In our Catholic Liturgy of the Eucharist, on saints’ feast days, the priest can introduce the Eucharistic Prayer—the central prayer of the Mass—with these words: “You renew the Church in every age by raising up men and women outstanding in holiness, living witnesses of Your unchanging love. They inspire us by their heroic lives, and help us by their constant prayers to be the living sign of Your saving power.”
I love to pray those words, because they sum up our Catholic attraction to the saints. As the prayer says, there have been holy men and women “in every age.” Their lives inspire us, but more, their union with us in the “communion of saints” is a source of help. That Catholic teaching is recalled each Sunday in our Creed. We believe that because we’re part of a “communion” of holy men and women, we can count on the saints for intercession. At my inner-city grade school, I celebrate a prayer service each Friday morning during the school year. Because the majority of our students are not Catholic, we try to craft a service which will combine elements of our Catholic tradition, with values which will guide these young people, many of whom struggle with the difficulties of growing up in a culture of poverty and with special needs.
Some years ago, the faculty and I designed a year-long series of services which we called “Heroes of Faith.” Our goal was to inspire the students to research and proclaim the stories of traditional saints, biblical figures, as well as recent figures from African-American history. I enjoyed seeing our students act out the lives of the saints and learn about these holy men and women.
Our “Heroes” series recalled my own love, growing up, for the lives of the saints. As a grade-school student in my parish church 50 years ago, I used to look up and marvel at the paintings of the saints which adorned the walls of the church. Each was unique, each represented a story which I read in my treasured Lives of the Saints compilation, or in books from the school library.
In our day-to-day lives at Franciscan Media, we constantly refer to the witness and inspiration of the saints. Let us celebrate them in our prayer—and share their stories with the next generation! —Greg Friedman, OFM