One day in November is set aside by the Catholic Church to pay tribute to all saints who have lived their lives in heroic virtue. “All Saints Day” is indeed a celebration of men and women from all walks of life, single, religious, and married whom we can pray to for intercession to God!
From the very beginning, The People of God have not forgotten to proclaim unanimously those who they knew are with God. Only later on, did the Church establish a formal process of four divisions: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed, and that final step of being declared a Saint. The process can at times be lengthy and tedious, for often there are so many witnesses and sources to review before the final decision concerning the person’s cause. Each and every day, one should long for the Scriptural readings of the day, or even attending daily Mass, to celebrate the saint that the Church sets aside to be honored in the liturgy of the church.
It is a wonderful habit to get involved in studying about that one saint or more each day, reading about their life and also praying to them. A good way to remember saints is to know what century they lived in, and how they were responsible for changing the society at the time (e.g. St. Thomas More and how he showed people in the 16th century England to take a stand against a bad leader in defense of the true Faith). Calling to mind so many of them at once on this special day in November brings joy to the heart, for no one singular saint can first be called to mind except the favorite(s) that each of us has. Thinking about the saints, there are the martyrs whom most of the early saints of the church were, because of the many persecutions they suffered at the hands of the pagan Romans. St. Agnes, St. Lucy, and St. Agatha immediately appear in the picture as young martyrs who gave their lives for the Faith, as well as most of the apostles living during the time of Jesus. Many of the early popes were blood martyrs and saints.
Along the line, one can consider St. Thomas More, Patron of Lawyers who was a married man. Devoted to his God, he was faithfully husband to his wife and shinning example to his children. Daily, he went to Mass, wore a hair shirt, praying many hours before dawn, studied about the faith while helping his people as a lawyer and later his king in service only in righteousness and showing the most sincere concern and care for his family. St. Isidore, the Patron of Farmers and St. Maria de Cabeza, both married to each other were deeply faithful. Blessed Karl I of Austria was a married man to Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma (who herself came from a family of Duke Robert with 24 children) with eight children who was recently proclaimed a Blessed. He sacrificed during World War I, not only for his family but for his people, and ended up being ostracized by rebel authorities from his own country, dying of pneumonia due to his enemy’s housing him in damp quarters. Blessed Frederic Ozanam was a married man who founded the St. Vincent de Paul Society. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Protestant mother who became Catholic, also established the religious order of the Sisters of Charity after her husband died. Many married saints were royalty like Karl I. St. Margaret of Scotland had eight children and along with her husband Malcolm did much to help her people. St. Louis IX was a crusading king who established religious foundations, abetted mendicant orders, aided the poor, and performed many other virtuous acts—only 44 years old when he died. He was the father of 11 children. St. Elizabeth of Hungary cared for her family, as well as feeding the poor and tending to the needs of her people as servant first, and not as queen to be overly revered.
Many saints remained single during their lives. Venerable Matt Talbot was one of them. Addicted to alcohol, he one day converted and took one day at a time in prayer and work to overcome his problem. St. Catherine of Siena, responsible for bringing back the pope to Rome from Avignon, never did marry, but remained a holy, praying person at home, sought after by popes, political authorities, and many others for her advice. St. Joan of Arc died in her teens, but never had the chance to decide any other way of life except being called by God as military leader to free the French from the yoke of the English during the Hundred Years' War. St. Benedict Joseph Labre was a wandering holy man without a home, praying in Rome’s many churches and begging for his daily sustenance. St. Camillus of Lellis became a saint concerned for the just needs of the sick in hospitals, (his protocol which is still followed today) after spending a profligate life of card playing and being a soldier of fortune.
Religious life was found to be the calling of many saints. St. Patrick as a bishop brought Christianity to the pagans of Ireland. No one can say with his official day of celebration in March, that they do not know about the shamrock he used to explain the Blessed Trinity, saying that God is One but at the same time Three Divine Persons. St. Thomas Aquinas is noted not only as a Dominican but also the official philosopher-theologian of the church. St. Francis of Assisi is known all over the globe for his love of God in simplicity and poverty. His friend and contemporary in the 13th century, St. Dominic also founded a religious order dedicated to preaching the Word of God. St. Theresa of the Little Flower of Jesus, living just 23 years, shows us the way to live each act of charity daily, even how small that might be. St. Teresa of Avila reformed the Carmelites and established many other religious houses. St. Augustine of Hippo founded his own order, only after realizing that his immoral wayward life, was not in tune with finding peace until his heart “rested” only in Jesus. St. Ignatius of Loyola, after an injury during battle, found time to read the saints and a book about Christ during his convalescence, which brought about his conversion and his founding of a religious order dedicated solely to the pope. St. Benedict of Nursia was the founder of Western Monasticism.
One must not forget the Fathers of the Church, who have a wealth of wisdom in their lives and writings, providing the backbone of apologetics and Catholic insights that prevail today. Among the Doctors of the Church are St. Basil, St. Athanasius, St. Theresa of Lisieux, St. Venerable Bede, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Albert the Great, St. Alphonsus Liguori (founder of a religious order), St. Jerome, St. Pope Leo the Great, and St. Frances de Sales. St. John Bosco, acrobat, clown, and educator of boys, founded the Salesians. St. Robert Bellarmine was responsible for helping with the reform of the Catholic Church during the 16th century.
Saints can be identified by their symbols and patronage. St. Martin de Porres is patron of barbers, public schools, race relations, and many other things. St. Robert Bellarmine is patron of canon lawyers and catechists. St. Vitus is patron of actors and invoked against storms. St. Cecilia is pictured at the organ because she is patroness of musicians. The courage of St. George is seen with him overcoming the dragon (devil). St. Lucy is invoked for eye disorders and carries eyes on a platter. St. Mark is recognized with a lion, St. Luke with an ox, St. Matthew as a young man, and St. John as an eagle. St. Andrew is known by the X-shaped cross on which he was martyred. St. Bonaventure is characterized with a cardinal’s hat.
It is marvelous to have the saints who are the Church Triumphant. Without their good deeds and constancy in following God during their lives, they would not be saints. Without that “blessed be God in his angels and in his saints” as The Divine Praises says, the saints would not have God’s power to intervene for us in our prayers. It is God in them that truly takes care of our needs. St. Mary must be mentioned along with St. Joseph. They are part of the Holy Family of Jesus. The Blessed Mother is our primary intercessor to God who leads us to Jesus, for she first brought Jesus into the world. Both St. Mary and St. Joseph are invoked for a happy death. Within their persons, the radiance of Jesus is shown to us.
And we must not forget during this month the Poor Souls, the Church Suffering, along with our loved ones and those close and dear to us who have passed away. If we believe that a loved one is in heaven, it is also good to pray to that person. Perhaps they have made it to heaven but we must never cease daily to pray for them, as we are still struggling on this earth as the remaining members of the Church Militant.
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