Have you ever thought about what you’d be the patron saint of? Maybe patron saint of power naps? The patron saint of drinking way too much coffee in the morning? The patron saint of ace-ing Algebra II class? Don’t laugh, because it’s an important question to consider!
Saints are pretty commonplace in the Church, what with feast days, patron saints, and litanies of the saints, and all that. Interestingly, one of the oldest “litanies” or lists of the saints that we have comes from the first of the four main Eucharistic Prayers we pray regularly at Mass. Just as a little background, Eucharistic Prayer I (or the Roman Canon) is the Big Kahuna of the Mass – it’s the oldest, the longest, and the most jam-packed with theology. In fact, it is so old that even St. Ambrose (d. 397) knew of it and quoted extensively from it.
In the Roman Canon, we pray, “Graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy apostles and martyrs,” and then go on to mention a lengthy list of important saints. The first few are pretty normal saints that we know from Sacred Scripture like John the Baptist and Stephen. But as we move down the list, we hear about people like Ignatius, Alexander, and Marcellinus.
What the heck? How did they get in there? Well, these names may not seem that familiar – to us – but in the days of the early Church, when this prayer was first used, these saints and martyrs were people they might very well have been familiar with, maybe even part of their local community! These were people they had sat listening to, people they had followed, people they had seen giving witness to their faith, even to their deaths in the arenas like Perpetua and Felicity. These were individuals who had been personal examples of holiness that inspired their communities to grow closer to Christ.
So let’s go back to what we started with – are you trying to be a saint? Are you trying to be an inspiring example of faith to others? “Ha! Yeah right, Father! Being a saint is just for really holy people!” Well, strange as it might seem, that’s your call. Before being a husband or wife or priest or soccer mom or snake charmer or whatever, we are called to be saints. Sure, you may not be officially recognized and canonized by the Church, or called “St. _______ of Valley Park” (especially because St. _____ of St. Louis sounds a little redundant), but you are called to be holy, and to be an example for others.
Saints aren’t just those we remember once a year, or statues we put votive candles in front of when we need them. There are living, breathing, and aspiring saints among us now in our parish, our neighborhood, and even our households. As Pope Francis mentioned recently, these are simple saints, good people who may not have visible heroism, but in whose “everyday goodness, we see the truth of faith.”
Be that example of holiness for your friends, relatives, parents, and children. Don’t settle for mediocrity – embrace the call to heroic virtue!