Why do Catholics venerate the saints? It is a common question for those who are unfamiliar with devotions and statues, medals and icons. Is not our focus to be on Jesus? Don’t the saints get in the way of that single-minded trust in God’s grace alone? In answer, Pope Francis notes:
The aim of this Apostolic Letter is to increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.
Indeed, the proper mission of the saints is not only to obtain miracles and graces, but to intercede for us before God, like Abraham and Moses, and like Jesus, the “one mediator” (1 Tim 2:5), who is our “advocate” with the Father (1 Jn 2:1) and who “always lives to make intercession for [us]” (Heb 7:25; cf. Rom 8:34).
The saints help all the faithful “to strive for the holiness and the perfection of their particular state of life.”. Their lives are concrete proof that it is possible to put the Gospel into practice.
Jesus told us: “Learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:29). The lives of the saints too are examples to be imitated. Saint Paul explicitly says this: “Be imitators of me!” (1 Cor 4:16). By his eloquent silence, Saint Joseph says the same.
Before the example of so many holy men and women, Saint Augustine asked himself: “What they could do, can you not also do?” And so he drew closer to his definitive conversion, when he could exclaim: “Late have I loved you, Beauty ever ancient, ever new!”
Saints do not distract us from Jesus, but draw us to the One they also loved in human ways, in the range of human circumstances and vocations, in both joys and sorrows, labors and contemplation, married life and celibate life. The saints show us the human imperfection we experienced healed, guided, and remade by God’s grace. We do not honor them for themselves, but for what God has done through them.
How has your appreciation for St. Joseph grown this year? What part of his life would you most like to imitate?