A Community of Saints
Saints are the spiritual leaders and role models of the Catholic community, those who have lived a life of great piety and sacrifice and set a shining example of pure and immaculate spirits. The first saints were martyrs — those who died for their faith. These martyrs were inspiring and the faithful lavished devotion on them. In the days of the early Church, Christians would gather on the anniversaries of their deaths to honor them. When persecution ended, there was an outpouring of love and honor, complete with immense tombs and special liturgies. The liturgical calendar was deluged with feast days for each saint.
Devotion to the saints, long a cherished Catholic tradition, seems to have waned in recent years. The Scripture does not really dwell on the mystical bond with the saints in any depth. Today, it may be harder to believe in the existence of such “supernatural” beings who can intercede for Catholics with Christ. Or it may be hard to think about martyrs of 2,000 years ago in any meaningful way, when there may not be much more than a myth and a few shreds of cloth or a shrine to remember them by. But many in the Church ask if this is only a temporary state.Why We Need Saints Now
Devotion to the saints can be a powerful aid to living a Catholic life in a troubled world, and Catholics are certainly expected to believe in the “communion of saints,” who are with God in Heaven but still in communion with the followers on earth through a common faith.
This belief is upheld in the Apostles' Creed, which states, “I believe in the Holy Spirit; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints.” It is a resource and a community worth tapping. The saints can be called on to intercede with God on behalf of the faithful. (At Vatican II, the Church confirmed its teaching that Catholics should pray to the saints for intercession.) Catholics can also receive saintly guidance from these heroes and heroines of faith for their virtues of compassion, forgiveness, honesty, justice, patience, and wisdom.
The saints are wonderful guides to helping explain the mystery of “indwelling.” According to this mystery, God is present in a special manner in the “justified.” This is something the true saints have experienced and that they can help us glimpse.
Many of the saints were inspired writers. Today, Catholics seek out the words and works of such saints as St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Teresa of Ávila, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, and St. Clare, who — among others — help enrich understanding of God.
In Frances de Sales's book