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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twenty One Saint Everyone Must Know III - I


XXI - XIX Saints Gregory the Great, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp
XVIII - XVI Saints Jerome, John Chrysostom, Elijah
XV - XIII Saints Therese of Lisieux, Teresia Benedicta, Teresa of Avila
XII - X Saints John of the Cross, Benedict of Nursia, Thomas Aquinas
IX - VII Saints Sultana Mahdokht, Dominic, Monica
VI - IV Saints Augustine, John the Apostle, John the Baptist

St. Paul
 3-St. Paul (5 AD – 67 AD) [Martyr]
The “Apostle to the Gentiles” has seen his share of “trouble,” “hardship,” “persecution,” “famine,” “nakedness,” “danger” and “sword” (Galatians 2:8, Romans 8:35). While others boast in their lineage and all matters that pertain to the “flesh,” St. Paul finds all these “rubbish” for the sake of “knowing” Christ (Philippians 3:8).  His sole desire is to “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering” (Philippians 3:10). Pain is not something that an average person would seek. Rather, only those who have tasted the profound and intense love of Christ can wish to share with His suffering. Victory cannot be achieved without a fight, nor can any prize be won without a struggle. Eternity is no different. It is “through many hardships” that “we enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The suffering we experience in our lives serves many purposes given that we suffer for righteousness’ sake. One purpose is that “suffering produces perseverance; perseverance produces character; and character produces hope” (Romans 5:3,4). In turn, “hope” in Christ “will never put us to shame” (Romans 5:5). St. Paul thinks that suffering “for Christ” is “granted” to us as a gift and not a punishment (Philippians 1:29). Of course, that does not mean that we suffer aimlessly. Instead, we unite our suffering with Christ’s pain on the cross to “fill up” in our “flesh what is lacking in Christ’s affliction for the sake of His Chruch” (Colossians 1:24). Indeed, it is a great gift and privilege to suffer with Jesus for the sake of the salvation of humanity. In this sense, all those who suffer with Christ are co-redeemers because they participate in His sacrifice on the cross.  This is the ultimate purpose of suffering in a believer’s life. The tiniest pain a person undergoes is magnified a hundred fold when it is united with Christ’s suffering on the cross for the salvation of souls. We “glory” and “rejoice” in our sufferings knowing that our eternal reward is far greater than the biggest pain in our lives (Romans 5:3, Mathew 5:12). Having said all this, it would be foolish to attempt to understand anything that St. Paul has written without seeking his help and his intercession. His writings “contain things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” (1 Peter 3:16). For this reason, anything St. Paul has written is not meant for “private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20).  Instead, we must “keep the traditions” that he “passed down” to us, whether orally, “by word of mouth,” or in his writings through his “letters” (1 Corinthians 11:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:15).  Throughout the centuries, St. Paul has been a great teacher and preacher.

St. Peter
2-St. Peter the Apostle (1 BC – 64 AD) [Martyr]
The first Pope who is ordained by Our Lord is definitely a worthy servant of God whose intercession we should beseech at all times (Mathew 16:18). St. Peter knows from experience that we human beings are frail, flimsy and fragile. For this reason, he “rejoices” every time he sees a sinner standing up again and resuming his fight for his salvation (Luke 15:7). In fact, he is more than willing to help you back up on your feet and “encourage” you when you find yourself empty of any strength to bear your cross (1 Peter 5:12). The interesting thing about St. Peter is that he is not just the first Bishop of Rome, but also the first bishop of a very important See, the See of Antioch, which has had a tremendous influence on the Christian school of thought. When Our Lord gives Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven,” He is making a direct reference to an incident that takes place in the Book of Isaiah (Mathew 16:19). During the reign of Hezekiah, Shebna’s poor performance and selfish pursuits as the “steward” of the King’s household incurs God’s punishment on him (Isaiah 22:15). God promises that He will “depose” Shebna “from his office,” and install a new steward over the “master’s household” (Isaiah 22:18,19). The new steward is Eliakim son of Hilkiah, who is given the “key to the house of David,” and “what he opens, no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Isaiah 22:22). Christ expresses the identical sentiment towards St. Peter when he gives Peter the “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Moreover, Christ clearly says that “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Mathew 16:19). This is a key passage to understanding the nature of Peter’s relationship with Our Lord. God is the Master, and the Church is His household. Christ give Peter the “keys” to indicate that St. Peter is the steward of God’s household, the Church, which is a clear indication that St. Peter, as Christ’s steward here on earth, has a primacy over the House of God, the Church. In the year 64 A.D, the flames devour Rome, and Nero attempts to find a scapegoat that will bear the blame. He uses this incident to rid Rome of all Christians. St. Peter finds an escape route, and he flees the persecution that Nero hurls down at Christians by crucifying them. On his way, St. Peter encounters the risen Lord walking the opposite direction, towards the city of Rome. He poses a question to the Risen Christ using the same words from John 13:36, “Quo Vadis,” (where are you going) to which Our Lord answers “Romam vado iterum crucifigi,” (I am going to Rome to be crucified again). Seeing this, St. Peter gains the courage to go back and face crucifixion. However, he feels unworthy to take the cross in the same posture as Our Lord. Instead, he chooses to be crucified upside down.

Blessed Virgin Mary
1-The Blessed Virgin Mary (late 1st c. BC – early 1st century AD)
Our Holy Mother is the Queen of all Saints. Her powerful intercession on our behalf is never rejected or turned down by the Blessed Trinity. She plays a special role in the Salvation History. She brings Christ into this world willingly (Luke 1:38); she will happily take your pleas and your petitions to Him. If you’re looking for Scriptural proof, look no further than the wedding at Cana (Click here and here). As soon as the wine runs out, she intervenes and petitions her son and her God to perform “the first of his miraculous signs” (John 2:11).  Of course, in order for our prayers to be answered, first we must follow her advice and “do whatever He tells” us (John 2:5).  The Immaculately Conceived “woman” is so powerful that “flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, an earthquake and a great hailstorm” announce her appearance (Revelation 11:19, 12:1).  Satan knows the privileges she enjoys in heaven, which is precisely why he will convince you to stop saying your Hail Marys.  After his failed attempt of destroying the holy “Mother” of the “Lord,” he goes “off to make war against the rest of her offspring – those who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus” (Luke 1:43, Revelation 12:17). As a result of God’s love for us, He does not leave us without a heavenly mother. Rather, He gives us Our holy “mother” as a wonderful gift for us to enjoy her maternal love and care (John 19:27). Often times, Catholics make a claim that seems to dismay our Protestant friends. We think that “She will crush” the “head” of the “Serpent” (Genesis 3:15). St. Jerome uses “She,” referring to the Blessed Virgin, in the Protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15), when he translates the original text into Latin during the 4th century to indicate the one who will destroy Satan. Of course, he does not mean that Mother Mary has powers of her own and through her own strength she overcomes Satan. Instead, it is by her obedience and submission to the will of God, who uses her to fulfill His plan of salvation, that she is able to crush Satan under her feet. Through her cooperation with God’s salvific plan, Our Holy Mother participates in the act of Redemption of mankind. God chooses her to bring about Christ on earth, who in turn saves mankind through the cross. Having this enormous privilege, which no other human being has even come close to, the Blessed Virgin enjoys a special intercessory powers that no other Saint has had or ever will have. Do not be afraid to ask Our Holy Mother for her prayers because she loves you more than your earthly mother will ever be capable of loving you. This “woman,” who is prophesied about in Genesis, gives birth to the Saviour willingly and generously (Genesis 3:15, John 2:4, Galatians 4:4). No other character, aside from Our Lord, did the Scriptures refer to more than the Theotokos, the Mother of God. I’ll be sure to revisit her again in some future blog post.

This concludes the list of Saints that everyone must know and whose intercession we must all seek. May the prayers of these holy men and women protect us from all harm and guide us into eternal joy with Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 

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