How can Catholics living in these depraved times strive for holiness – which is what all of us are callled to, regardless of our state in life – when the whole world seems to have given in to the devil?
Much prayer and penance are certainly necessary, and, it goes without saying, God’s grace (and our cooperation with it). But we are also blessed to have glorious examples of Christian life, faith and virtue in the numerous Catholic saints – holy men and women who, following our Lord and his teaching, worked for His greater glory and for the salvation of souls. They lived and fought for the Truth, in many cases sacrificing everything, including their very lives, in defense of the faith and the Holy Mother Church.
Devotion to the saints is an important part of our faith. (For any non-Catholics: we venerate and honor the saints, but do not worship them; worship and adoration are reserved for God alone. By honoring His saints we ultimately give glory to Him. Veneration of saints and martyrs, and of their relics, is an ancient practice going back to the very first centuries of the Church.) We pray to the saints for intercession; that they, who are glorified in Heaven, may supplicate and intercede on our behalf before God to help us obtain the graces we need.
Furthermore, the saints are the best role-models for us who are still struggling here on earth, trying to live holy lives in order that we too may one day be united to God in heaven. The world has their own ‘heroes’ and role-models… who, in selling their souls for temporal rewards and pleasures, safely lead their followers on that shiny, wide road to hell. They must not be our heroes!
God calls us to be holy… and He gives us the saints to inspire and guide us. They, who in their own lives experienced difficulties and struggled with weaknesses as we do, yet succeeded in achieving sanctity, have traced out for us the path to heaven; we must imitate them in putting God first, bearing (and offering up) our crosses, and always doing His Holy Will.
Reading biographies and writings of saints helps us to keep our focus on God and our ultimate goal (salvation). Their examples of faith, virtue, courage, perfect love of God and total abandonment to Him show us how we, too, can overcome the obstacles, use our sufferings and work for His greater glory in our own ungodly times. They prove sanctity is possible and achievable for every one of us – if only we want it!
Butler’s Lives of the Saints is a good source for concise biographies. Online entries can be accessed here: The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints. (Audio and text files can also be found at LibriVox.)
Countless traditional Catholic writings and biographies of Saints, Church Fathers, Doctors and Popes can be found online – have a look at the Free Traditional Catholic Books page.
Some of my favorite Saints are listed below (click on the name to read a brief biography).
St. Pius V, Dominican friar, Pope, confessor, defender of Europe at Lepanto
St. Charles Borromeo, cardinal, archbishop of Milan, Apostle of the Council of Trent and Counter-Reformation
St. Alphonsus de Liguori, bishop, confessor, founder, Doctor of moral theology
St. Vincent Ferrer, Dominician preacher, missionary, confessor, ‘Angel of the Apocalypse’
St. Athanasius, bishop, patriarch of Alexandria, Doctor of the Church, defender of the Faith against Arian heresy
St. Augustine, bishop, confessor, Doctor of the Church
St. Ambrose, bishop, confessor, Doctor of the Church
St. Gregory the Great, Pope, confessor, Doctor of the Church
St. Leo the Great, Pope, confessor, Doctor of the Church
St. Pius X, Pope, confessor
St. John Vianney (Cure of Ars), confessor
St. Padre Pio, Capuchin friar, confessor, mystic and stigmatist
St. Andre Bessette (Brother Andre), the Miracle Man of Montreal
St. Bernardine of Siena, Franciscan preacher, confessor, ‘Apostle of Italy’
St. John Capistran, Franciscan preacher, confessor, ‘Soldier Saint’
St. Nicholas of Tolentino, Augustinian friar, confessor
St. Peter of Alcantara, Franciscan friar, confessor, mystic
St. Bernard of Clairvaux, abbot
St. Martin of Tours, bishop, confessor
St. Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Leon
St. Louis IX, King of France
St. Philomena, virgin and martyr
St. Gemma Galgani, virgin, mystic, stigmatist
Bl. Alexandrina Maria da Costa, virgin, mystic, victim soul
St. Veronica Giuliani, virgin, mystic, stigmatist
St. Margaret of Cortona, penitent
St. Lydwine of Schiedam, virgin, mystic, victim soul
Ven. Maria of Jesus of Agreda, virgin, mystic
St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila), virgin, foundress (Discalced Carmelites), Doctor of the Church