All Saints Day is here; how do you make time to learn about the saints?
The first step to carving out time to learn about the saints is to recognize how important it is for you and your family.
You must believe that learning about the saints is worth your time or you will never carve out even a little time. The saints are human beings just like us, only they traveled the narrow road and lived very close to Our Lord and Our Lady.
We would also like to be human beings that travel the narrow road and grow ever closer to Our Lord and Lady. The saints not only show us the narrow way, but they illuminate areas of that road which we have not considered. We have an incomplete picture about our lives because our culture generally has a very limited view of the human person.
Look at the life of a saint and see how God can work with any one of us. The saints were rich and they were poor, they were well educated and poorly educated, they were peasants and they were kings, they were soldiers and they were martyrs.
What they had in common is that at some point they gave a preference to God in their lives. Those who were rich either renounced their wealth and position or used their wealth and influence at the service of the Gospel, to do works of charity.
Those who were poor focused their lives on service and prayer. All had to find the humility and the courage to live lives dedicated to God. This is precisely what we need to do, in our own unique way, with our own unique personality — find a way to give God preference in our lives. The way that this is accomplished is as varied as the diversity among the saints.
Some people dismiss saints because they figure the bar is so high they could never reach it. Is the bar really so high? Or is our expectation of the bar really low?
We have lowered our expectations of ourselves. We hear that we are children of God, made in the image and likeness of God, but it doesn’t register how significant this is. We are all called to be saints. In many ways we are all saints in the making.
While there are exceptions, most people try to do the best they can. When they see someone in need, they try to help. This is the soul’s desire — to live a life that makes a difference, that helps someone, that contributes, that brings people joy and happiness. This is our desire, because we are made like God, who desires these same things.
Ultimately, God’s desire for us is salvation and eternal happiness. All who are experiencing this blessed life or will experience it are saints. Sainthood is what we are meant for. In that light, it is important for us to learn about the saints, their lives, their wisdom and their example.
The main way we learn about the saints it to read about them. We should read in some detail, otherwise we will miss the holy nuances and the real struggles and heroic virtue that raised them to the altars of the church.[su_pullquote align=”right”]Questions for Deacon Reyes may be sent to him at Catholic Herald Family, P.O. Box 070913, Milwaukee, 53207-0913 or by email: email@example.com[/su_pullquote]
Just like the story of your life, a paragraph summary just wouldn’t do. Besides a good biography, it would be even better to read a good autobiography, if the saint has written one. Those who did give us insight into their internal thoughts and motivations that no biographer would ever know.
Finally, read the saint’s writings. Not all saints wrote books, but those who did have left us a treasure. In their writings they often distill the wisdom gained from years of prayer, solitude or service.
How can all this awesome information and formation be incorporated into a real family life? First, read about the saints yourself: read their autobiography, read their writings, get to know them, say a prayer to them, talk to them like a friend, because that is what they are.
Once you have internalized this saint, you are ready to introduce him or her to your family. Could you just all learn about the saints all together? Sure, but then you won’t know where the natural connections between the life of your family and the life of the saint exist.
Did they love nature? Perhaps it would be great to talk about them on a visit to the park. Did they give great advice? Is there a time in your life when the advice of the saint applies?
There are natural times to learn about the saints.
n Visit www.catholicculture.org or get any Catholic calendar that has the feast of the saints written on them and learn about that saint. Celebrate a saint feast day by learning a little about them.
Investigate the saints already connected to you:
• name of your parish,
• patron of our archdiocese,
• saint of your name,
• saints from your ancestors’ country of origin,
• saint’s feast that falls on your birthday,
• patron saints for a particular need you are experiencing.
If it is within your budget:
• buy saint movies,
• buy saint books,
• buy saint statues and pictures,
• give your kids saint names (this doesn’t cost anything but does take some planning before they are born),
• celebrate your kids’ feast days and All Saints Day, Nov. 1. Remember, the latter is a holy day of obligation,
• buy saint coloring books,
• print saint pictures from the Internet,
• make a play about the saints,
• visit saint relics when they come to town or the permanent display at St. Josaphat Basilica,
• when you travel, visit a hometown of a saint or a special shrine dedicated to them.
Learn about the saints little by little, month by month, and year by year. Over time you will get to know them as good friends and will keep them in mind as you face new struggles and reach new stages in life.
God calls us to be saints. By extension, as parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles and godparents, we are also tasked with the job of helping the children in our lives to become saints. How will we ever do that if we don’t learn about the saints, learning from their example and wisdom?
Let us use this All Saints Day as a time to recommit ourselves to learning about our brothers and sisters who have paved the way for us, learning from their insights and imitating their virtues. This will be the ultimate fruit of our effort — that we can internalize what we learn and live it today.
We all know the world needs it. Let us not be afraid to be today’s saints. As St. John Paul II said, “Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid.”
(Deacon Henry, his wife, Dr. Patricia Cabral, and their five children belong to St. Anthony Parish, Milwaukee. He serves as deacon for St. Hyacinth and St. Anthony parishes, Milwaukee. Deacon Henry wears many hats as a business owner, doctoral student and deacon for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but he says his most important hat is building his domestic church as a stay-at-home dad and homeschooling his children.)