Is Your Favorite Saint also Your Patron Saint?
Patron or Favorite ~ What is the Difference?
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines a patron saint as “one who has been assigned by a venerable tradition, or chosen by election, as a special intercessor with God and the proper advocate of a particular locality, and is honoured by clergy and people with a special form of religious observance…….” The definition goes beyond this, however. There are patron saints for illnesses, vocations, particular problems and more. Whatever your need, you can find a patron saint to intercede on your behalf. Well known examples are Saint Jude ~ the patron of hopeless cases, Saint Peregrine ~ the patron of cancer patients, Saint Anthony ~ the patron we call upon to help us find something we have lost and Saint Francis of Assisi, patron of animals. So, we all look to patron saints at different times and for different reasons, but when I ask if you have a “favorite” saint, I am not referring to patron saints. I ask this question from my own curiosity and to challenge you on a spiritual level. If you are clear about the reasons for patron saints, you recognize that the patron of a particular cause may not necessarily be your favorite saint or vice versa. A favored saint would most likely be one whose teachings resonate with your spirituality or whose life or trials parallel your own.
So, let us now take this one step further. Who are your favorite saints and why do you favor them? As I ask that you reflect upon this, I would like to share with you some of my favorites and tell you how and why the teachings and lives of each of these men and women have influenced the steps of my own spiritual journey and have lead me to a deeper faith and greater depth of prayer.
It Always Begins with Our Lady
There was a time in my life when Catholicism was not a priority. Although I never lost my love for Jesus, I did not understand why it was necessary to be a member of the Catholic faith to prove that love. I am a cradle Catholic. I was brought up in the Catholic Church, received the Sacraments and went to Mass on Sunday mornings. My mother prayed her rosary, faithfully, every night. She loved her Catholic faith. When I married outside the faith, she didn’t question or criticize. Instead, like Saint Monica, she prayed and like Monica’s, my mother’s prayers were eventually answered. I digress. Having been brought up Catholic, I was surrounded by statues of Our Blessed Mother, yet I knew little about her and I surely did not have a devotion to her. I felt a sense of spiritual disconnect and found myself constantly searching. I read many spiritual teachings and found myself focusing upon the esoteric. I deemed what I read to be true and tried to convince myself that I was in the right place interiorly but I was still lacking inner peace.
And then I Met Mary
It began with a dream which I tried to ignore but when Mary wants a soul, she is relentless. A series of events followed and with each event, I became more aware of her presence. I painted her, read about her, began praying to her and it wasn’t long before I found myself in love with Our Lady. She brought me home to the Church and the bonus was that her love and influence brought my Jewish husband to the Church. My husband and I finally came to a place where we could actually pray together. We were in a whirlwind of Catholic joy; never missing daily Mass, my husband became an altar server, we were teaching RCIA and CCD and our pastor was sending us, as representatives of our parish, to meetings and other events. We were called to the mission of creating rosaries. It was crystal clear to me that Our Lady wanted us to create rosaries, not just rosaries but beautiful rosaries; rosaries that reflected her obedience, her heavenly royalty, humility, charity, and other virtues. Our lives were focused on Mary and my love for her became deeper with each passing day. My favorite saint is my heavenly mother. Of course, the next step was consecration to Mary.
Saint Louis de Montfort ~ True Devotion to Mary
“The Son of God became man for our salvation but only in Mary and through Mary.” ~Saint Louis Marie de Montfort~
Saint Louis-Marie Grignon de Montfort was a Catholic Priest and Missionary. He was born in 1673 and died in 1716. When I first consecrated to Mary, it was by the formula and writings of Saint de Montfort. His formula for Marian Consecration is not easy. It requires a strong commitment but it is a sure path to an understanding of Mary and our need for her intercession. Saint de Montfort’s book, True Devotion to Mary, is considered to be the greatest book on Mary ever written. His teachings on who she is and why we need her, are beautifully and sincerely written and as you read, you will come to clearly understand her role in our salvation. Saint de Montfort’s book, Secret of the Rosary, offers an understanding of the Rosary in ways that no one before or after him has taught. It has inspired a number of focuses for the rosaries we create. If ever I feel spiritual aridity, I go to Saint de Montfort’s writings and my devotion not only is renewed but it is refreshed and deeper. It is because of his beautiful writings and determination to teach us why we need Mary to truly unite with her Son, that Saint Louis Marie de Montfort is one of my favorite saints.
“It is Mary alone who has found grace before God, without the aid of any other mere creature: it is only by her that all those who have found grace before God have found it at all, and it is only by her that all those who shall come afterward shall find it. She was full of grace when she was saluted by the Archangel Gabriel, and she was superabundantly filled with grace by the Holy Ghost when He covered her with His unspeakable Shadow; and she has so augmented, from day to day and from moment to moment, this double plenitude, that she has reached a point of grace immense and inconceivable; in such sort that the Most High has made her the sole treasurer of His treasures, and the sole dispenser of His graces, to ennoble, to exalt, and to enrich whom she wishes; to give the entry to whom she wills into the narrow way of heaven; to pass whom she wills, and in spite of all obstacles, through the strait gate of life; and to give the throne, the sceptre, and the crown of the King to whom she wills. Jesus is everywhere and always the Fruit and the Son of Mary; and Mary is everywhere the veritable tree, who bears the Fruit of life, and the true Mother, who produces it.” ~ From True Devotion to Mary ~
Saint Alphonsus Liguori
“Acquire the habit of speaking to God as if you were alone with Him, familiarly and with confidence and love, as to the dearest and most loving of friends. Speak to Him often of your business, your plans, your troubles, your fears – of everything that concerns you. Converse with Him confidently and frankly; for God is not wont to speak to a soul that does not speak to Him.” ~ Saint Alphonsus Liguori ~
Saint Alphonsus Liguori was born near Naples on September 27, 1696, and died at Nocera de’ Pagani on August 1, 1787. He was a successful lawyer but when he made a mistake which caused him to lose an important case, he came to see the vanity in fame. This enlightenment brought him to a determination to serve God. Saint Liguori was thirty years old when he was ordained a priest and he was the founder of the Redemptorists Order, an order of missionaries whose undertaking was to emulate Jesus by teaching His word and serving the poor and abandoned. In addition to his ministry, Saint Liguori was a composer, musician, artist, and writer. He was a brilliant theologian, whose writings were so wisdom-filled that he was declared a Doctor of the Church. Considering those of his books which I have read, my favorites are The Glories of Mary (which I keep beside my bed,) Hail Holy Queen: An Explanation of the Salve Regina, Uniformity with God’s Will and Talking with God. Saint Alphonsus Liguori suffered much during his life; physically and spiritually but he always trusted in Mary’s love to get him through his dark and painful times. So, why is he one of my favorite saints? He is one of my favorite saints because of his devotion to Our Lady and the prayers he wrote, which so poetically expressed this devotion. He is one of my favorite saints because of his sensitivity and fervor for Confession and because, as an artist pierced with pain, he held a wedge of marble against his pained head with his left hand while he composed music with his right hand. He is one of my favorite saints because of his trust and devotion to Mary and because his prayer for the Seven Sorrows of Mary always brings me to tears.
“When we feel our cross weighing upon us, let us have recourse to Mary, whom the Church calls the ‘Consoler of the Afflicted.” ~Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori~
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
”The conflict with Hell cannot be maintained by men, even the most clever. The Immaculata alone has from God the promise of victory over Satan.” ~Saint Maximilian Kolbe~
If I had to choose one saint, after Our Lady, it would be Maximilian Kolbe. With God, nothing is coincidental. I wanted to renew my Consecration to Mary but I didn’t want to use Saint de Montfort’s formula again. In looking for a different formula, Divine Intervention took over and brought me to Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Instantly, I was drawn to him. His writings about and devotion to Our Lady and the Eucharist are unlike any others. Written with a depth of emotion so enthralling that I continue to go back to them over and over again. And then, there is his life; the way he lived and the way he died. Is it strange that he was born on the date my father died and died on the date my brother was born? No. Not at all. Not at all because God does these things to bring us to where He wants us to be. So, let me tell you about Maximilian Kolbe.
He was born in 1894 and died in 1941, during World War II, in the Auschwitz concentration camp. When he was twelve years old, Mary came to him in a vision. She was holding two crowns; one white and one red. Our Lady asked him if he would be willing to accept one of these crowns. She told him that the white crown meant that he should persevere in purity and the red that he would become a martyr. He answered that he would accept both. He was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1918. During his time, there were many enemies of the Church and Maximilian Kolbe was zealously inspired to fight for Mary against them. In 1917, shortly before he was ordained, with the goal of converting sinners, he founded the Militia of the Immaculata or the Army of Mary. Maximilian Kolbe traveled to Japan where he served as a missionary for over five years. His health became fragile and he left Japan in 1936 to return to his native Poland. In 1941, Maximilian was arrested by the Gestapo for hiding Jews and was sent to the killing camp at Auschwitz. The tradition was that each week ten men were taken to be killed. Franciszek Gajowniczek was one of these ten. As he told the story, when he began to cry saying that he was a husband and father, Saint Maximilian Kolbe said, “I am a Catholic Priest. Take me instead.” The men were taken to an underground bunker where they were to be starved to death. Saint Kolbe, remained calm, leading the men in prayer and singing hymns to Mary. By the end of the second week, all the men but Saint Kolbe had died from dehydration and starvation. The guards wanted the cell empty and their solution was to execute Maximilian Kolbe with a lethal injection. He calmly accepted this as he lifted his arms to heaven and died.
Word of his faith and courage spread throughout Auschwitz and he became an example of hope and dignity for prisoners who were facing extreme brutality. After the war, his story became well known. Maximilian Kolbe became symbolic of courage and dignity. You would think that his life and death would be enough reason for Maximilian Kolbe to be one of my favorite saints but the story does not end here.
“Who are you, O Immaculate Conception?”
During an apparition at Lourdes, Bernadette Soubirous asked Mary, “Who are you?” Mary’s answer was, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” Saint Maximilian Kolbe struggled with this because it appeared to give divinity to Our Lady and he knew she was not divine. He prayed, “Who are you, O Immaculate Conception? Not God, for God has no beginning. Not Adam, made from the dust of the earth. Not Eve, drawn from Adam’s body. Nor are you the Incarnate Word who already existed from all eternity and who was conceived, but is not really a “conception…………” Father Michael Gaitley, in his book, 33 Days to Morning Glory, explains the answer in simple terms.
“Mary is the created Immaculate Conception and the Holy Spirit is the uncreated Immaculate Conception. In other words, before there was the created Immaculate Conception (Mary), for all eternity, there is the uncreated Immaculate Conception, the One who for all eternity “springs” from God the Father and God the Son as an uncreated conception of Love ….. Now, the Holy Spirit is a “conception” in the sense of being the Life and Love that springs from the love of the Father and the Son — in some analogous way, there’s the conception of children who “spring” from the love of husband and wife. The Holy Spirit is an “immaculate” conception because, being God, he is obviously without sin. And finally, the Holy Spirit is an “eternal, uncreated” conception because, again, he is God. This truth about the Holy Spirit explains Mary’s words at Lourdes.” Saint Maximilian Kolbe came to this profound understanding and wrote, “This eternal “Immaculate Conception” (which is the Holy Spirit) produces in an immaculate manner divine life itself in the womb (or depths) of Mary’s soul, making her the Immaculate Conception, the human Immaculate Conception…..” He concludes this revelation by writing, “Awesome and beautiful! God’s finest masterpiece, beyond the greatest natural wonders of the world and even beyond the galaxies of stars in the cosmos, is the creature who received the highest level of sanctifying grace (which is a participation in the very life and love of God) at the moment of her conception. Second only to her Son’s own sacred humanity, nothing on earth is or ever will be more holy.”
To my knowledge, no one before him understood this. It was because of his deep love for her that he did not give up his prayer until he came to its answer and, in this, could offer his understanding of the Immaculata to us. How could anyone who has a devotion to Our Lady not have a devotion to Saint Maximilian Kolbe?
To Sum it up
It is obvious that each of my favorite saints had a profound devotion to Our Lady. Each, in his own way, had an understanding of her that went far beyond any knowledge that the human mind could acquire. Theirs was a soul connection; a divine gift bestowed upon them by her Son. And each of these saints, through his own devotion, has influenced and deepened my own consecration which, ultimately, brings me closer to her Son. Through Mary to Jesus.
“In order to show me close up how ardently Thou lovest me, Thou comest from the purest delights of Heaven down to this dirty, miserable earth, spend Thy life in poverty, adversities, and sufferings – finally to hang, despised, ridiculed and overwhelmed with pain, between two thieves on the shameful gibbet. By sacrificing Thyself in this horrible way, Thou hast redeemed me, O God of love! Who could have imagined it? But that was not enough. Thou saw that, from the time when Thou pourest out these proofs of Thy immense love, nineteen centuries would pass before I appeared on this earth. Thy heart could not tolerate the thought that I should have to nourish myself solely on memories of Thy great love. Thou remained here on this small earth in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar and Thou come and unite Thyself with me – truly, under the form of food………and Thy Blood flows in my veins, Thy soul, O incarnate God, permeates my soul, strengthens and nourishes it. What a miracle! Who could ever have imagined such a thing? What more could Thou hast given me, O God, than Thyself to be my own possession? ” ~ Saint Maximilian Kolbe ~