the Jesuit order. Do you have a favorite saint? And if so, what has been your affinity, your calling to this saint in particular?
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga in Glory by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, incomplete provenance[ii]
As the painting title implies – St. Aloysius died young at the age of 23 by contracting the plague from his work with a patient who was infected as well. His last word was reportedly “Jesus.” His life was a short one that demonstrated from an early age an attraction to the holy life. He gave up a significant inheritance in both prestige and power from an elite family at that time. Being I am a germaphobe – St. Aloysius is not at the top of my list of go to saints! However, his courage and dedication is certainly not incomplete and I would question the artist title about incomplete provenance – though I can see his reason for thinking so given St. Aloysius short-life. That however is man’s measure of provenance, not Gods. Centuries later Saint Aloysius is a Patron Saint which is celebrated on June 21, the day of his death.
Brief Description of Saints:
Some may ask what us what is a saint? By definition anyone that is in heaven is a saint. However, since we do not know who has ascended with any certainty, we have a long history of people called saints, initially by popular recognition, than by Canonization (centralized process through the church). There is no exact number but it is estimated that we have more than 10,000 Saints.[iii] We have saints, Canonized Saints, Papal saints, and Patron saints. The Catholic Church holds saints in a very special place for our prayer life:
2683 The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom,41 especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were “put in charge of many things.”42 Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.”[iv]
This often causes Christians distress and charges of heresy abound. To avoid a theological dispute here, consider praying with a Saint to God, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit, for courage, discipline, compassion, determination or other holy qualities that your chosen Saint has demonstrated in their life time. We look to history all the time for role models, heroes, and leaders by which to set our benchmarks for striving to be all we can be. Why not have spiritual benchmarks as well to strive for in our daily life?
Why not join 10,000 Holy Warriors in prayer?
The Warrior Image appeals to my masculine side. It is, however, only a metaphorical symbol. Our societies have literal warriors that carry out defending nations, fighting injustices, and hopefully acting as a firewall against evil. Our Holy Warrior selves need not sword, shield, or other armament – only humility and prayer.
[i] My Life with the Saints, James Martin, SJ