How to Find Your Friends in Heaven
“The saints reawaken within us the great longing to be like them; happy to live near God, in his light, in the great family of God's friends.” —Pope Benedict XVI
Over the past year, I’ve worked with a few children teaching CCD. Two of my students are preparing for Confirmation. My son is also doing the work in his school for the same sacrament. In both the class and at home, I get the same questions: “Why do we need a saint’s name? Why do we choose a saint? And how do we choose a saint?” Why is easier to answer than how.
The saints serve as our guides for the same reason my older son needs a track coach and my musical daughter needs an instructor who fine-tunes her skills. The best athletes seek out the toughest coaches, the ones who will challenge them beyond their comfort zones and ignore all they’ve done up to now in favor of what needs to be done to get better. The best writers put on a brave face and endure critiques and editing and rewrites that demand more and more surrender of favorite words and phrases. The best disciples follow Christ and those who loved Him best, so as to learn to love better.
We need someone who did in this life what we’re called to do, to teach us in this life, how to do it — how to embrace the cross, grow in holiness, and fall deeper in love with Christ as manifested by all we think, do and say.
How do we find that saint, that friend in heaven, who will hold our hand and lead us to Christ? My son keeps searching. He hasn’t picked one. I know part of it is that my son has to choose, and the number of choices overwhelms him, and part of it is not knowing what he’s looking for in choosing a saint.
I told him one of my students chose Saint Joseph, so we’ve been pouring over the many titles the adoptive father of Jesus holds, and learning about the devotions and prayers that ask for his help. Saint Joseph leads us to Jesus. My student knows it’s a good fit. His name and his father’s name are also Joseph, and his learning about Saint Joseph is also allowing his whole family to discover more about the saint and the life we’re called to lead in service of Christ and the Church.
I told my son to look through the lives of the saints and see who interested him. I offered the Saint’s Name Generator, and it pulled up St. René Goupil — the patron of anesthesiologists who was tortured and tomahawked in the head. While we thought it interesting (and I filed him away for when my niece would have surgery), the hard part of the saint’s death made him squeamish. He hadn’t found “the saint.”
I’ve told Saint Anthony (one of my favorite friends in the Communion of Saints) to help him find his saint. I see him wrestling with it, because following Christ means that — and this encourages me about my son’s hesitancy — he knows following Christ is an all-in surrender that leads to victory.
To ease his mind, I suggested he stop searching for a guide, and simply look for a friend. I saw his face visibly relax, and I’m hoping he tells me soon who it will be.