Today is the Feast of St. Issac of Ninevah. His feast is almost never celebrated in the Western Church given that he shares the day with St. Thomas Aquinas. He is, however, my confirmation saint, and so each year his feast has tremendous meaning for me. I didn’t become Catholic until well into adulthood and I did so after years as a protestant minister so the choice to pick Issac was one of tremendous significance to me. Here are a few of the reasons I choose him as my confirmation saint, and why I continue to turn to him for prayer and guidance each day.
- Issac expands my worldview – He is from a very different time and place. He lived 1300 years ago in the region of Bahrain. He offers a very different set of circumstances in which his faith was fostered and yet his words cut like daggers to the heart even to this day.
- I have a deeply personal connection with Issac – As I began to read the fathers over a decade ago, Issac jumped off the page and came alive to me. Ever since then as I have approached every new challenge in my faith I have referred back to St. Issac as a guide to help me understand it better.
- Issac Challenges me – You can’t help by be challenged by Issac. His view of God’s grace is so large and his perspective on the call of the Christian life is so rigorous that he forces you to struggle with the Gospel in every aspect of your life. Although he believes that “A handful of sand, thrown into the sea, is what sinning is, when compared to God’s Providence and mercy,” he states “The knowledge of the Cross is concealed in the sufferings of the Cross.” For Isaac, the mercy of God is such that it will not stop working in you until you are saved from every sin and even the desire to sin. He reminds us that “This life has been given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.”
- Issac helped to form my view of God – Not only does Issac share my own theological convictions, in many ways he has helped form them. As I spent years trying to figure out how to reconcile God’s justice and mercy Issac spoke short lines like poetry that opened up new worlds to me. He gave me a new way to think about salvation and the cross and in doing so opened my heart to God in a way I will never be fully able to articulate but sometimes I might be able to sing about it. This is the kind of theology I love and the world that Isaac inhabits.
- Issac is a Saint for all Christians – Isaac is honored in Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, The Assyrian Church of the East, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Catholicism. As someone who longs for church unity, I love turning to a saint that is shared by so many of the faithful.