While I was on retreat last week two things happened that led me to think about some of the saints who inspire me. The first was that we celebrated the feastdays of some of them. Secondly, as I was reading St. Francis De Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life, there was a section where he discussed the saints.
Today I would like to share some thoughts with you about these saints who inspire me. I will begin with the three feastdays that we celebrated last week. First, on October 18th, we celebrated feast of St. Luke the Evangelist. The Gospel of Luke has always been one of my favorites. The last parish I served in was St. Luke the Evangelist. That led me to think more about St. Luke as well as the saints that the individual churches are named after in that parish (see my series of presentations on those saints at www.renewaloffaith.org/saints, St. Luke is discussed in Part III).
The first reading of the day, 2 Timothy 4:10-17b, identifies Luke as a committed partner with St. Paul. As someone who feels called by God to share the gospel, I am inspired by St. Luke as an evangelist, a writer of one of the gospels. Evangelization is the very purpose of his writing his gospel. He begins his gospel, “Since many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning and ministers of the word have handed them down to us, I too have decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received” (Luke 1:1-4). He wants the people to know the truth of Jesus Christ. He investigated “everything accurately anew” to make sure what he wrote was true. St. Luke, please help us to do the same.
Then, the next day, October 19th, we celebrated the Memorial of Saints John de Brébeuf and Isaac Jogues, Priests, and Companions, Martyrs. They came to North American in the 17th century as missionaries. They are of particular significance to me because the area where they served is only a few hours from where I live. Their service to the gospel led them to martyrdom. They were among the first to bring the gospel to what is now New York State. As the practice of the faith is slipping away, we ask for the intercession of the North American Martyrs as we seek to re-evangelize people who have lost the faith and to reach out to those who have never known Jesus.
Then, on October 20th, we celebrated the Optional Memorial of St. Paul of the Cross. (His feastday actually falls on October 19th but, in the United States, it is moved to October 20th since we celebrate the North American Martyrs on the 19th). He was an 18th century priest and founder of the Congregation of the Passion, known as the Passionists. At the heart of their preaching is the Passion of Jesus Christ. In his Passion, Jesus survived greatly for us and was crucified. We must never forget this for “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). St. Paul of the Cross, please pray that we always remember what Jesus went through for us and that we help others to know the Passion of Christ.
Turning to other saints, earlier this month, on October 4th, we celebrated the Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi. He is the patron saint of animals and the environment. Part of my admiration of St. Francis is because I love being outdoors in the beauty of what God has created. What inspires me about St. Francis of Assisi is his devotion to poverty. As a diocesan priest, I do not take a vow of poverty but I do very much seek simplicity. As I sat in the cabin on retreat last week, I found myself encouraged by the simplicity of the cabin, which was literally half the size of the rectory I live in. When our lives are taken by life in a busy world, we may forget what is really important. St. Francis of Assisi, please help us to always seek simplicity.
Next, I would like to include St. Thomas Aquinas (feastday January 28th). He is known as a great scholar. Those who know me know that I love to read and learn more about our faith. However, I do not do so for intellectual reasons. St. Thomas Aquinas is known as great theologian. As I learned more about him for my series on the saints of St. Luke the Evangelist parish (www.renewaloffaith.org/saints), I was inspired by what I read regarding St. Thomas Aquinas’ purpose in his theological work. As Bishop Robert Barron writes of St. Thomas Aquinas, “As a magister of theology, his purpose is never simply to satisfy the curiosity of the mind; rather, it is to change the lives of his readers, to transform their hearts, in a word, to move them to salvation.” (Thomas Aquinas: Spiritual Master. Crossroad Publishing: New York. 2008., 19, my emphasis). (St. Thomas Aquinas is covered in Part III of my series Our Saints and Intercessors). St. Thomas Aquinas, please pray that I help others to allow the Lord to transform their hearts.
Now, I turn to St. John Fisher who shares his feastday, June 22nd, with St. Thomas More. St. John Fisher is the patron saint of the Diocese of Rochester where I serve. He was a bishop and a theologian. He was martyred along with St. Thomas More, by King Henry VIII because he would not approve Henry’s splitting the Church of England from the Catholic Church. St. John Fisher, please pray that we have the same courage and faith that you had as we deal with politicians today who reject some beliefs of our Catholic Church. (I discuss Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More in my series, Three Saints to Aid Us.)
The third saint in my series, Three Saints to Aid Us is St. Michael the Archangel who shares his feastday, September 29th, with the archangels St. Gabriel and St. Raphael. These archangels are all mentioned by name in the Bible. When I became pastor of St. Michael’s Church in Newark, NY, I read a couple of books about him and began to seek his intercession. Revelation 12:7-12 tells the story of St. Michael’s defeat, by the power of God, of Satan. When I struggle against temptation I have come to seek St. Michael’s intercession as well as God’s help by saying the Prayer of St. Michael and one Our Father. It helps.
I end with the Prayer of St. Michael (see my blog article, “The Prayer of St. Michael”).
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.