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During Lent, our attention understandably focuses on personal repentance and conversion of heart. The practice of asceticism that severs our attachment to the world and the celebration of the Sacrament of Penance help us to enter into the depth of personal communion that the Lord wants to share with us. However, during Lent we also want to be mindful of the great company of saints who assist us and encourage us in our passage into divine life. The saints are not simply marvelous heroic examples of how to live the Christian life wholeheartedly. The saints are companions who serve us with intense love and who continue to labor for souls from their place in heaven. In the middle of Lent, we interrupt the austerity of Lenten purple to put on the white of celebration and praise on the Solemnities of Saint Joseph and the Annunciation to Mary. By recalling these two holy figures, as well as all those united to the Trinity in eternity, we entrust ourselves to their care, and we invite them to help us mature into the fullness of holiness. United to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they minister to us in our own desire for total abandonment into the Trinity’s life.
It is important for us to contemplate the lives of the saints during these weeks of Lent, because this season asks us to look beyond the present world to the glory of heaven, our true and lasting home. By turning our gaze heavenward, the saints rescue us from too narrow a vision concentrated upon the world. They orient us to the truth that we must remain for our whole lives on pilgrimage into ever deeper communion with God. The saints protect us from settling too comfortably into this earthly life or from becoming too preoccupied with fitting into contemporary culture. They awaken our hearts to a deeper thirst than the world can satisfy and help us to cry out to the Father to satisfy that thirst. God has created us with a desire for heaven—for intimate, unceasing union with Him and with others. No matter how strenuously we try, we cannot satisfy that desire on our own. The saints teach us the humility and the confidence to allow God to bring about the deep desires that we carry but are out of our reach. The Father, who has instilled such yearning in us, wants to satisfy our thirst with the gift of Himself. The saints give powerful witness to the exquisite beauty of a life in which God can accomplish whatever He wishes.
The saints possess enormous wisdom. They have preceded us in the battle of spiritual purification. They have rejected the logic of the world so as to live fully in the mentality of the Kingdom of God, as flesh and blood icons of the Beatitudes, each in their own unique way. As they share now in Christ’s victory, the saints are still engaged in building up the Kingdom of Christ. They offer us their protection, and they share with us what they have received from the Lord in their own conquest over sin. They aid us in growing in prayer. They reveal to us the tactics of the enemy. They encourage us to trust in the Lord, especially in moments of pain or sacrifice. They tutor us in the wonder of God’s way of loving and serving. They bless us with hope. Saint Joseph, for example, forms men today to be husbands and fathers who are totally offered to those in their household. Saint Joseph helps priests in particular to live their celibate vocation as a total self-gift as he did in Nazareth, all the while living an intense contemplative life. Mary takes into her heart the entire Church, especially the poorest, to care for them with the same love with which she accepted Jesus.
In this Lenten season, what saint do you feel particularly close to? Whose life speaks to you of the wonder of holiness? Which saint accompanies you now in the spiritual combat as you strive to belong completely to God? Ask for their intercession. Befriend the holy ones and feel their love for you as they help you to make your journey home to share in their joy.
Meditation written by Fr. James Rafferty