To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
Have a Particular Intention? Pick a Particular Saint
BY JOSEPH PRONECHEN
When Ines Gautreau was a distressed 10-year-old bound
to a wheelchair, she was inspired to turn to St. Anthony of Padua. It was the
saint’s simplicity, she recalls today, that caught her eye.
As the years passed, her devotion to
St. Anthony grew and strengthened. Even as a retiree living in Las Vegas, she
made yearly pilgrimages to Mission San Antonio de Padua in California. Surely,
she says, the saint got her through many trying times.
Just as favorite saints have done
for countless Catholics down through the ages.
“The Catholic tradition holds
strongly to the communion of saints,” reminds Carmelite Father John Russell,
professor of homiletics at Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall
University. “Many times we go to the saints as part of that sense of solidarity
that we have with them.”
As they entered heaven, the saints
were “‘put in charge of many things,’” the Catechism makes clear in No. 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.” And No. 956
states that their intercession for us through Christ to the Father does not
The Congregation for Divine Worship
and the Discipline of the Sacraments tells us, in its 2001 Directory
on Popular Piety and the Liturgy, that some are
patrons of professions, of particular circumstances such as
childbirth (St. Anne) or death (St. Joseph), or of specific graces. In other
words, some saints have one or more specialties — like St. Anthony, who is best
known for help with finding lost objects, but also intercedes for many other
Protestant friends often ask: “Why
can’t you just go straight to Jesus?” Father Russell points out that, of
course, we can. But as we become familiar with particular saints and they
become grounded in our own history, we delight in invoking their name. It’s not
much different from the “bonding” that forms between friends who share a
A handful of saints attract the
devotion and intercession of flocks of people worldwide. One is St. Thérèse of
Lisieux. People seek her intercession often because she seems to put holiness
within reach of ordinary people, says Father Russell, who is also a popular
retreat master, speaker and writer on St. Thérèse’s life and mission.
“She’s extremely down-to-earth, her
way is simple, and basically it has to do with a fundamental unity between love
of God and love of neighbor,” he explains. “Her spirituality is
He adds that, near the end of her
short life, she said she wanted to “spend my heaven doing good on earth.” That
she does as people go to her for all kinds of things, notably illness, one of
prayers often take a personal, even conversational, form. Carmelite Father Bob
Colaresi, director of the Society of the Little Flower (littleflower.org ) in
Darien, Ill., says that’s a reflection of the kinds of things for which people
feel they need special help.
they’re struggling with things in the family that immediately impact their
life,” he says, adding that intercessions are often asked for family members.
Many people are “looking for some peace in their lives,” adds the priest, “and
they hope someone bigger in the communion of saints will help them.”
Father Louis Micca, pastoral director of the nationwide St. Jude Shrine in
Baltimore (stjudeshrine.org), sees a wide spectrum of people from every ethnic
background attending Masses and seeking St. Jude’s help for all sorts of
serious situations, from terminal illnesses to home foreclosures. That’s
because St. Jude is known as the patron saint of desperate situations and lost
the Church teaches that it’s beneficial to pray with the saints in good times
and bad. Parents like Bill and Juli Currie in the Minneapolis suburb of
Chanhassen, Minn., planned ahead to teach their children devotion to the
saints: The saint on whose feast each was born helped determine their first or
were very thoughtful when we chose names for our six children, to encourage
them to have devotion to that particular saint,” says Juli. “If they can’t
sleep or are struggling with an issue, we encourage them to ask that saint to
golfing together one recent day, Bill enlightened oldest son John Paul Francis,
13, who’s athletic and competitive, not to get frustrated. He encouraged the
boy to pray for help to John Paul II, who was also athletic. “Bill did notice a
difference the rest of the afternoon,” says Juli.
Micca has seen how, through sincere devotion, jobs were found “when it was so
obvious that wouldn’t happen for a while,” and many physical healings occurred,
like the teenage boy from Mexico brought in a wheelchair by his very faithful
parents. “He left walking,” says Father Micca. “It was far beyond when I saw
must remember that prayers are not always answered right away and, when they
are answered, sometimes it’s in a way we weren’t looking for. So reminds Father
American gets discouraged right away,” he says. “This intercessory prayer is in
the saint’s hands and God’s hands. We do not control or determine the time
frame. And in God’s providence, the answer you wanted did not appear. It can
appear there is a No.”
often ask for one thing and they get something else,” says Father Colaresi.
“They get a sense of peace in what happened or surrender to the will of God.
And they gain the wisdom of the spirit, the insight that God really is in
As for devotions, popular novenas
have grown around several saints. In some cases they’re joined to Masses.
Father Russell says that, as for norms, basically it’s as simple as melding
your own heart to the heart of “your” saint. “The prayer basically should arise
from your own devotion,” he says. “If it does, it tends to be more authentic and
At the same time, he cautions
against invoking saints for trivial things or with a superstitious mindset —
as, for example, burying a statue of St. Joseph in the yard to help sell a
The Curries look for ways to explain
these distinctions to their children. Eight-year-old Maria Monica knows the
difference and has a strong devotion to St. Thérèse. When she won a candy bar,
Maria’s first reaction, says mom Juli, was to show her happiness over finding
it had six pieces — one for her and one for each brother.
And imagine her delight when she won
a random prize in Bible school and it turned out to be a locket with a picture
of St. Thérèse. Coincidence? Maria Monica doesn’t think so. And neither does
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.