Lessons from the Saints
“Those from whom I receive the greatest consolations and encouragement are those whom I know to be dwelling in Paradise.” St Therese of Avila
By Susan McLaughlin
I converted to Catholicism in my mid twenties but it was not until many years later that I truly discovered the saints. I had a life changing experience when the saints became known to me in a profound way. A family friend had returned from a trip to France and showed my family some photographs of St Bernadette Soubirous, whose body was ‘Incorrupt’. As I viewed the photographs of this beautiful young saint who passed away in 1879, I experienced chills through my body and was filled with amazement. I asked our guest repeatedly if what I was seeing was real. Somehow my faith journey up to that point in my life had not included the lives of the saints. Seeing the photos of the incorrupt body of St Bernadette opened a door of discovery into the lives of these extraordinary men and women.
The saints were not perfect but this may be why we can relate to them so well. They experienced many of the same inner struggles, challenges, and joys that we do. They were extremely human but despite their weaknesses, they were used by God as his instruments. They differ greatly in their backgrounds but they are similar to one another in their deep love for God and their desire to serve him. I think of the saints as a network of friends in heaven who help us through their guidance, protection and intercession.
It’s not easy to summarize the details and complexity of anyone’s life, but I have learned lessons from some saints which I carry with me. I developed a strong devotion to Padre Pio whose story is fascinating. He bore the wounds of stigmata for fifty years. He suffered tremendously both physically and emotionally and was persecuted by his superiors, who he always remained faithful to. From him I learned about persevering through all that life sends and to, “Stay in the boat that the Lord has placed you.”
St Therese of the Child Jesus surrendered to God with childlike simplicity and faith. She offered private sacrifices and prayers to God for sinners and wanted to work for God in heaven once her life was over. She reminds me of the value of simplicity.
From St Mary, the mother of Jesus, I’ve learned that sometimes we have to say yes to God, not knowing where that will lead us and be willing to see that ‘yes’ through to fruition. From St Anthony Abbot of Egypt I learned to balance periods of solitude with periods of being busy and involved in the community. From St Monica of Hippo, who prayed for the conversion of her son Augustine, I learned the value of persevering in prayer even if it takes years.
From Pope John Paul and many other saints I learned of the redemptive value of suffering.
Mother Therese embraced all people and demonstrated the love of Christ by serving the broken and outcast members of society. She served Christ through them and believed that suffering was a sign that Jesus was so close to you that he could kiss you. She demonstrated a universal love and her humility was genuine and admirable. St John of the Cross taught the great value of love, “At the end of our life we will be judged by love alone.” St Jude Thaddeus reminded me that nothing is impossible with God and we can feel hope in situations that seem hopeless by asking his intercession.
The list goes on and there are dozens of saints whose lives and writings have been a great gift. The church has given us this gift! As All Saints Day approaches, I am so thankful for the saints and their teachings. They have paved the way before us and they continue to walk beside us today as we journey through life.