O Saints: Teachers who Behold the Mystery -UPDATED

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.” – Rev 7;9-10

Today is one of my favorite of all of our Holy Days. It has always pleased me to leave mass of a blustery morning and think, “while the rest of the world is busily passing by, we’ve taken a moment to remember our ancestors and talk to them, and ask their prayers — for all of us.” It feels like a privileged bit of service for the whole world.

In my column at First Things, I share the “pull a patron” ritual that will be occurring in a few weeks, as we prepare for a new year. I feel like I have not quite gotten to know Saint Catherine of Siena as I did Saint Philip, and I am certain that the fault is mine:

For a while, as each year wound down, a friend of mine would ask me if I would like her to “pull a patron” for me—a spiritual guide and teacher for the upcoming year. She had an impressive stack of holy cards, and if you wanted, she would randomly pull one for you, and that saint would then become your “patron” for the year.

“Saint Titus!” she served up, one year.

Really, I thought. A guy about whom almost nothing is known? Great.

“Saint Julianna!” came the following year’s missive, and I sighed. It came as no surprise at all to me that the year in which my doctor pronounced me “menopausal” my friend drew for me St. Gerard Majella who is, among other things, the patron of expectant women.

“Perhaps,” another friend suggested, “he is meant to console you as you enter your dotage—he’ll help you ease into becoming a crone.”

My earthly friends are a constant comfort to me.
A cloistered Dominican nun set me to rights about the practice. Relating the belief that “the saint chooses you,” she asked me if I had—prior to the pulling—prayed that the proper patron be guided my way. “But the prayer is more for you, for your awareness,” she said. “Those patrons you could not relate to earlier, had appropriate connections; you just weren’t open to them.”

You’ll have to read what happened when I took her advice and opened up.

Speaking of the white-robed-wearing ones, our good friends, the Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey have gotten word out that they have been without power since the storm a few days ago, and it looks like they will continue that way until Thursday:

As of Monday night, it was 58 degrees in the monastery. At least we have 14 paschal candles and the work of the bees is keeping us warm!

So, in the darkness and the cold, with meager provisions, these nuns are continuing on — praying six hours a day in choir, a few hours more in private prayer, and on this solemnity they are praying for all of us. One sent me a text:

Candles are great but the cold is a bit difficult. Great recreations and we’re all being charitable! Hope you are ok!

Monasticism is not for wimps.

Deacon Greg’s Homily for the Solemnity asks a good question:

The gospel today shows us the way to holiness — the way, as the song says, to “be in that number.”

It means to be poor in spirit. To be meek. To be merciful and pure of heart. To be a peacemaker. To suffer for the sake of Christ.

None of these is easy. But then, if being blessed were easy, everyone would be a saint.

But don’t we want to try?

Because we do want to try, this is a good time to look into Lisa Hendey’s excellent A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. This one’s a great Christmas gift — get Mom’s New Year started with some helpful friends!

Tomorrow, of course, is All Soul’s Day, and in anticipation of it, Pat McNamara takes a look at Edgar Allan Poe and his friendship with the Jesuits

Finally: How the Orthodox do it

Frank Weathers has the greatest hits of All Saints Day!
Patrick MadridThe Ancient Christian Origins
Beginning to Pray: The Saints See Christ
Fr. Scott Hurd: Be a Saint!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.noodlingonit.com Kris, in New England

    Being that this is my first All Saint’s Day as a Catholic, I confess to nerves about attending Mass tonite. Our church encourages people to bring small, framed photos of deceased loved ones – to be displayed for the month of November and prayed for everyday. I am bringing a photo of my beloved father who died in 1995; a non-Catholic. He’d certainly be bemused by all the prayers winging their way to him from a Catholic Parish!

    I also like the way the nuns are going about their business. We have tremendous damage here in CT with nearly half the state w/out power. Some people take it in their stride; not much that can be done and complaining doesn’t help with anything. Others…oh my goodness; crankypants is the order of the day for them. In the grand scheme of things – for those who don’t need power for health reasons – this power outage is a mere blip in their lives. It will come back on as sure as the sun will rise and set each day – and as soon as it does return they will promptly forget all the inconveniences they suffered. The power will be – forgotten. And it is truly a miracle all its own.

  • Klaire

    I just stopped by the convent for mass and to visit the Shroud of Turin (authentic copy), last week. It was a wonderful experience. Just now made the connection that these are the same nuns of whom you often write.

    I too love the feast day of all saints. I still need to find a good litany of the saints to listen today; wish we would hear it more often in church. Especially when it is chanted in Latin, it stirrs the deepest part of my soul, so beautiful!

    May we all too become greats saints!

  • Holly in Nebraska

    I’m so looking forward to my new saint. Last year I got St. John the Evangelist. I figured I should delve into scripture more. I pulled out a another version that I don’t read much (just for a change), tabbed it up and got out my highlighters. It’s been a fantastic year! I don’t think I know much more about St. John, but I’m sure he’s been praying for me all year. I never marked in my bible before because I felt it might interfere with subsequent reading–drawing my attention always to the same thing when maybe I should be seeing something else. Not any more. I highlight, pencil in cross-references and otherwise scribble notes up and down the margins. Thanks St. John! What a great tradition.

    “God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.” 1John 1:5