We Needs the Saints

by Catherine Doherty

What joy November brings to us with the feast of All Saints!

Hidden saints, humble saints, canonized and uncanonized saints, saints for each one of us. Saints for every state, every walk in life. Saints who are one with us in faith in the Communion of Saints, in the Mystical Body of Christ.

How we of this century need them! We the lonely ones, the lost ones, the forgotten ones, the brilliant and the unbrilliant, the leaders of nations and the lowliest of their people.

We who are burdened with fears, who walk in the twilight of two worlds—one dying, one yet unborn, we who are deafened with the voices of hell that serve up lies in an endless babble, who live constantly staring at the face of Death in ever changing and more horrible forms, we need the saints.

We need the saints to lead us into the quiet, forgotten regions of our own hearts where God dwells to teach us the serenity and peace that come from looking at the face of God in the silence of our hearts.

The saints who bring us courage to keep on loving in the midst of hate and to keep on speaking the truth and living it, in the midst of a world drowned in lies.

Saints to whisper to us the simple yet hard ways of loving God back constantly, ceaselessly, patiently, unfalteringly, and to prove our love to him by loving our neighbor.

We need saints today to show us the immensity of the small humdrum tasks of our daily lives done over and over again for love’s sake.

Saints to teach us faith, trust, abandonment to God’s holy will, obedience that folds the wings of its judgment and intellect, love that leads us to attach ourselves to the Lord of hosts with an undivided heart.

November is the month of the dead, but it is also the month of those who live gloriously in that eternal life and love of God’s eternity!

During November, let us pray—both for our dead and to our saints. And especially let us pray to the saints who are our own special friends.

Do you have friends among the saints? I do. Let me tell you about three of them, three men whom I love deeply, and about how our friendship began. The first is:

St. Augustine

This friendship began tempestuously, for its background for me was war and revolution. This revolution was not only political, but religious. Edicts went out that anyone worshiping God, going to Church, teaching, or in any way practising religion, would be put to death.

Of course, that made most Christians realize more vividly the pearl of great price that was theirs.

Calvary began to reveal all its awesome significance. The Cross glowed vividly before tear-filled eyes and its mysteries became clearer. It assumed its true role of leadership and, far from renouncing it, we clasped it lovingly, knowing with a certainty that we had never possessed before, that it was our only refuge and the sign of our salvation.

When there are revolutions, for those against whom they are made, time hangs heavily on their hands. For all normal activities, business, and work are at a standstill. And you spend that sudden abundance of time trying just to keep alive, wondering all the while if death or prison awaits you. And if you don’t take your mind off these questions, you are almost certain to lose it.

In our house we had a wonderful library. But to my seventeen years it had seemed before this, kind of austere. The very solemn aspect of the room used to sort of get me down, bringing drab memories of school and studies.

But revolutions have a way of playing havoc with conceptions and values. So I began to haunt our library, began even liking its severity of furnishings.

The fateful morning of my life on which I was to meet my new friend, dawned drizzly, gray. After a breakfast of bread and water—in order to forget it, I went to the now friendly library, and stretched out of my hand, almost instinctively, to a book I knew I had placed on the third shelf.

I got it, but it was not the same book. Instead it was one called The Confessions of St. Augustine.

Idly I perused the first page. Four hours later, I knew I had a new friend, the tempestuous, passionate St. Augustine.

Before my startled eyes unrolled a new world. He had the key to it, and he opened its doors to me, turbulently, impatiently.

He just grabbed hold of my hand and with what looked like giant strides, made me walk some of its broad vistas. It must have been providential, our meeting I mean. For I had just emerged from a war, in which I served in the capacity of a nurse’s aide, but due to a nurses’ shortage at the front lines.

From a sheltered Christian home, I had been plunged, without transition or proper preparation, into the crucible of war, into life and death, both violent, and come face to face with sin in all its ugly, unrestrained nakedness.

I was thrust into the human hell of the Communist Revolution. Who but St. Augustine could bring order out of that chaos? And he did.

Tearing off the veil of his soul for me. Revealing the giant battles that went on in it—against the world, the flesh and the devil. Giving pointers, answering unspoken but urgent questions. And through it all singing the mercy of God.

It was just what I needed to know in that time of revolt and bloodshed, when Hell is loose and is moving in serried ranks to make its home on earth for a while.

St. Augustine walks and talks with me today. It is he who helps me to deal with the sorrows, the sins, the devil, the flesh and the world, that all come to Friendship House* at one time or another.

It is he who teaches me to distinguish the sin from the sinner. Reveals the thousand disguises the Prince of Evil assumes. Helps me to throw them and him out. Yes, St. Augustine is always near.

St. John Bosco

My next friend I met when a friend of mine was making a novena to Our Blessed Lady and invited me to come with her to church. I had never been to this particular church before and was curious to see it. So I went along, not expecting any excitement.

I finished my prayers before my friend did, so I left her at them and began wandering around admiring the lovely statues, windows, and architecture.

My wanderings brought me to the vestibule and the pamphlet rack. Idly I thumbed through a few of those, when suddenly a new name caught my eye, and for no reason at all a thrill went through me. “John Bosco, Patron of Youth.”

I picked up the little book, paid for it, and my friend joining me, went out.

That night St. John Bosco and I talked into the wee hours of the morning. Through that pamphlet, he told me all about Italy and about the boys he had worked with—forgotten, tragic, neglected boys.

He chuckled at some memories, wept at others, and through his words, God came back and back again, in a new light, a tender light, a light of mercy, gentleness, and understanding. Christ and youth stood revealed in all their affinity.

It is no use denying it. I fell for John Bosco and fell hard. For many days and nights thereafter, we talked about youth and God, the poor and God, the slums and God, until all the strange dreams and desires that had been stirring in my soul, crystallized themselves, and I began to see my vocation in life, for I was twenty-seven now.

Death, exile, destitution, the first hard years of manual labour, of poverty, temptations and doubts were far behind me.

I had reached again a comfortable place in this new and gracious land of America. I was making good money, but my heart was heavy with unspoken, unfulfilled longings, my soul restless for the mansions of the Lord, my mind in a turmoil of dreams and desires to serve him. But where? How?

For one thing was, always had been, clear—I was not called to religious life, but nevertheless wanted to dedicate myself wholly to God.

That is why I think my picking up that pamphlet had been engineered in heaven. St. John Bosco crystallized my desires. He showed me the first step on the way I was to travel and am still travelling.

He, as it were, gave me the compass bearings on the sea of life. Pointed to the Port I had to reach, and offered to be my guide on the unknown waters which he knew so well.

St. John of the Cross

Of this third saint friend, I can write little. He is not easy to write about. Maybe some day, when I know him and his ways better, I will try.

He was introduced to me by a mutual friend, St. Teresa of Avila, the great contemplative who was to become the patroness of the lay apostolate, Friendship House style.

I had heard about St. John of the Cross, read about him—in her life. But I only got to really know him a year or two ago, and as I said—he is not easy to write about, for he walks alone and meets one only in the deep shadows of one’s soul. But I do know that he will never walk out of my life, that he has come to stay.

I am slowly getting to understand him. He speaks only through silence. So I am learning to be silent, and somehow silence is hard to put into words.

As yet I do not know how. But one never can tell, maybe when I talk more to St. John of the Cross, I might learn.

All I know is that I love him, and with all my heart I want to listen to him, because he has the words that open secret and hidden paths to the Lord. And I will continue to listen. It is not easy either; one has to learn how to. He will teach me; he always does.

St. Augustine, St. John Bosco, St. John of the Cross. Just three of the men-saints in my life. There are others. Women, too. I love them all. Each has and is teaching me how to love Love, who is God. I never will be able to thank the Good Lord enough, the Lord who I know, brought them into my life! May His Holy Name be blessed forever and forever. Amen.

*The apostolate Catherine Doherty started before Madonna House.

This article was excerpted and adapted from two different sources. The introductory part is from Restoration, November 1954, and the rest is from an article, “Men in My Life” in St. Anthony’s Messenger, July 1945