It can safely be said that Christians today — faced by a society that constantly works to undermine or discredit their moral values and beliefs — have more than enough moral problems and life challenges, but far too few spiritual role models. We are more technically knowledgeable and proficient than ever before, but perhaps less aware of life’s central issues, and more confused and uncertain in our response to them than at any time in recent history. This book represents a modest attempt to address this imbalance by drawing attention to those people who are uniquely qualified to teach us how to cope with the problems and difficulties of life: the saints.
By their spiritually successful lives, the saints can inspire us, encourage us, and give us practical wisdom and examples on how to cope with and overcome life’s challenges.
Some of the saints demonstrated the worst human traits and behavior, including anger, greed, lust, and numerous other sins — but, with the help of divine grace and through their own honesty, humility, and hard work, they became the best of people.
Contrary to what many of us usually assume, holiness did not as a rule come easily to the saints; it was an ongoing challenge and struggle, sometimes marked by failures and setbacks. Even as they were increasingly remade in the image of Christ, they remained all too human, with faults and quirks, temptations and weaknesses, and unique outlooks and personalities; they all had problems to solve, temptations to overcome, and difficulties and irritations to endure.
In other words, they were just like us . . . with one difference: they strove, in everything they did, to discover Jesus and to live as signs and servants of His Presence.
As the saints focused on the Cross, their rough edges were gradually smoothed out and polished, their faults overcome and transformed into virtues, and their human nature cleansed and renewed and glorified. This is the process that all of us must undergo if we are to enter into the perfection of Heaven. The saints, who have already traveled this path, are happy to help show us the way. This is most especially true of the Virgin Mary, our spiritual mother who constantly intercedes on our behalf. The Church urges us to turn to her in all our needs, no matter how great or small, for she, more than anyone else, is eager to help us to know and follow her Son, Jesus, and she — as Queen of All Saints — is able to obtain for us all the treasures of divine love and mercy.
In this book I have included many sins, temptations, problems, challenges, and life situations commonly experienced by people today, along with inspiration and practical advice from the example of the saints. Their holy example in facing life’s challenges will allow us to follow in their footsteps on the path to Heaven.
But the saints not only help us by their example; they also intercede for us. Scripture tells us that “we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” (Heb. 12:1) the holy men and women of every age who have gone before us and who, like the angels, now watch over us from Heaven and intercede on our behalf. St. Thérèse of Lisieux, known to us as the Little Flower, once wrote, “I believe that the blessed in Heaven have a great compassion for our wretchedness; they remember that when they were frail and mortal like us, they committed the same faults, endured the same struggles, and their fraternal love becomes greater even than it was on earth, which is why they do not cease to protect us and pray for us.” One of the underappreciated riches of the Catholic Tradition is the veneration it gives the saints and the encouragement it offers us to seek their prayers and assistance. St. Thérèse, who had stated that she would spend her Heaven doing good for those on earth who requested her help, is perhaps a spokesperson for the entire heavenly court in this regard. God is glorified when His creatures demonstrate true love for each other — and the saints are now, like the angels, capable of doing this in the most wonderful way, and they rejoice when we give them this opportunity.
So, in your daily struggle with your sins, weaknesses, and problems, do not merely rely on the inspiration and example the saints have left you, but pray to them, too, so that they may intercede for you before the throne of God.
The French author Leon Bloy wrote, “There is really only one tragedy in life: not to have been a saint.” In other words, if we do not travel the path of holiness — even if it begins only with our last breath on earth — we cannot experience salvation and eternal happiness. On Judgment Day everyone will be revealed as being completely and perfectly committed to Christ, or as wholly and unalterably opposed to Him. There will be no middle ground, and as the saints realized, each day we spend here on earth has eternal significance. Scripture urges us not to be “sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”(Heb. 6:12) This is vitally important advice — and I pray that this book will make it easier to follow.
Art for this post on solutions from the saints: St. Thomas Aquinas detail of All Saints – The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs, Fra Angelico, 15th century about 1423-24, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons. Cover of Saintly Solutions used with permission.