Sunday, August 22, 2010

Do you know any saints?

Communion of Saints:  Top Team of All Time
by James Philipps (adapted from Youth Update)
For football fans, life doesn't get much better than this. Just before the Sunday game at Soldier Field, the Chicago Bears held a memorial service. Fans were invited to honor Walter Payton, the retired Chicago star running back who had died the previous week.
Now as the November game entered its final seconds, the Bears were clinging to a three-point lead against their arch rival Green Bay Packers. The Packers prepared to kick a game-tying field goal.
As the last few seconds ticked off the clock, the kick was blocked by a leaping Chicago Bear player. Interviewed afterward about his spectacular play, the player admitted that he'd never jumped that high before. He credited Payton for the extra boost.
Did Walter Payton contribute to the Bears' success that day in 1999? Probably, he served only as a great inspiration! Still, this story illustrates well what we mean when we Catholics speak of the Communion of Saints.
The holy women and men who have gone before us continue to be with us. Their prayers and presence can give us that extra boost we need to make the leap of faith into the arms of God. 
  Throughout our history, the Catholic Church has formally canonized or declared as saints many men and women whose way of living clearly showed their commitment to gospel values and to Jesus. Many such saints, such as St. Francis of Assisi or St. Catherine of Siena, are especially remembered on their designated feast days in the Church calendar.
A good place to start in your exploration of this rich heritage is with your own patron saint. Also, consider your own interests and cultural background. There's a saint for just about all occasions. (If all else fails, don't forget about the patron saint of lost causes—St. Jude!)
Canonized saints are only a small minority of those celebrating the direct vision of God. All Saints Day on November 1 is set aside to remember that vast array of uncanonized saints—those individuals whose holiness was known only by a few.
As you reflect on the good people in your life who have really loved you, you might very well discover a saint or two among their ranks—perhaps a beloved grandparent who has entered into eternal glory. These uncanonized saints gave you strength and comfort through their prayers and their loving support all the time that they were physically with you. Why would they stop now?
This is the unbelievably good news about saints. Through his Resurrection, Jesus revealed to us that death is only a checkpoint to be passed. Those who were close to us in life continue to share a spiritual bond with us after death. While the absence we experience is real, this spiritual connection is just as real. 
When we pray for those who have died and pray with the saints, we are strengthening and deepening these spiritual relationships. This is just the way our time and efforts spent with those we care about here and now strengthen our human relationships. 

Going Too Far
Some people get so carried away with this good news about saints that they make mistakes. A common one is to confuse honoring a saint (veneration) with worship.
For Christmas, my little girl received a Lite-Brite, a great toy that contains a lot of colorful, translucent pegs that she places into holes in a black screen. Behind the screen is a small light bulb. When the machine is turned on and the pegs are inserted, they light up as if they were so many tiny colorful light bulbs.
The source of the light is really the bulb behind the screen. The pegs merely reflect the light.
Lite-Brite can help us understand the relationship between the saints and God. All the good that any saint accomplished and the holiness which characterized that person's life came from his or her total cooperation with God, the light bulb or source of all that is good.
Thinking about the life of a saint is just another way to focus on the limitless love and goodness of God. Read the writings of any of the canonized saints. Try St. Thérèse of Lisieux, for example. The more holy she becomes the more she is aware of her dependence on God.
Only God deserves worship. The saints, by their prayers and life example, help us develop and deepen our relationship with God.
If we begin to look at the saints as mini-gods or goddesses or to see them as good-luck charms, then we stop being in communion with them and begin to drift into a form of idolatry (eye-DOLL-uh-tree). Idolatry is making anything or anyone more important than God in our lives.
Another possible stray path linked to the Communion of Saints is spiritism or spiritualism. Spiritism refers to any attempt to contact the spirits of the dead directly through such means as séances, Ouija boards or the use of mediums (individuals who claim to have the power to speak directly with the dead). Psychics sometimes fall into this category as well. These practices are very ancient, and interest in them increases and decreases from age to age. But the Church has always warned against such practices.
Why, you might well ask. If the communion between those who make up the Church on Pilgrimage (us on earth) and those who celebrate the Church in Perfection (not on earth) is real, then why shouldn't we be talking to each other?
One reason should be obvious, and is more a question of caution and good judgment than religion. The history of spiritism in this country and elsewhere demonstrates that most mediums and psychics are frauds who swindle people out of their money. (A good source for learning how to spot such frauds is the book Why People Believe Weird Things, by Michael Shermer.)
The Church has a spiritual concern as well. It's one thing to unite our prayers with those of the saints in order to worship God or to offer our prayers for the sake of those souls who are in need of them. But it's something very different to try to manipulate this connection for our own purposes, even if those purposes seem harmless. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains it this way: "[Practices of spiritism] conceal a desire for power over...other human beings....They contradict the honor, respect and loving fear that we owe to God alone"(#2116).

1) Please post something you learned from the above article OR something that "struck" you.

2) Go to upper right of page and read about choosing a name, click on "What Saint Inspires You".   Start thinking about what name you will choose for Confirmation.