In celebration of the Feast of All Saints today, allow to me make a case for what I believe in.
I became a Catholic by chance, meaning I was born to a Catholic family in a Catholic-dominated country and was therefore baptized as one. I remained a Catholic by choice. However, I am not blindly following and ingesting all Catholic teachings and traditions. I am well aware that Catholicism isn’t flawless, just like any other religion. But that doesn’t and shouldn’t stop me, or anyone else, from at least respecting what the Catholic Church teaches.
If there are things I do not completely embrace about Catholicism, sainthood isn’t one of them. I must admit though that it isn’t always an idea I openly welcomed. Why would Catholics pray to saints? Aren’t they just humans? Isn’t that against the First Commandment of God? Why need saints when there’s always our God?
As I grew older, I have come to realize why the Catholics actually do venerate “saints”.
For one, they serve as models of the Church and its people. They are epitomes of unfaltering faith. They are those who never stopped fighting for their beliefs and for their God despite all the hate, the persecution, and the violence. They were oppressed, they were stoned, they were crucified, they were killed. Our saints and martyrs never backed down in defending their faith and spreading the Word of God even when the rest of the world would have understood if they ever did.
Usually, saints are patrons of something that is largely connected to their personal lives. St. Thomas Aquinas is the patron of all universities and of students as he himself was a brilliant student in his younger years. St. Ezekiel Moreno is the patron of cancer patients as he died while courageously battling this disease. St. Rita of Cascia received visions and wounds on the forehead resembling the crown of thorns in the midst of her chronic illness. After her death, miracles through her intercession were instantly reported, and she was canonized as the patroness of impossible causes. She is also a patroness for abused wives and heartbroken women as she was a wife and mother who made efforts to convert her husband from his abusive behavior. Having saints to run to makes us feel that we are not suffering alone, that our pain is shared and understood.
We have our saints because they have led holy and righteous lives we all need to know and to remember. Truly, there are saints who were not always the “good” people, St. Paul being the perfect example. But in the end, it was always their faith that prevailed. Saints differ in religious order, in upbringing, and in the way they evangelize. What’s common about them is that they all died for God and for their faith, and their martyrdom allows us to live our lives for the very same cause. And we are not exactly praying to them as we are praying through them, through their intercession.
The Catholic Church is far from perfect. But it isn’t the hypocritical, autocratic, and inflexible institution many critics have claimed it to be. I chose to be a Catholic because I know that it is in Catholicism that my faith grows and blossoms. And I also know that Catholicism isn’t for everybody. Some of us can find the growth their soul needs in another religion or spiritual group, or even in not having one.
At the end of the day, the truth we should all recognize is this: God’s Love goes way beyond someone’s preferences, sexual orientation, religion and even lack thereof. Our part is to continue to grow in faith and in love, and to listen and to understand with an open mind and a loving heart.