One of the psalm verses that recurs in our liturgical services is “God is wonderful in his saints, the God of Israel” (Ps. 67/68). Sometimes the word “saints” is translated “holy place,” because the original word is simply “holies,” which can mean holy persons, places, or things. Anyway, I want to say something about the saints today.
I find it to be a very wonderful thing about God that He is “wonderful in his saints.” By this I mean that God’s Kingdom is where his family lives, not just his infinitely inferior creatures who are mercifully welcomed to behold his glory. He has made us adopted children and, since He is a personal God (actually tri-personal), it is his will and his practice (as Scripture and the whole history of the Church amply demonstrate) to work with and through persons, be they angels or human beings. This is part of what it means for us to be members of the mystical Body of Christ. If that is not just to be a meaningless metaphor, we must accept that the saints, the holiest members of his Body, and hence the most like Him, are really his hands and feet and eyes in this world. So it should be no surprise to us that those He has already glorified are pre-eminently valuable and useful to God in accomplishing his will on behalf of his somewhat less eminent (and often severely struggling) members in this present world.
Of course, God’s most favored saint is the one He made Queen of Saints, the Immaculate Virgin Mary. I wrote a few things in my book, A Place Prepared by God, about the ways she has personally intervened in my life to bring great blessings to me. Here I’ll just quote a general passage about the Lord’s preference for working through the members of his body, particularly his Mother. “Somehow, one becomes closer to the Lord, without being aware precisely how this is being done, simply by becoming closer to Our Lady. She makes this happen when we give her freedom to take our hearts into her hands. Attaching ourselves to her has the pleasantly surprising effect of making obstacles to communion with Jesus vanish, in a way that we just can’t manage to do on our own… That’s what happens when you let Mary take you to Jesus.
“Some people object that you can just go directly to Jesus. To them I say: of course you can. But we also need to discover how God wants us, as unique individuals, to approach Him, for He deals with us uniquely. I had been going directly to Jesus for a long time, but I somehow wasn’t “connecting,” somehow couldn’t bear the fruit that his grace was supposed to supply. That is because He wanted me to go to Him by going to his Mother, and until I “got it” I would not have been able to overcome the barriers to my communion with Him. So he brought me to her, and her to me. She said, “Come to me,” and I did. My heart and soul then broke wide open, and I felt as if my life had just begun as it was meant to be. I believe that this whole experience is what St. Theophan the Recluse calls a “grace-filled awakening” in his book The Path to Salvation. It is more than an ordinary blessing from God or a certain help in spiritual life. It is a permanent, life-changing reality that sets one surely on the path to the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Here, however, I want to mention a couple specific instances in which other saints have recently and directly intervened on my behalf. Thus I’d like to encourage you to have recourse to their prayers and heavenly assistance. There was something that was afflicting me for many years, which I guess you could call a compulsive behavior. It was a minor thing, not sinful, but annoying, and all the more so because I seemed unable to do anything to correct it. It had become an ingrained habit; I guess you’d call it a nervous habit. Anyway, when I was reading the life of St Gemma a while back, and came to the chapter on her spirit of mortification, through which she practiced heroic self-denial, I just simply asked her in prayer: “Can you help me with this problem?” Her prayers are powerful and swift, let me tell you! From that very moment I simply stopped that compulsive behavior, and have not repeated it since, and that was well over a month ago. That may not seem like a long time, but if you’ve ever had some sort of nervous compulsion yourself, you know that this is a miracle! Such things don’t just instantly go away all by themselves, without any sort of therapy or psychological strategies. Just a prayer and instant healing!
Another thing that happened was also quite direct, though the answer I received was not the one I had hoped for. Still, I felt strangely at peace afterward, because it was manifested to me as God’s will. I was reading the life of St Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, a mid-19th-century Passionist brother (he died young, while he was studying to become a priest). St Gemma lived some decades after he died, and she also read his life and was attracted to his holiness—especially after he appeared to her from Heaven! It was because of his presence in St Gemma’s life that I was interested in reading his.
Well, there was another, and more spiritual, problem I’ve also been struggling with for a long time (I have lots of problems!), and as I was reading his life I discovered that he had suffered from a similar thing. So, I prayed and asked him to intercede for me that I would be delivered from it. Right after that, I went and prayed Vespers and Compline, and then I took up his biography again. I was astounded to see immediately the answer, in his own words: “You know that thing you asked me about? Well, it’s not God’s will. It’s a cross that God wants you to carry with you until you die.” That’s about as direct an answer as one can hope for! So rather than pray to be free from this cross, I just pray for the courage and strength to endure it in peace, so as to bear fruit for souls, which is likely the reason it is not being taken away. Things actually have been better since then, though it hasn’t gone away, but if I know this is part of God’s will, and his saints are still with me, then I know all will work for the good, and everything that ol’ devil throws at me will recoil on his own loathsome head and, as the psalmist says, he will be hurled back into the abyss, his designs and efforts thwarted.
Then, I turned to St Gemma and said, with a bit of resignation, “Well, my dear Gemma, I guess I’m not going to be delivered from this one.” She just looked back at me serenely from her picture and indicated that I ought to look at the Scripture passage I had noted from my reading earlier that same morning from First Corinthians: “Give thanks to God always, for the grace of God that is given you in Christ Jesus… who will confirm you unto the end… God is faithful…” So I knew then that if it is God’s will that I endure a particular cross until I die, I will be confirmed in his grace right up to the end, for He is faithful and doesn’t let us be tested beyond our strength.
These are just a couple examples of what God is pleased to do for us through his saints, if only we will ask their help. They can really be our friends, really walk with us along the hard and narrow path to the Kingdom of Heaven. God wants it this way, and we may find, as I recounted above, that God is waiting for us to ask Our Lady or one of the saints to intercede with Him before He will grant what we seek. This is my experience and that of countless others who have been blessed with friends from Heaven. Remember, life in God is a family affair, and He rejoices to get everybody involved!
I don’t want to leave out my beloved Guardian Angels, and there are more stories I could tell about their heavenly and most welcome assistance and protection, but that will have to wait for another time. Just don’t forget that God is wonderful in his saints, and his saints are ready to show us his wonders, if only we will ask them!