I have noticed that when I write, I often make reference to ‘the Saints’ – whether generally, or with specific reference to a particular person.
It is probable that most Catholics have at least one ‘favourite’ Saint. For whatever reason, a particular Saint appeals to us – possibly because of something they did, how they lived, what they are remembered for, because we took their name as our patrons at Confirmation, or for some other similar reason.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, gave us a broad reason for this, when he spoke on the feast of All Saints in 2019 –
“The memory of the Saints leads us to raise our eyes to Heaven: not to forget the realities of the earth, but to face them with more courage and hope.”
Personally, I have a small collection of favourites who have been there with me for a long time now – each one is dear to me for a particular reason, but the reasons are different for each of them.
First of all, there is Saint Bernadette Soubirous, who saw Our Lady at Lourdes. She was the first Saint I ever knew anything about, as I had an aunt who visited Lourdes on several occasions. There was a little picture of Bernadette in our home ever since my childhood and so it was inevitable she and I would become friends. Much later on, I had the pleasure of visiting Bernadette at her convent in Nevers, France, where I had the privilege to stay for several days with the Sisters on a couple of occasions. This allowed me the opportunity to spend time alone with Bernadette’s relics in the Chapel, and this is a memory I cherish. Bernadette appeals to me because of her simplicity and her devotion to the message of the Gospel, echoed in her experiences at the Grotto and later in her religious life at Nevers. She has also been a very good and trusted friend as the years have passed.
After Bernadette, come three children – brother and sister, Saint Jacinta Marto and Saint Francisco Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, who would go on to become a Carmelite nun, before her death in 2005. These three children saw Our Lady at Fatima. I came to learn of them – and of the appearances of Our Lady of Fatima – thanks to a bookstall at school many years ago, when I was about fifteen. I had never heard of Fatima until that point. I bought a copy of Lucia’s memoirs and was absolutely fascinated; not only by her account of the appearances, but by the lives of deep holiness which the children lived out, day after day. These children were greatly devoted to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whom they had the privilege to see. Their lives are proof that not only is the call to holiness truly universal, but it is also universally attainable – if only we will work at it day after day.
Next, there is Saint Faustina Kowalska, through whom we were given the Divine Mercy devotion. Out of the blue, Faustina made it her business to make her presence felt quite forcefully in my life, and she has remained in it ever since. She appeals to me because of her tenacity and her faithfulness to the mission entrusted to her, despite every obstacle that came in her path – and every one of which she overcame.
A Pope makes it onto my list – Saint John Paul II. He is the only Saint I have had the privilege to actually see whilst he was alive. He was deeply devoted to the Mother of God, and he was a Pope who placed a great emphasis on Fatima and it’s message, mentioning it often. He is also the Pope who brought the Divine Mercy devotion out of the shadows, placing it firmly in the light of the Church; he would later canonise St Faustina and give the Church the Feast of Divine Mercy. He was a truly good and holy man and I remember how sad I was that Saurday night when we lost him, as he had been with us for so very long. I did not doubt that he was a living Saint.
John Paul took his motto – ‘Totus Tuus’ (‘All Yours’) – from the writings of Saint Louis Marie de Montfort, who wrote the ‘Treatise On The True Devotion’, and ‘The Secret Of The Rosary’. Saint Louis is on my list also, needless to say. He is the great Marian scholar-Saint, living out the very thing he gives to us in his writings. I read his Treatise when I was about sixteen and it changed my life entirely, and continues to do so. Interestingly, Saint John Paul said much the same about the effect of this book on his own life – which is why he chose that particular motto.
A great favourite for many, many people is next on my list – Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. This ‘little’ Saint achieved a huge amount of good for souls – not because of what she did, but because of how she did it; that is, with great love. Obedience and love achieve great things in the order of grace as well as in the order of nature, and Thérèse is proof of this. A sign of her universal popularity is the ubiquity of statues in her likeness, found in almost every Catholic Church. And that popularity persists, if the vast numbers of people who thronged to honour her Relics here in Scotland recently, is anything to go by.
Nearing the end of this brief list is another personal favourite, although he is much less well-known (in this part of the world, at least) compared to all the others – Saint John Macias. John was a Dominican lay brother in Peru, where he died in 1645. Greatly devoted to the Lord and to the Mother of God, this love was reflected in his gentleness and in his intense love for the poor. He spared no efforts in making sure those near his monastery were fed every single day and he treated them with deep, deep kindness and reverence, as though each one was the Lord. Not surprisingly, the miracle that led to his canonisation was not unlike a certain other miracle, mentioned in the Gospel, concerning the miraculous feeding of a great many people. I admire John’s simple and deep faith and his intense life of prayer, this being the foundation of all else that he did.
Last but not least there is a man on my list who is not yet a canonised Saint – but I hope this will change one day. However, his Cause for canonisation is presently before Rome and he has been declared ‘Venerable’. His name is Matt Talbot. Although often associated with alchololism and recovery from it, this is not what attracts me to Matt; rather, it is his hidden life of deep and intense prayer, which developed and deepened after his recovery. Matt, like the others on my list, proves that all people have the capacity for true sanctity, if only we would comply with the grace of God and exercise the will to work towards becoming holy. Matt did precisely this; and in researching his life story, I am in no doubt that he posessed true and very deep sanctity. I pray for his eventual canonisation.
So this is a brief run-down of some of my favourite Saints, along with my reasons for listing them.
But what about you who read my list – who are your personal favourites, and why?