Anyone raised in a Catholic home knows some of the “Catholic shortcuts” to life.
One of them, of course, is to ask St. Anthony of Padua for help in finding lost things. I definitely have called upon his help (although my mom swears that after I disposed of one of her crumbling statues of St. Anthony he is no longer in the business of finding things for me).
Of course, the Catholic obsession with the intercession of the saints can border on the superstitious. Since joining the convent, I have regularly worked in our Pauline Books and Media bookstores. People constantly come into our stores asking for a statue of St. Joseph to bury in their yard in order to sell their house. I try my best every time to urge the person to pray a novena to St. Joseph rather than buy a cheap plastic statue and bury it upside down. They usually seem hesitant because my advice defies the “magic formula.” When it seems fruitless, I sigh and say, “OK, if you must buy the cheap statue, please, for the love of St. Joseph, put it in your window, and don’t bury it upside down!”
As a former atheist, I don’t have much patience for this kind of superstition. I think it is nonsense and it doesn’t help us sell the idea that faith is reasonable in a cultural milieu that rightly finds this kind of thing absolutely ridiculous. The intercession of the saints is not some magical incantation or formula. The intercession of the saints is a relationship. It’s community. It’s friendship. It’s the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
It’s common sense.
If you needed to get a message to your father in another state, would you call your sister who lived next door and ask her to relay the message? Our obsession with efficiency leads us to respond to this kind of explanation with, “But why not just call your father directly?” Certainly we can call upon God at any point for anything. He is always listening. But heaven is a bustling place, filled with holy souls, and the Kingdom of Heaven is not just about you and God, it’s about community. This is one, perhaps inefficient, lesson in the Catholic’s reliance on the communion of saints. The saints want to help us and God lets them because they’re our heavenly extended family.
Here are five ways I call upon the saints in my everyday life that you might find useful too!
1. When you need help parking: “Mother Cabrini, don’t be a meanie, please help me park my machinie.” I learned this little ditty from some Dominican priests who swear that Mother Cabrini helps them park their cars anywhere. Of course, you can ask any of the saints to help you with parking. I always ask St. Paul. This is a good way to connect with your favorite saint and it opens up the mundane aspects of our life to heaven.
2. When you’re feeling like a wimp: Whenever you are feeling less than courageous you can call upon a certain brusque, resilient saint for help. Padre Pio spoke his mind and was definitely not a shrinking violet. I always call upon him when I need an extra dose of courage. Try it out, it works!
3. When you need to pass a test: St. Joseph of Cupertino can help with schoolwork because, despite his serious academic difficulties, he managed to pass his tests simply because of the divine wisdom he learned through prayer. St. Catherine of Alexandria is another saint you can ask for help in this area. She was so learned that it is said that as a teenager she argued the faith with 50 pagan philosophers… and she won.
4. When you need to laugh: When things are getting too serious and you feel like you need a humorous lift, call on St. Philip Neri. He always brought joy and levity to those around him. We could all use more laughter and joy in our lives, especially in the United States as the election draws near (oy, vey!).
5. When you’re just desperate: When you’re feeling completely frantic, upset, or angry and you need help in responding to something in a mature way, ask for Mary’s help. Mary is the saint par excellence. She is the intercessor par excellence. Mary, the mother of God, has her son’s ear (Jn 2:1-11). And we can count on her to come through in our most desperate of times.
If you have any “Catholic shortcuts” that you use to ask the saints for help, share them in the comments!