This edition of 7 Quick Takes will focus on seven saints. Let us begin with…..
…..Saint Nicholas. We recently celebrated his feast day on December 6. This saint may be more well known as Santa Claus but was first an important bishop in the the fourth century who attended the Council of Nicea and was known for his generosity. While studying in the Holy Land as a seminarian I was told many stories by the people of Beit Jalla of how St. Nicholas had protected the people there from the violence of war.
St. George is my patron saint. I chose to take his name at my confirmation and I think this is really more of a story of a saint choosing me, rather than my choosing him. Every time I learn something new about this saint it seems to illuminate my own life’s journey, be it through current victories, struggles or defeats. St. George is a reminder to me that much of the Christian life is a battle against sin and temptation and that with God’s grace, we can be victorious.
I only recently came upon the story of St. Mary of Egypt, but she is now one of my favorite saints. She lived for seventeen years as a prostitute and decided one day to board a ship carrying pilgrims to the Holy Land. She made her way there seducing men as they journeyed and was upon arriving was kept from entering the Church of the Holy Sepulchre by some unknown force. Seeing an icon of the Theotokos, she prayed outside the church and underwent a conversion experience. Soon afterward, she went to live in the desert as an ascetic. You can read the entire story at the link below.
St. Francis of Assisi has long been a favorite saint of mine since first learning of the story of his life. Growing up I never really paid that much attention to him as I had the false noting from holy cards and birdbaths that he was simple a saint who like to frolic around in the woods with flowers and birds. Then during my first year of college I discovered the true story of this saint and was blown away. The three knots seen on the rope of the franciscan habit represent the promises of poverty, chastity and obedience that are meant to combat the all too common temptations of seeking after money, sex and power. I was fortunate to have been installed pastor of St. Thomas on the feast of St. Francis.
Saint Ignatius is another one of those saints who started out down one path and ended up following quite another later in life. I try to keep his prayer for generosity close to my heart.
Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous. Teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost; to fight and not to heed the wounds; to labor, and not seek to rest; to give of myself and not to ask for reward, except the reward of knowing that I am doing your will.
St Bernard of Clairvaux is one of the great spiritual fathers of the West. His sermons on The Song of Songs some of the most amazing commentary on Sacred Scripture and the spiritual life I have had the opportunity to read. Below is a short passage from the third of his eighty-six sermons on this book of the Bible.
You have seen the way we must follow, the order of procedure: first, we cast ourselves at his feet, we weep before the Lord who made us, deploring the evil we have done. Then we reach out for the hand that will lift us up, that will steady our trembling knees. And finally, when we shall have obtained these favors through many prayers and tears, we humbly dare to raise our eyes to his mouth, so divinely beautiful, not merely to gaze upon it, but (I say it with fear and trembling) to receive its kiss.
St. Anne is my last saint to comment about. I remember being struck by the icon of the birth of Mary when visiting St. Anne Church in Jerusalem. I didn’t quite understand everything in the icon at the time, but it was striking to see a vision of holiness expressed in an ordinary human thing like giving birth to a child. In the icon I remember thinking St. Anne looked worn out, and that those attending to Mary looked happy to be able to hold new life in their hands. Something one often sees in iconography is several different related scenes presented within one icon. In this one you can see Sts. Anne and Joachim embracing in a window above St. Anne on her bed. This is another icon that represents the conception of Mary. That’s right, even sex is considered holy by the Church when placed in its proper context.
Thanks for stopping by for another edition of 7 Quick Takes. Be sure to also stop by Conversion Diary to see other bloggers’ quick takes.