Many of us desire, with the help of the Holy Spirit and for the greater glory of God, to lead others closer to God; to help renew a zeal in those who have grown lukewarm, and to bring the light of faith to those who dwell in darkness.
The best advice for how to do just that can be drawn from the saints — the great cloud of witnesses that surround us and whose intercession we seek.
This May, in honor of Mary, Queen of All Saints, let us take a few minutes to listen to words of wisdom from Our Blessed Mother and some of her holiest fans. There’s no better “self-help” than what they can offer us as we strive unabashedly to become saints ourselves.
Here are four saints of May to admire, along with advice for your life, in their ownwords. These saints offer very specific guidance on how to lead other souls to God. So meet an exiled bishop, a humble friar, and a comedic priest — all who join Our Lady of Fatima in helping you, this May, prayerfully lead others to God.
May 2 — St. Athanasius
St. Athanasius, who died in 373, is one of the four doctors of the Eastern Church and is called “Champion of Christ’s Divinity,” because he famously fought against the Aryan heresy, which denied the full divinity of Christ. As bishop in Egypt, St. Athanasius was repeatedly exiled for defending the Nicene Creed. While in exile, he discovered comfort in a great kinship with the work of St. Anthony of the Desert. St. Athanasius wrote the biography of St. Anthony of the Desert.
How often do we ask ourselves how we can more effectively preach the truth to others?
St. Athanasius advises, “The holy and inspired Scriptures are sufficient of themselves for the preaching of the truth.”
To follow this advice, let us spend time each day reading Scripture, whether we open our Bible, read or listen to the Divine Office, or sign up for The Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike Schmitz. The more we familiarize ourselves with and steep ourselves in the holy Scriptures, the more we will know what to say to lead other hearts closer to God.
May 13 — Our Lady of Fatima
May 13, 1917, was the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to the three shepherd children — Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco. Although there were multiple apparitions, May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima on the Church calendar. The seers were mere children, playing together, when they first saw Our Lady appear, “more brilliant than the sun.”
Mary exhorted them on this date to “pray, pray very much. Make sacrifices for sinners. Many souls go to hell, because no one is willing to help them with sacrifice.”
Our Lady also asked the three shepherd children, “Do you wish to offer yourselves to God to endure all the sufferings that He may be pleased to send you, as both an act of reparation for the sins with which He is offended and an act of supplication for the conversion of sinners? Well then, you will have much to suffer. But the grace of God will be your comfort.” And then, Our Lady added, ‘Pray the Rosary every day to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war.’
And so Our Lady’s advice on how to help souls is to pray the Rosary every day, and offer up sacrifices for sinners. Do we take that opportunity every day? Why not offer up a daily chore or little, loving sacrifices while praying the words our Lady of Fatima taught us, “O Jesus, it is for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation of the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
The advice of Our Blessed Mother on how to help souls is clear: “Pray the Rosary every day.”
May 20 — St. Bernardine of Siena
We read earlier that St. Athanasius was “Champion of Christ’s Divinity,” and so too did St. Bernardine of Siena, who died in 1444, also lovingly point to the divinity of Christ.
A famous Franciscan preacher, Bernardine is famous for spreading devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. He reconciled those at odds with one another; helped save souls through his ardent preaching, and inspired many priestly vocations. A humble priest, he was three times offered to be made a bishop and all three times he refused. After preaching for fifty days in a row, he died, having truly spent himself for the Lord.
St. Bernardine of Siena gives awesome advice for how to lead souls closer to God, and it is through wishing them well and loving them:
“For the love of God, love one another. Do you not see that if you delight in the ruin of one another what will come upon you because of this? Amend yourselves for the love of God.”
May 26 — St. Philip Neri
St. Philip Neri (1515-1595) is a patron saint of joy and laughter and was known to be a superb teacher who led by example, as well as with humor and humility.
His joyful energy drew people from all walks of life closer to God. He received many mystical graces, such as on the eve of Pentecost when a globe of fire entered his mouth, an unfathomable love for God overwhelmed him, and a physical swelling appeared over his heart.
Yet despite these graces, he remained humble and didn’t take himself too seriously. He would famously wear his cloak inside out, and even shaved off one half of his beard to make people laugh while practicing humility.
St. Philip Neri spent long hours listening to confessions and died after he had heard confessions for eight hours. He reminds us that as we teach our young people about the faith, we must combine devotion and diligence in prayer with a humble joy in the Lord. So let us be fools for God and for everything holy!
St. Philip Neri is the patron saint of the Catholic Homeschool Conference so if you or someone you know homeschools or wants to consider it, why not learn more about teaching at home in a spirit of great joy, just as St. Philip Neri did!
In the words of St. Philip Neri, “A joyful heart is more easily made perfect than a downcast one.” So when we are evangelizing, teaching our kids, or trying to lead anyone closer to God, let us remember to do so from a place of authentic joy in the Lord.
Saints of May, as we seek and follow your advice, pray for us! And in the words of a time-honored, prayerful aspiration that is said to accomplish just what it asks when prayed with devotion, we pray, “Jesus, Mary, I love you! Save souls!”