I have said many times that the saints are my friends.
When asked if I have a particular fondness for any one saint, I usually say, “It depends on what is going on in my life!”
I prayed to St. Peregrine when my mom was ill. I don’t get on a plane without invoking my guardian angel and St. Padre Pio. We always seem to invoke St. Anthony of Padua when we’ve lost something at our house. Years ago, we even attributed the finding of our lost dog to St. Anthony. For real.
The Catholic Church is rich with saints that we can go to for intercessory prayer or just encouragement, enlightenment and example of how to live a good and holy life.
Sometimes, though, the saints actually pursue us.
That’s right, the saints, those in heaven with God almighty, desire friendship with us. Let that sink in for a minute!
St. Junipero Serra has pursued a relationship with my husband since he was young. John first learned about this powerful intercessor long before he was a saint and before he was even beatified. On a summer trip with his paternal grandparents and father, he went up and down the California coast and visited missions that St. Serra founded in the late 1700’s.
A few years later, Junipero Serra was beatified and became Blessed Junipero Serra.
This saint evangelized the better part of the California coast on foot. He was strong in his weakness (he was known to walk with a limp and had muscle weakness on one side of his body) and steadfast in his mission. For whatever reason, St. Serra always seemed to work his way back into John’s life and now mine.
Imagine our joy when Pope Francis canonized him in 2015 on his trip to Washington, DC (where John and I met and lived early in our marriage)! We were elated. This good priest was part of John’s life long before he was commonly known throughout the world.
His message of salvation through Jesus and strength through hardship is woven into the core of our family.
In our TV room off of the kitchen hangs a painting that reminds us of his well known quote, “Always forward, never back!” These words have become a mantra of sorts in our vocation, and I imagine St. Serra with us every step of the way pushing us forward in the valleys and mountain tops of life.
July 1 is St. Junipero Serra’s feast day! Today, especially, we give thanks to those who boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, pursue unlikely friendships and relationships, and endure hardship for the salvation of souls.