Saints to Know and Love

Anne Stricherz

4 Inspiring October Catholic Saints You Absolutely Must Know

It may still be ordinary time, but I like to think the month of October is an extraordinary time in the Catholic Church. Not only is it Respect for Life Month, it is also the month of the Rosary—two traditions that reflect the beauty and distinctiveness of Catholic Christianity. And so do the lives of the Saints. In “The Catholicity of the Church” Avery Dulles states “Hardly any practice is so distinctively Catholic as the cult of saints.” This month, we will recognize some of the most dynamic and magnanimous among them. Here are four October Catholic saints to celebrate in the weeks to come.

October 2nd: Feast of the Guardian Angels

As written in “Catholic Essentials: An Overview of the Faith,” saints are “holy ones” of God who live in union with God through the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit and whom God rewards with eternal life in Heaven.” Angels—in particular our Guardian Angel—fit the criteria. Like saints, we pray to them, seek their intercession with the Lord and this month, we honor them.

St. Basil the Great wrote “Beside each believer stands an angel and as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” I know this to be my Guardian Angel—a gift that   has protected me, shepherded me, and much more.

The Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church proclaims,

Every person received from God a guardian angel. It is good and sensible to pray to one’s guardian angel for oneself and for others. Angels can also make themselves noticeable in the life of a Christian, for example, as bearers of a message or as helpful guides. Our faith has nothing to do with the false angels of New Age spirituality and other forms of esotericism.”

However, our faith has everything to do with connecting us to God in personal, authentic and various ways.

When we profess “I believe in things visible and invisible” in the Nicene Creed, I think of my Guardian Angel; truly, I have felt it’s presence in my life. In recent years, I have sought to know more about this Angel’s role in leading me to certain people and places and away from others.

I recite a prayer to my Guardian Angel each day; as a child I offered that same prayer before bedtime each night. Perhaps you can start offering a similar prayer of your own for your Guardian Angel.

Guardian Angels: Pray for Us!

October 3rd: St. Thérèse of Lisieux

Blessed Mother Teresa of Kolkata took her religious name in honor of Thérèse of Lisieux, I desired to learn more about this wonderful saint. Commonly known as “the Little Flower,” I then wanted to know the story behind this name.

In May 1887, Thérèse approached her 63-year old father Louis, recovering from a small stroke, while he sat in the garden one Sunday afternoon and told him that she wanted to celebrate the anniversary of "her conversion" by entering the Carmelites before Christmas. Louis and Thérèse both broke down and cried, but Louis got up, gently picked a little white flower, root intact, and gave it to her, explaining the care with which God brought it into being and preserved it until that day. Therese later wrote: "while I listened I believed I was hearing my own story." To Therese, the flower seemed a symbol of herself, "destined to live in another soil.”

A simple flower symbolizes her rich spirituality. She believed every soul is similar to a flower. Some souls are magnificent and grand like the rose and others are simple and pure like the small white lily of the valley. And “The Little Way” characterizes her spirituality.

St. Thérèse of Lisieux sought to do small acts of charity and kindness with great love. She is an outstanding example of someone who did something we are all called to do. Her name and her status as a saint are simply drawn from how she lived her life.

It’s also worth noting that her mother and father Louis Martin and Marie Zelie Guerin were beatified by Benedict XVI in 2008. Their witness affirms that “The Little Flower” did not spring from rocky ground, but rich soil.

Rather than emphasizing how dysfunctional our families are, I wish we could look to the holy ones for their example. There is no perfect family, but I do believe there is a spectrum of those who love and live differently.

St. Therese of Lisieux: Pray for Us!

October 4th: Saint Francis of Assisi

I’ve always felt blessed that St Francis is the patron saint of the city where I live—San Francisco. At times, I feel as though I live in the 

world’s most popular city. Therefore, I should not have been surprised when I read that Francis is recognized as “the world’s most popular saint.” I hadn’t thought about who might hold this crown. It made sense and so did much more of what Jim Martin, SJ wrote in his book “My Life with the Saints.” The chapter on Francis of Assis, “Fools for Christ,” resonated with me further. Martin writes,: 

But as much as I found him a charming figure, my understanding of the world’s most popular saint was the rather sentimental one that is common today: as a sort dopey but well-meaning hippie who talked to birds. As Lawrence S. Cunningham notes in Francis of Assisi such a view is “most completely summed up the ubiquity of those concrete garden statues with a bird perched on the saint’s shoulder found in everyone’s garden center.” In this conception, Francis was cheerful no doubt, but also a little bland. “Such an understanding is coterminous with what I would call spirituality lite.”

Francis of Assisi is a good example of why the legends should never overshadow the actual life. For within his life, many surprises await those willing to meet Francis...

What anyone who reads about St. Francis may be surprised to learn is just how tremendous was his love for Christ, for all of creation, for the poor and for life. His conversion, travels, preaching and writings are testimony of this love. His great ability to love and to be loved, as cited in the prayer of St. Francis, makes him, well, lovable. 

And it’s good to see that the popularity of St. Francis remains. In 2009, the Franciscans celebrated 800 years of ministry. Francis' teachings about creation as a manifestation of God have impacted the Church's theology about creation such that Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis the patron saint of ecology in 1980. It’s no wonder that the first Pope to have invoked his name to the Papacy wrote an encyclical about this it too.

St. Francis, Pray for Us

October 7th: Our Lady of the Rosary

I consider the Blessed Mother to be the crown jewel of all saints. I believe the five-time Major League baseball All-Star and devout Catholic, Mike Sweeney, would agree. In the NCR article “Bringing the Church Into the World of Sports,” Sweeney said,

“If you want to see how to fulfill the will of God, look no further than Mary,” Sweeney said. “She is the first Christian, the ideal Christian and the Christian who brings Christ to all Christians. She has such an exalted position because of her humility in accepting and carrying out God’s will. We can learn so much from her life, which was a continual devotion to Christ. As the saying goes, ‘No Mary, no Jesus. Know Mary, know Jesus.’”

There are many ways we can “know” Mary; praying the Rosary is a wonderful way to do so for it connects us to Our Lady and it helps us learn more about her life and the life of Christ.

A beautiful article on Our Lady of the Rosary reads, 

The purpose of the rosary is to help us meditate on the great mysteries of our salvation. Pius XII called it a compendium of the gospel. The main focus is on Jesus—his birth, life, death and resurrection. The Our Fathers remind us that Jesus' Father is the initiator of salvation. The Hail Mary’s remind us to join with Mary in contemplating these mysteries. They also make us aware that Mary was and is intimately joined with her Son in all the mysteries of his earthly and heavenly existence. The Glory Be’s remind us that the purpose of all life is the glory of the Trinity.

The rosary appeals to many. It is simple. The constant repetition of words helps create an atmosphere in which to contemplate the mysteries of God. We sense that Jesus and Mary are with us in the joys and sorrows of life. We grow in hope that God will bring us to share in the glory of Jesus and Mary forever.

The beauty of the Rosary is that we can pray it anytime and anywhere. We ought to pray the Rosary year round. And yet, I appreciate that we recommit, highlight and emphasize it during the month of this special feast day for Mary.

Our Lady of the Rosary, Pray for Us!  

What other October saints do you love and find inspiring?