The saints scare some Christians. They imagine that the Catholic church decides who has lived a life worthy enough for that person to be called a saint. The Church is clear in its teaching: God alone decides who among us are saints. The role of the Church is to recognize them accordingly.
Given my Protestant background, I did not think too much the saints after I converted to Catholicism. Sure, I recited the Apostle’s creed: “We believe in the communion of saints” but I pretty much left it in the creed. The saints were strange to me because in the Protestant churches I attended, I do not remember discussion of the saints. I did not understand the communion of saints and that in them, God gives us living examples that extend to our present day.
Once I started to ask for my friends and family to pray for me and if I could I pray for them, the communion of saints made sense to me. They are my extended family, who will also pray for my intentions, much like the ones I pray for my blog readers. It’s not so scary any more.
Fast-forward to about 9 months ago. After my wife got me an iPhone, I got in the habit of reading a story of a saint each day to my 8 year old son – thanks to the cool electronic missal application called iMissal. As we have read a couple hundred stories, it leads us to many discussions about saints and what their example means to Christians.
I also noticed that there is something consistent about the lives of the saints, regardless of their background or vocation: the saints prayed often. An example how much prayer comes from Blessed Mother Teresa (who is not yet a saint but is familiar to us in our modern world). She spent 3 hours each day in prayer and adoration of the blessed sacrament.
Let’s to do the math: 3 hours per day * 365 days per year = 1095 hours per year * 50 years = 54,750 hours of her life that that she spent in prayer.
Why is prayer so important in the lives of the saints?
Saints prayed because this is what Jesus asked us disciples to do and today’s Gospel reading illustrates this point. To the disciples, a man brought his son who was “possessed by a mute spirit.” Jesus came upon them and the man said:
“Teacher, I have brought to you my son possessed by a mute spirit.
Wherever it seizes him, it throws him down;
he foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid.
I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they were unable to do so.”
“O faithless generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you? Bring him to me.”
After some questions to the boy’s father, Jesus healed the boy and the unclean spirit left him. After the episode, Jesus was alone with his disciples.
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private,
“Why could we not drive the spirit out?”
He said to them, “This kind can only come out through prayer.”
In this story, Jesus links faith to prayer – a simple but powerful message.
I wonder what would happen to each of us if we prayed for 1 hour a day? What if we try it for the season of Lent, that begins in 2 days on Ash Wednesday? Would this 40 hours of prayer increase our faith? Would it allow the Holy Spirit to drive out unclean spirits that afflict us? Would we feel closer to God?
God does not requires us to be a saint to have faith. All we have to do is pray (more often).
Thank you to my brother in Christ, Charlie who met with me today and took up the challenge to take a Lenten Journey for Men. My prayers for him and his family and thanks be to God that I hear him in Charlie’s words.
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Today we remember Blessed Jacinta and Francisco Marto