The Saints

October 30, 2020

The Pastor's Page

There are two classifications of saints. The Communion of Saints of the Living are those who are alive, baptized, believe in God, practice their faith, and do their best to live a good and holy life. The Communion of Saints of the Faithful Departed are those who have completed their human journey on earth and have died, fulfilled their calling, been redeemed by Jesus’ saving grace, and have taken their place in heaven with God and the company of angels and saints in light, happiness, and peace for all eternity.

Among the saints in heaven, some are canonized while others are not. A canonized saint is officially recognized by the Church. The selection process is coordinated by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints which reviews a potential saint’s life. Once certain criteria have been met, the Congregation advances the person from beatification to canonization.

Most of the saints in heaven have not received official recognition. These are our deceased fellow parishioners, parents and grandparents, relatives and friends, those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith. Although their goodness is not widely known, it is known to us, and most importantly known to God, and they have received the crown of righteousness.

It is extremely important to identify individuals who have led exemplary Christian lives and have been models of virtue and holiness, have been exceptional witnesses, have demonstrated courage and conviction, or have made outstanding contributions to the Church. The designation of a saint is an encouragement to the living: “If they could live a holy life, you can live a holy life; and, if they have gone to heaven, you can go to heaven.”

Those who reflect on the lives of the saints often urge us to imitate the saints, except some saints went overboard in fasting and other ascetical practices and were so severe that they jeopardized their health and well-being. An old priest friend of mine was fond of saying, “The saints are to be admired, not imitated.” It was his way of saying that the saints can inspire and motivate us, but we should be careful about how we imitate them, doing so in a balanced and reasonable way that helps us to make spiritual progress.

The liturgical calendar places saints in a number of categories: the apostles, the foundations of the Church, its first shepherds and teachers, who watch over and protect it still; the martyrs, those who have died for their faith and given heroic witness; pastors, great preachers and teachers; virgins and religious, those who have consecrated their lives to Christ for the sake of the Kingdom; and holy men and women, those who are outstanding in holiness.

The saints can serve as our intercessors. Everyone is free to pray directly to God. But if a saint is already in heaven at God’s throne while we are not, and if a saint enjoys God’s special favor while we are sinners, instead of approaching God directly, it may be beneficial to ask a saint to approach God on our behalf with our prayers and concerns.

Many saints are honored as patron saints. A patron saint is a special intercessor before God for a special concern. The saint and the cause may be chosen by the Church, a Pope, widespread popular acclaim, or by an individual. There are patron saints for dioceses, parishes, schools, hospitals, cemeteries, and religious organizations, as well as individual persons, often as indicated by the saint chosen for one’s name at the time of Baptism. There are patron saints for places such as countries and regions, towns and cities; and for a wide variety of other things such as occupations and professions, diseases and medical conditions, various stages of life, and other problem situations.

About Father Michael Van Sloun

Father Michael A. Van Sloun is the pastor of Saint Bartholomew of Wayzata, MN. Ministerial interests include weekly Bible study, articles on theological topics, religious photography, retreats on Cross spirituality, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, Greece and Turkey.

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