Throughout my chaplaincy training I needed to seriously re-evaluate my Catholic faith. My fellow chaplains were Protestants of various denominations and challenged me. My connection to my Catholic Church was limited to my children attending Catholic schools and my own online theology studies. I did not have a support system of other Catholics where I “belonged” besides attending mass.
My biggest problem with being Catholic was the canonized Catholic Saints. I did not feel that it was right to keep the bones of deceased people as relics and display them publicly to be worshiped. I was uncomfortable with the Catholic mystics St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila and all their “darkness.” Of course my fellow Protestant chaplains shared my uncertainty.
What I learned was that there is a big difference between what our Catholic theology teaches and how it is understood by the common Catholic in the pew. Most Protestants observe the Catholics in the pew and do not study Catholic theology. The common Catholic in the pew can twist our faith to be very superstitious. God and the Saints are not “lucky charms” that get us what we want! That is an immature childlike understanding of both God and the people who loved him with their whole being.
Catholic canonized Saints are not perfect! It is in their imperfect, human person that God has taken up residence in the form of the Holy Spirit. Catholic canonized Saints lived lives that convince us that God really exists and cares about His creation. Catholic canonized Saints loved when loving was not easy. They thought about God throughout their day. They cared about what God wanted more than what they wanted. They made choices that were in line with what God teaches in Sacred Scripture. Some Catholic Saints would be considered mentally ill in today’s world, but their lives shined brightly with the light of the Holy Spirit.
Whenever a Catholic takes the time to read about a canonized Saint, or sees a Saint’s relic, what they should be praying is, “Dear Lord, if You used this person to do Your will on earth, You can use me too! God I give you my life. Amen.”