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WE PRAY TO SAINTS BECAUSE WE ‘NEED OUR HEROES’

Whatever your troubles may be, there’s a saint who can help

By Christopher Randall     9/26/2017

If you’re reading this story on the Internet, well, yes, there’s a saint for that: Isidore of Seville. The scholar, widely regarded as the last of the Fathers of the Church, tried to record everything ever known. In 1997, Pope John Paul II declared him the patron saint of the Internet. 

If you’re reading the printed version of this story, yes, there’s a saint for that, too. Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in place of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz, is the patron saint of journalists, among other things. 

There are tens of thousands of saints in the Catholic Church, many of them patron saints — ones chosen as special protectors or guardians over areas of life, such as jobs, illnesses and causes. 

Some are very popularly known, such as St. Michael (protector of police officers) and St. Christopher (protector of travelers and more). 

Which begs the questions: Why do we pray to saints for their intercession with God? Why not just pray directly to God? 

“Humanly speaking, we need heroes,” says Fr. Christopher Heath, pastor of St. Hedwig Catholic Church in Los Alamitos. “We all want to look to people we believe lived the same type of life we’re living, who suffered the same maladies, etcetera. The reason people hone in on certain saints is because it reminds them of something about themselves.”  

That’s why there are saints who protect cattle (Perpetua), photographers (Veronica), waiters (Zita), comedians (Genesius of Rome), judges (John of Capistrano) and even one assigned to help those going through divorces (Helen). 

The ability of the dead to pray for the living is alluded to in Scripture in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). 

Father Chris notes that when we pray to saints, we are not worshipping them. “Saints can pray for us, but they can’t save us,” the pastor noted. “Only Christ can save us.” 

When Father Chris was in the seminary, he wasn’t an immediate lock for advancing to the priesthood. So he prayed to his favorite saint: John Vianney, the patron saint of parish priests. “I turned to him as a seminarian and said, ‘Come on, John,’” Father Chris recalls with a laugh.  

He eventually was ordained — in 1988 — and assigned to Queen of Angels in Newport Beach. At the time, St. Vianney Church on Balboa Island was attached to Queen of Angels as its mission.  

“It was like he (St. John Vianney) was tipping his hat to me,” Father Chris says of his first pastoral assignment. 

On a spiritual level, we are connected to the saints (and angels) through Christ, Father Chris says. 

“The Church promotes venerating saints,” he adds. “We want to stay in touch with these holy people. That’s why people go on pilgrimages. They want to stay physically connected to their heroes.” 

Here are some O.C. parishes named after saints: 

 

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