Traveling Companions―The Gift of the Saints

“There are very dear people in the life of each one of us to whom we feel particularly close, some of whom are already in God’s embrace while others still share with us the journey through life: they are our parents, relatives and teachers; they are the people to whom we have done good or from whom we have received good; they are people on whom we know we can count. Yet it is important also to have “travelling companions” on the journey of our Christian life. I am thinking of a Spiritual Director, a Confessor, of people with whom it is possible to share one’s own faith experience, but I am also thinking of the Virgin Mary and the Saints. Everyone must have some Saint with whom he or she is on familiar terms, to feel close to with prayer and intercession but also to emulate. I would therefore like to ask you to become better acquainted with the Saints, starting with those you are called after, by reading their life and their writings. You may rest assured that they will become good guides in order to love the Lord even more and will contribute effective help for your human and Christian development.” (excerpt from Pope Benedict XVI General Audience of August 25, 2010)
I happened to be just below the balcony at Castel Gandolfo when Pope Benedict XVI delivered this message. When I returned to my hotel room I looked up the English translation. It was a beautiful reminder of the great treasure we have in our Saints! Pope Benedict XVI shared how close he felt to St. Augustine and how he has helped shape his own spiritual life. At the end of the message he delivered a beautiful invitation for people to return to their faith.
“Dear brothers and sisters, I would like to say to all of you and also to those who are passing through a difficult moment in their journey of faith, to those who take little part in the life of the Church or who live “as though God did not exist” not to be afraid of the Truth, never to interrupt the journey towards it and never to stop searching for the profound truth about yourselves and other things with the inner eye of the heart. God will not fail to provide Light to see by and Warmth to make the heart feel that he loves us and wants to be loved.”
Those words really resonated with me and reminded me of our tour guide from Siena who had left the faith. We all have the ability to reach out to others with love and respect and invite them to consider the Truth about God’s love and plan for their lives. So many of our brothers and sisters have never had a profound encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and know about Him but don’t know Him.
God has given us the Saints as a great crowd of witnesses. They spent their life trying to faithfully serve God and help people be reconciled to God. They had tremendous challenges but their lives show God’s faithfulness. We should all have a particular saint whom we feel close to.
I have become very fond and close to St. Francis de Sales. He was a man who loved the Lord and was called into service during the height of the Protestant Reformation. He faced many challenges but never grew cynical or negative and used every opportunity to encourage and welcome people back into the Church. He is often called the “saint maker” because so many of his friends and colleagues became saints!
It is easy to look around and to listen to all the news headlines which show how violent and divided or world has become. It is truly in need of a major “extreme spiritual makeover” and St. Francis de Sales would tell us not to despair but to patiently look to the Lord to help us be a light of hope for our dark world. One of his sayings that I am quite fond of is “be patient with everyone, but especially yourself.” Sometimes we can look into our lives and see so many faults and failings to excel in love of God and love of neighbor we are tempted to give up. St. Francis left beautiful writings and words of encouragement and they have been very helpful to me over the years. The more I read about him the more I see that God will indeed provide for all of our needs, especially in the most difficult of times.
Do you have a favorite saint you feel close to? Our parish library has many books about the lives of the saints and the practical help they offer through their writings and holy lives. They did not become holy overnight but continued the fight to excel in the ways of faith, hope, and love. May we follow their great example and recognize the amazing potential God is giving us to be positive, proactive, and joyful in our service for His Kingdom.

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