There is no denying that good friends are an important part of our lives. My close friends – those I have known since grade school, high school, or college and those who have been added to my life with every new duty station – are the rocks that get me through the day.
Without them, with whom would I swap recipes and babysitting hours? Or call every week when I find “the most amazing thing ever” on Pinterest? Or reminisce with about memories brought to mind by a great Throwback Thursday picture on Facebook?
But a few years ago, I realized I had another group of friends I had been taking for granted. These friends had always seemed distant to me and maybe I felt a little unworthy of their friendship. What finally opened my eyes to these friends was a book my mother-in-law sent me in a box full of paperbacks.
In the introduction to his book “My Life with the Saints,” Father James Martin, SJ shares his early skepticism about the saints – a feeling that praying to the saints was superstitious and an underlying sense that the saints were a group set apart, not relevant to our daily, and sinful, life and struggles.
What he shares in the following chapters, and what opened my eyes to this group of neglected friends, is his discovery of “companions among the saints – friends to turn to when I needed a helping hand.”
Reading his book made me curious – could I have friends among the saints? Did I already?
I had always taken great comfort and reassurance from the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, but Fr. Martin’s book helped me reframe my thinking so I could see St. Francis as a friend – the friend I turned to when I needed help doing God’s will and being more selfless. Wow! I had a friend who was a saint!
In the years since I read “My Life with the Saints” my group of saintly friends has grown.
Among the items in our welcome packet from St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lansing, KS was a small booklet titled, “Golden Counsels of Saint Francis de Sales.” It sat unread for months, until I grabbed it last minute as I walked out the door for adoration one morning. After visiting with Jesus about my recent feelings that I wasn’t on the right path, I opened the booklet to a section on God’s Will.
“Here is the most important point: find out what God wants, and when you know, try to carry it out cheerfully or at least courageously…even if it means performing the most menial tasks in the world the rest of your life, because whatever…God chooses for us, it should be all the same to us,” I read.
Well, if that isn’t great, friendly advice and wisdom! Since that day, St. Francis de Sales has been a frequent companion of mine, imparting his very down-to-earth wisdom to me in times of need. He also helped me realize that the saints were people like us who faced very normal daily struggles and that I didn’t have to feel unworthy of their friendship since we are all worthy in God’s eyes.
Another saint came into my life during a time of fear. After my husband left for his first deployment since the birth of our children, I found myself facing each night with worries about our safety. After praying my nightly prayer for peace and protection for nearly two weeks, I realized that each time I said the prayer I pictured St. Michael the Archangel standing guard at the top of our stairs.
“Well, hi there, friend!” I thought.
Other saints have become good friends, too — saints I turn to for struggles in motherhood or being a wife or a friend. I recently rekindled a long-neglected friendship with the saint whose name I took for my confirmation name.
Fr Martin writes, “God is his wisdom has also given us these companions of Jesus to accompany us along the way, so why not accept the gift of their friendship and encouragement?”
I am so glad I did!
“Life With The Saints” contributed by Kim Miller.