“I personally pray for the intercession of St. Joseph, both as a husband and a father, in general for his guidance as a spouse and as a parent,” Godin said of his daily prayers to the earthly father of Jesus.
Among other intercessors he regularly calls on to watch over his Edina, Minnesota, family — him, wife Megan, son Bobby and daughter Abby — are St. John Paul II and, more recently, St. Stanislaus Papczynski, the founder of the Congregation of Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary. Godin said he seeks St. Stanislaus’ help to deepen his relationship with Mary.
Godin is among many who implore the saints for their intercession. In doing so, the faithful do what the Church encourages. “When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were ‘put in charge of many things,’” the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains (2683). “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. … They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth.”
Father Carlos Martins of the Companions of the Cross well knows the power of the prayers of the saints. He is in charge of the Treasures of the Church (TreasuresoftheChurch.com), a ministry of evangelization that brings 150 relics to churches and other venues for prayerful veneration.
Father Martins speaks of the saints as part of God’s human community. “We’re social beings,” he said. “That also applies in the spiritual realm.”
Carmelite Father Bob Colaresi, director emeritus of the National Shrine of St. Thérèse in Darien, Illinois, said praying for the intercession of saints is “that gathering of friends and witnesses that are there, who understand your situation and hopes” from heaven.
When he was dying, St. Dominic told his brothers, “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.” And St. Thérèse of Lisieux said, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses.”
As Father Colaresi attests, “A lot of people had an experience that ‘I pray to Thérèse, and she brought peace in my life.’”
Father Martins emphasized what happens when seeking heavenly aid. “Technically,” he said, “to pray simply means to ask. That’s why in Shakespeare you hear constantly, I prithee. It is a short form of pray thee. It simply means, I pray thee — I’m asking you.”
In Minnesota, Godin asks daily. He regularly calls upon the intercession of “St. Thérèse of Lisieux for general professional development, doing little things to improve” in light of her “Little Way.” When his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, “I was praying for the intercession of St. Peregrine.” He gratefully reported, “We just celebrated five years cancer-free.” And for help combating the current cultural milieu, he added, “I pray for the intercession of St. Augustine.”
Saints are individuals in heaven, just as they were on earth, and are known for specific patronages, from childbirth (St. Anne, mother of Mary) and a good death (St. Joseph) to eye problems (St. Lucy) and lost objects (St. Anthony of Padua).
“There is a way in which God acts through each individual saint that he does through no one else,” said Father Martins. “Some [specialties] are particularly known simply because that is God’s will. One could say, using the analogy of the body, that Dominic is in some sense a fingerprint of God that is absolutely unique. That’s part of God’s plan. God is the author of that. God loves Dominic so much that he empowers him with his own divine identity in a singular and unique way. And that is powerfully attractive to people. And people respond to that.”
Secondly, the saints extend their own personal charism to those devoted to them, he said, adding that the person devoted to St. Francis of Assisi becomes more and more like St. Francis. “We see that in people’s behavior,” Father Martins said. “That would be yet another reason why we ought to adopt saints” as role models for Christian living.
Parents do so when they choose names of favorite saints for their children, to encourage them to have devotion to that particular saint. The Godin children love the saints. Abby, a sixth-grader, and Bobby, a fifth-grader, enjoy reading stories of the saints and seeking saintly aid. Bobby already has a favorite. As his dad said, “My son’s middle name is Francis, and he has an affinity for St. Francis of Assisi.”
Although St. Anthony of Padua is known as the go-to saint for lost things, Father Martins explained that there is nothing in the saint’s background that he is “aware of that speaks to or explains why he became the patron saint of lost objects. At a certain point it happened to many people, and a reputation erupted in that. That is God’s will that gives people … an easy point of intersection into devotion to the saints.”
Father Martins explains that no saint is limited because he or she is known to have a certain patronage.
“That’s how God wants it,” he said. “We have many friends in heaven. We get the whole world of them involved” through seeking their prayers.
From her own experience, St. Teresa of Ávila once said, “It would seem that God has only granted the other saints power to help us in one kind of necessity; but experience shows that St. Joseph can help in every kind of need.”
Godin knows the power of the saints’ intercession from personal experience, too. When his children “may be stressing out a little about an exam or a test and about schoolwork,” St. Thomas Aquinas has come to the rescue. He said, “Praying for his intercession has really helped.”
Since seeking the intercession of St. Stanislaus Papczynski to deepen his Marian spirituality, he has realized: “It doesn’t feel as much of a chore to pray the Rosary.”
We can pray to the saints, any saint, at any time, whether via popular novenas or simple supplication on their feast days or at other times of need. But such devotion should be kept from anything superstitious, like in the form of a chain letter or only saying a prayer before a certain time of day — or related to a common real estate practice, burying a statue of St. Joseph upside down in the ground to sell a house. These and similar superstitions get the human imagination working in the wrong direction and must be avoided.
Truly prayerful supplication in seeking heavenly aid from the saints is always a win-win. Explained Father Martins, “God takes that [faith], and he works with it. You always get grace.”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.