I paged through my pre-Vatican II Latin missal. I was seeking a reference for something I remembered about the old liturgical calendar. While thus engaged, my eyes stumbled over this, from the Proper of the Saints:
St. Peter of Verona was a famous preacher of the Dominican Order, opposing heretics from childhood. He never committed mortal sin. He wished to die for his faith, and his prayer was heard A.D. 1252.
I almost threw up a little in the back of my mouth. Such are the cardboard figures, or at least the monochrome hagiographies, so often given to us for our edification.
I have awkward relationships with the saints. It makes sense. I have heard the saints are our friends. And I usually have awkward relationships with my friends.
Last Tuesday was the Feast Day of St. Clare of Assisi. She is the namesake of the Jesuit university where I did my undergrad studies, and subsequently, she is the saint I picked for myself rather unthinkingly when I celebrated the Sacrament of Confirmation a year ago. On Monday when I first heard about her impending Feast Day, I felt like a little girl who had just received an invitation to her best friend’s birthday party. I was so delighted to celebrate her life! And this flood of excitement surprised me. How and when had I acquired such devotion to St. Clare? Or to any saint for that matter? Sure, I have these various connections to her. But I never before had I realized that the connections had become personal.
I didn’t grow up in a family or parish community with a particularly visible devotion to the saints. St. Jude was the patron of my childhood church, but beyond the name of the parish, the only real sign of it was in the reliable mention of his name at some point during the Eucharist Prayer. There was a big statue of Mary in our sanctuary, but she was known more for her virginity than her sainthood. Thus, for most of my life, if you asked me to define a “saint” I could not give you more of an explanation than, “someone who the Church deems important.” And this bothered me. I didn’t know who the saints were–only that, as a Catholic, they were supposed to be important to me. Continue reading