The Saints: Our Empathetic Brothers and Sisters
Coming in at the heels of Candlemas Day is another feast that again features blessed candles, the optional memorial of St. Blaise, bishop and martyr. This time the candles do not focus on light but on health. Since about the 8th century the Church has blessed throats in honor of St. Blaise asking for his protection against "every disease of the throat and from every other illness."
St. Blaise is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, the saints both collectively and individually invoked against different physical ailments, particularly the symptoms of the Black Plague. The devotion to the 14 saints developed in the 14th century in response to the "Black Death" that ravaged Europe and wiped out an estimated 75 to 200 million people, about 30-60% of the population. Honoring these saints as a group has waned in recent centuries, and in the 1969 calendar reform, the collective feastday and some of the saints who had historical difficulties were removed from the General Roman Calendar.
While the world is not currently fighting a pandemic, turning for help is a universal human response during tribulations of life. We all have our little everyday battles and crosses. And beyond our daily strife are those extra sufferings along the way.
Christians look for empathy in dealing with crosses in life. Through our baptism we become adopted children of God. This means the saints in heaven are not just friends but family -- our brothers and sisters. We are looking for saints who have walked a mile in our shoes, saints who knew these particular sufferings personally. We hope to find empathy and intercession for help either in cures, alleviation, or just help bearing the weight of the cross.
In my own life I find myself looking for understanding and compassion particularly through my family. I have 4 sisters and 2 brothers and have a different relationship with each siblin. Whenever I need to vent a frustration, ask a favor, look for advice, cry on a shoulder, share an interesting tidbit or joyful moment, I choose the family member who will understand and listen the most. And the sibling changes with each situation.
And just as in real life, I look to saints, also my brothers and sisters, that can be the most help in my current situation. Over the years our family has built up an arsenal of empathetic saints who will help and listen to us in our times of need. Some of the saints our family turns to frequently:
- I personally seek aid from St. Anne (and the Blessed Virgin Mary) in help being a better wife and mother especially in my daily work.
- We ask St. Joseph for intercession for our family, and help for my husband as spouse and father. Besides those areas, St. Joe is kept busy in our house for all the fix-it or home improvement projects around the house. Perhaps he's not the patron of plumbers, but he's come to our aid many times! We also invoke him during carpentry projects, big and small.
- St. Anthony is invoked daily for finding lost items.
- My recent teeth pain and root canal reminded me to implore a little help from St. Apollonia, patron of against dental problems.
- To help me keep the presence of God in my daily work, especially in my home duties, I pray to St. Martha and St. Josemaria Escriva.
- When we're fighting squash bugs and other calamities in the garden, St. Isidore the Farmer is the first saint that comes to mind.
- For help in our studies and home education, I often turn to St. Thomas More, not because he is the patron of students, but because he taught his daughter, Margaret, very well and wisely.
- Recently I learned I had a genetic heart condition that required open heart surgery. St. John of God, patron of heart patients AND book lovers was the perfect fit and helped me through surgery and recovery.
- St. Matthew is the saint for my husband and his profession as a CPA.
- In all our musical pursuits: singing, chanting, piano and organ playing, teaching and directing we turn to Gregory the Great and St. Cecilia.
- For patience and learning to hold my tongue I often ask St. Jerome for help.
- And then there are the saints who we know will listen and intercede for us just because we have a common bond through our names. Anthony and Gregory are family surnames, and then the individual name saints of the family members. These saints are invoked every day.
There have been many more situations that brought a new saint to the forefront who would be empathetic to our need. As time progresses I'm sure there will be new ones to add to our family treasury of saints.
Truly it is such a blessing to have these brothers and sisters who are ready to listen and pray and intercede for us. The saints walked this earth and experienced the same crosses as we face today. They know, and can empathize with us and help us. So who is in your family arsenal of saints?
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