Getting to know the saints—or letting them get to know us—involves more than learning facts about them. We want to develop a relationship with them. Just as being a good neighbor requires that we know more than a neighbor’s address, developing a relationship with a saint means more than knowing the saint’s date of birth, feast day, what he or she is the patron of, and other biographical details.
Perhaps the best way to get to know a saint is to pray with her or him. I offer the following meditation to guide you in praying with the saints.
Before you get started, bring to mind a particular saint. You may already have a patron saint or another saint to whom you feel close. If that’s not the case, that’s OK; there’s nothing wrong with picking a saint at random or praying with the saint of the day. (They’re all good; they’re saints, after all.)
Once you have a saint in mind, you will need some reading material related to the saint. If you have access to the actual writing of the saint, perfect! If not, having brief biographical information about the saint will work well too. You don’t need much material; just a few paragraphs will do.
The meditation that follows has five steps: Center, Read, Share, Rest, and Imitate. Before starting, find a prayerful space where you can be alone with the Lord.
Center. Rest in the quiet of your sanctuary. Ponder the following Scripture verse until you feel calm, free, and at peace: “May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light” (Colossians 1:11–12). Spend a moment giving thanks for one or two things for which you are grateful.
Read. Invite your chosen saint to pray with you by reading some of that saint’s writings or by reading a brief biography about her or him. Read the text slowly. You are not reading for comprehension; rather, you are waiting to hear from the Holy Spirit.
Share. What stands out to you from what you’ve read? Maybe it’s just a word, or maybe it’s a phrase or sentence. Imagine that you are sitting with the saint, talking to each other as two close friends. What does this word, phrase, or sentence mean to your saint? What does she or he tell you about following Christ?
Rest. Sit in the silence with this word, phrase, or sentence. If your mind wanders, that’s OK; gently return your focus to the word, phrase, or sentence that grabbed your attention.
Imitate. What wisdom from this saint helps you understand your own unique call to discipleship? Share any insights with the Lord. How will you be Christ to the people you encounter today? Ask the Lord for any grace you might need to follow his call, and give thanks to the Lord for spending time with you and your chosen saint. You may like to close with the Lord’s Prayer, the Hail Mary, the Glory Be, or one of your saint’s favorite prayers.
You can use this meditation with any saint. Over time, you may find that meditating on a specific saint will lead to feelings of consolation. If this is the case, consider that an invitation to learn more about the saint and her or his charism. You might even be receiving a call to follow this saint more closely and enter religious life.
The saints are more than the heroes of our faith or role models for holy living. They are people who care for and love us, who actively lead us to follow Christ. When we take the time to get to know them, we are learning about our own unique call to do what they did: live as if the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
Bob Burnham is a Secular Franciscan and a spiritual director. He works as a freelance editor and writes about the spirituality of commuting on his blog www.mtransit.org. He lives with his wife Cathy in Bartlett, Illinois.