Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Halo and goodbye
Parting thoughts from Father James Martin S.J.

Father Martin sends the following thoughts wrapping up the Dawn Patrol day of his "Saints in Cyberspace" tour:

Many thanks to Dawn for inviting me to spend a wonderful day "visiting" the "Dawn Patrol," and have the chance to meet so many of her readers. Your questions were fascinating, and showed not only your cheerful inquisitiveness, but also your deep love of the church, and of God.

Since a few of your comments cohered around the question of the "presentation" of the saints to Catholics, non-Catholics and non-believers, perhaps I could summarize how I understand the saints' place in our faith.

Essentially, there are two models of devotion to the saints. The model we are probably most familiar with today is the "patron" model, the saints as the one who intercedes for us, who prays for us, who asks God for help on our behalf. ("St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around..."). But the earlier model in the church was the "companion" model, the one who accompanies us along the way to God. Both are models I try to stress in my book My Life with the Saints, because both can help people feel closer to the saints, and therefore feel closer to God. (The saints always point us to God.)

However, for those who are unfamiliar or even suspicious of the saints, it is often better, to begin with the idea of the saint as companion, exemplar or model. A good biography of the saint is the perfect way to do this. Then, as people grow more familiar with the saint, and begin to feel affection for the person, they will usually find themselves praying to that saint spontaneously for help. And for those who stumble on that idea, called intercession, I usually ask, "Have you ever asked a friend on earth to pray for you?" Usually people say "Yes." Then I say, "Well, then why wouldn't your friends in heaven want to do the same for you?"

Again, many thanks to all of you. And please do keep me in your prayers!


Father James Martin, SJ
Many thanks to Father Martin for making my blog a stop on his tour and for being so generous with his time and effort. Later tonight, I will post a "best-of" collection of his comments, and tomorrow I'll announce the winner of the raffle. If you missed a chance to query him, his tour continues tomorrow at The Anchoress.