What does it mean to have a friendship with a saint? As a convert, this is something I still (17 years later) struggle to understand.
I am very drawn to the saints, and much of my conversion was rooted in the Traditions of the Church and the timeless commitment of the Church to Truth. The saints, in their historical context are part of that history. I love to learn about them, to read what they’ve said, and to look to them as examples of holiness.
But one thing I have not been able to fully embrace is looking to them as friends.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually want to be better at this. I hear friends speak about talking to the saints and calling on them regularly and I would love that to be me. However, I think we all have different charisms and approaches to our own spirituality and what helps me grow may not be the same as what nurtures another person. I’m so thankful to be in a Church that celebrates all kinds of approaches to faith.
When I went through RCIA, the influence of the Saints was still foreign to me.
We were told to pick a confirmation saint. Perhaps it was mentioned early, but I don’t remember this instruction until just before Easter. The Catholics going through RCIA as mentors probably didn’t think much of this, as picking a Saint comes naturally. But to a Protestant, I was lost.
Someone suggested looking at your birthday Saints, another suggested looking to Saints who share your vocation (though as a college student I wasn’t even sure what that looked like yet). Does anyone realize how many Saints there are on the Calendar? This was a completely overwhelming task for me.
I didn’t even know what to do with a Saint.
I even assumed picking a Saint was just a formality. More of a sweet “little T” tradition than a spiritual exercise. So I did what I always do when I’m overwhelmed. I impulsively picked someone. I chose Saint Nicarete of Constantinople.
I’m sure you have never heard of her. In fact, there is very little written about her, and I still don’t really know how to pronounce her name. But, her feast day is my birthday, and she was a woman who cared for the poor, in their physical and medical needs. So she seemed appropriate (I was about to start medical school, so a healer seemed like an obvious choice). At the time, I had very little understanding about building a relationship with saints.
Over the last seventeen years, I have definitely grown more in my knowledge of the saints.
Much of that growth has still been intellectual. There are so many heroes of the Faith who have gone before us. Leaving us wisdom and examples of courage. I occasionally call on the Saints in various matters, asking them to pray for us, when needed. Our family has our traveling saints and our hiking saints we call on when we are on the road (Saints Christopher and John Paul II and Blessed Pier Giorgio).
I have learned to ask Saint Anthony for prayers (there’s a story of a missing wedding band that disappeared for 9 months, only to show up in the middle of our camping tent the following summer after much pleading for help from St. Anthony). We pray every night for intercession from our list of family name saints (Saints Jerome, Anne, Jane Frances, Joseph, Philip Neri, Thomas Aquinas, and Rose).
Despite all this request for intercession, I have yet to find a saint I can just converse with.
I think sometimes this is partly due to growing up Protestant, and still having some fears of crossing the line of idolatry. It just doesn’t come naturally to me, though I would like to embrace this type of spirituality.
I think it’s time for me to finally get to know my confirmation saint.
And since she was a healer and devoted to treating the poor and sick with care and compassion, who better for me to talk to each day before I go to work? St. Nicarete, pray for me. Help me to see the image of God in all of my patients and to trust in God as you did, and to “prefer the service of God to all earthly considerations.”