I think we need to start praying to the regular saints. If a saint is, as the Catholic Church defines the word, anyone who has died and is in heaven with God, there are a lot more saints up there than the few famous ones the church has canonized. Heaven must be filled with regular folks who led very good, and in many cases, exceptional, lives but might not have had friends in high enough places to recommend them for canonization by the Church here on Earth. The Church recognizes them anonymously, in the “Communion of Saints,” but let’s face it — people like St. Therese, St. Anthony and St. Francis are the celebrities of the Catholic Church. Everyone hoping for a favor rushes to them to put in a good word to Jesus.
I have decided that all these other unknown saints, who are in just as much of a place to pray for us, should be just as much of a part of our daily faith as their more famous counterparts. While I don’t know the names of these saints, I can guess at their professions, and I have to believe they must take a special interest in things going on here on Earth that are connected to their professions.
Take all the saints who were teachers or principals during their tenure on Earth —how many people call upon them? What a powerful group of saints. If we have a child who is struggling in school, shouldn’t we pray that a saint who was a teacher intercede for our child? That teacher-saint probably knows better than anyone what our child needs, and can be a firm ally.
I have prayed to social worker saints for “T”, a child who used to be our foster daughter and is now going through a hard time. I’ve also prayed to the all parents in heaven who made some bad choices on earth but who now see the error in their ways. I am currently praying that together, the social worker-saints and the parent-saints figure out what would be best for T, and advise God accordingly. I imagine a big meeting, where, since this is heaven, everyone is listened to and everyone is giving ideas truly in the best interest of the child.
I’ve prayed to saints for things that seem trivial — very human concerns that I can’t quite see bothering Mary or Jesus about. I’m not sure if I believe that for the small stuff, the saint is interceding on my behalf or if saints can just take care of small things themselves. When Jacob pitched for the first time this year in the little league majors, I figured that somewhere in heaven was a kid named Jacob who had played little league. Sheer numbers and the popularity of the name Jacob told me he had to be there. “St. Jacob the Pitcher,” I prayed silently from the bleachers as my Jacob stood on the mound, “just let him do okay. He doesn’t need to be amazing or strike everyone out, but for his first time, just let him do okay so he doesn’t feel he let his team down.” Jacob pitched a no-hitter for the innings he was in, and struck out the best hitter in the league. I thanked St. Jacob the Pitcher. I didn’t call on him again that season until the play-offs when I just needed him to help Jacob get a hit in the last inning when there were already two outs. Jacob hit a grounder and made it safely to first. I didn’t ask for a win, though, and Jacob’s team lost, but I feel it’s important not to be too greedy.
I’ve prayed to plumber saints about clogs and author saints when I needed a title for my book. I’ve prayed to doctor saints for an aunt who has a serious health problem, and mechanic saints when it was 30 below zero and our van wouldn’t start 250 miles from home. And I prayed to all the saints who struggled with cancer when a dear friend of mine was diagnosed. Does everything always turn out the way I want? Of course not. But praying to these unknown saints gives me a sense of the amazing community of believers I am a part of. It reminds me that the millions or billions of people in heaven are mostly people not so different than the people I see around me. It reminds me that the folks I come in contact with each day — the grocery clerk, the mailman, my next door neighbor — are souls who might one day be saints. Praying to saints makes me think of all the very much alive people I know who are so quick to lend a helping hand. During difficult times, praying to these ordinary saints helps me remember that our time here on earth is just a small slice of eternity. Important, yes, but not the final word.
In our relationship with God, we can only glimpse what those who have gone before us can now see fully. Our friends, our relatives, our neighbors, and many, many people we haven’t met, are living with full knowledge of God’s love. They stand ready to guide us in our journey — eager to help us find the place they know so well. They have walked the very roads we walk now, and they understand what it is to struggle and be human. They stand ready to help. We only need to ask.