It's been a busy week for our family. Yesterday, my cousin was married in north Portland. We greatly enjoyed the experience, and it is my sincerest prayer that their relationship be always blest and protected by heaven. The day also brought back a lot of memories of our own wedding in Dallas, Texas in late September of 1990. Today, I thought I'd adapt some thoughts I had prepared to share on the air concerning saints and clarify things further by drawing upon our experiences with family and friends.
When it comes to saints who have made a particular impact in our life, I would have to say Saint Augustine, Saint Francis, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and also Saint Thomas Moore have all been important to us. Saint Augustine comes to mind because of the impact Confessions made on me. It truly is a man’s confession before God. He was a man with failings like any other man, but Christ came to him in the garden, and his life and purpose changed 180 degrees. (In a sense, Thomas Merton’s moving Seven Storey Mountain is like a modern version of Confessions. Sadly, Merton's life seems to have veered too far from the Cross in its latter years.)
Saint Francis, because his life so exemplified a simple, yet profound life lived for Christ. He also shows us what it means to love nature, not for nature itself, but because it is God’s fingerprint--all about us. Saint Thomas Aquinas, because his writings demonstrate the dovetailing that is possible between faith and reason. Lastly, Saint Thomas Moore is important to us because we learned that he appears to be a distant relative on my wife’s side.
As we learned this not long after becoming Catholic, it was a strangely encouraging to know of this connection. Also, as a government employee, his last words before his beheading are particularly poignant. "The King's good servant, but God's First."
I know many good people reading this will say that saints are simply an example of extra-biblical Catholic devotion, but, in truth, it's the logical conclusion to Christ's victory over death. In 1 Corinthians 15:55, for instance, Saint Paul reminds us that death has lost. Its sting is powerless when faced with the Everlasting power of Christ our Savior. In other words, there is no death in Christ.
While this isn't the place to attempt a full explanation concerning the Catholic understanding of saints, it's important to mention that we see our intercessory prayers to be basically like you going to a friend and asking them to pray for you. The saint is not being worshipped in any way, but we are seeking their help. While it doesn't replace prayers to Jesus, it is a way to deepen one's spiritual devotion, and sometimes the answers to this kind of prayer seems to be especially full of gracious surprises.
As we try to understand the nature of saints and intercessory prayer, I wanted to offer a real life illustration of its power. To protect the privacy of the family, however, I won't be using any real names. One Sunday evening we introduced ourselves to a large Catholic family sitting behind us. My wife made a reference to their children being a real blessing, and they both looked at each other, smiling. They agreed it was and asked if we wanted to hear a story.
When the couple was first married, they were unable to have children. A doctor finally explained that the wife would be unable to bear a child for medical reasons. They were heartbroken--to say the least. At about that same time, the wife's grandmother was known to be dying. One day the wife went to her grandmother to ask her for a most special favor. She asked her grandmother to ask Jesus for children of their own when she came to heaven. The grandmother smiled and promised to do so.
A few days later, the grandmother passed on to heaven. The wife had all but forgotten of her request some months later when she was found to finally be pregnant. (As I recall, I think she learned this on a special day associated with the life of her grandmother--perhaps her anniversary.) When the day of the birth finally came, the child was born on her grandmother's birthday. Today, the family happily fills nearly a complete pew with its beautiful children. Not only does this remind us of the blessing children truly are, but it also is a great example of a kind of intercessory prayer.
If you would like more reading suggestions concerning the Catholic understanding of intercessory prayer, please contact me.
That's it for now, and I hope you have a great week.
I did try to share audio only, but I ran into some "technical difficulties," so opted to do it this way. Before long, I hope it will be accessible via the radio station's website. Sorry about the static on Part 1, by the way. TwitVid is looking into the problem. As you may have already guessed, my talents are not of the technical sort.
Radio Interview, Part 1
Radio Interview, Part 2