This morning, during the Mass (today is the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception) the priest said that Mary is the Mediatrix, namely she intercedes for us before Jesus Christ, the one Mediator… therefore I wonder why should we ask for a saint’s intercession if we can turn directly to the Virgin Mary, whose intercessory power is far greater than all of the saints together? To sum up, my question is: in times of trouble, is it useful to ask a saint for a grace? Why not pleading directly to Mary, who intercedes before Jesus in the most perfect way?
If yours is an affirmative answer, that is to say if you confirm that we should turn to the saints to receive graces, then I would like to ask you:
What criterion are we meant to follow to choose the saint to plead with? I mean, there are so many saints, why should I call upon a saint instead of another to ask for a grace?
Are there saints whose intercessory power is greater than the others’?
Some claim that certain saints are more suitable to intercede graces in particular areas; for instance: if one has an eye disease, he is meant to invoke Saint Lucy; whoever has a throat disease should beg the grace of Saint Blaise and so on. Others maintain that this is a legacy of paganism, as in pre-Christian times people used to call upon Neptune if they were to undertake a sea journey, to Mars if they had to go to war, to Diana if they planned to go hunting, et cetera. Which one is the truth?
I have been told that each one of us has a patron saint, is this true? If it is, had we better beg for the grace of our patron saint? How would I know who my patron saint is?
The priest’s reply
1. Yes, the Virgin Mary is the mediatrix of all graces, but she is also happy to see her children glorified by the Lord and have the power to bestow graces.
The patronage of saints is guaranteed in the Gospel when Jesus promises that He will say to his faithful servants: “Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy” (Mt 25:21).
2. Generally, saints are appointed patrons in the fields they had devoted themselves when they were down here. The first patron we have is the saint whose name we bear. That said, there is nothing to prevent anybody from picking out another patron saint according to his/her own needs. In general, people make reference to saints to whom the Church has assigned special patronages: Saint Thomas for theology scholars, Saint Luke for the physicians, Saints Cosmas and Damian for the pharmacists, Saint Francis of Sales for the journalists, Saint John Bosco for the youngsters Saint Louis Gonzaga for purity, Saint Rita of Cascia for impossible causes…
Anyone can elect as patrons the saints s/he prefers depending on the grace s/he has received or on the benefits dispensed by the saints on earth and in heaven.
3. We know that saints have different degrees of greatness because Saint Paul says: “The brightness of the sun is one kind, the brightness of the moon another, and the brightness of the stars another. For star differs from star in brightness” (1Cor 15:41). Nevertheless, we do not know who is greater, except for the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, to whom the Church renders respectively the worships of hyperdulia (above all saints) and protodulia (first among the saints).
You have a point when you say that the large case record that you have drawn up in the questions that I have cut shows traces of a superstitious mindset. Because the most important thing to do in order to receive benefits from the patron saints, besides praying, is imitating their virtues.
4. This patronage is recalled by Saint Therese of Avila in a very beautiful passage of The book of her life. She herself declares that she had singled out as her particular advocate and patron the glorious Saint Joseph.
I am quoting the whole extract because it is very beautiful and capable of kindling devotion:
“Since I saw myself so crippled and still so young and how helpless the doctors of earth were, I decided to go for aid to the doctors of heaven that they might cure me. For I still desired my health, even though I bore the illness with much happiness. And I thought sometimes that if in being well I were to be condemned, I would be better off this way. But nonetheless I thought I would be able to serve God much better if I were in good health. This is our mistake: not abandoning ourselves entirely to what the Lord does, for He knows best what is fitting for us.
I began to attend Mass and to recite devotional prayers that were highly approved, for I never cared for other devotions that some people practice, especially women, with those ceremonies, intolerable to me, but to them an aid for their devotion. Afterwards I came to understand that they were not suitable devotions but superstitious ones. I took for my advocate and lord the glorious Saint Joseph and earnestly recommended myself to him. I saw clearly that as in this need so in other greater ones concerning honour and loss of soul this father and lord of mine came to my rescue in better ways than I knew how to ask for. I don’t recall up to this day ever having petitioned anything to him that he failed to grant. It is an amazing thing the great many favours God has granted me through the mediation of this blessed saint, the dangers I was freed from both of body and soul. For with other saints it seems the Lord has given grace to be of help in one need, whereas with this glorious saint I have experience that he helps in all our needs and that the Lord wants us to understand that as He was subject to Saint Joseph on earth — for since bearing the title of father, being the Lord’s tutor, Joseph could give the child commands — so in Heaven does whatever he commands.
This has been observed by other persons, also through experience, whom I have told to recommend themselves to him. And so there are many who in experiencing this truth renew their devotion to him.
I endevoured to celebrate his feast with all the solemnity possible. But, in my desire to do so very carefully and well, I was filled more with vanity than with spirituality, though my intention was good. This was a fault I had, that if the Lord gave me the grace to do something good, what I did was filled with imperfections and many failures. In wrongdoing, curiosity, and vanity, I was especially skillful and diligent. May the Lord pardon me!
Because of my impressive experience of the goods this glorious saint obtains from God, I had the desire to persuade all to be devoted to him. I have not known anyone truly devoted to him and rendering him special services that has not advanced more in virtue. For in a powerful way he benefits souls who recommend themselves to him. It seems to me that for some years now I have asked him for something on his feast day, and my petition is always granted. If the request is somewhat out of line, he rectifies it for my greater good. If I were a person who had authority for writing I would willingly and in a very detailed way enlarge upon what I am saying about the favours this glorious saint did for me and for others. But so as to do no more than what they gave me the command to do, I will be briefer in many matters than I desire, more extensive in others than necessary — in sum, like one who has little discretion in anything that is good. I only ask for the love of God anyone who does not believe me to try, and he will see through experience the great good that comes from recommending oneself to this glorious patriarch and being devoted to him. Especially persons of prayer should always be attached to him. For I don’t know how one can think about the Queen of Angels and about when she went through so much with the infant Jesus without giving thanks to Saint Joseph for the good assistance he tem provided them both with. Anyone who cannot find a master to teach him prayer should take this glorious saint for his master, and he will not go astray. Please God I may not have erred in being so bold as to speak of him, for although publicly I am devoted to him, I have always been lacking in serving and imitating him. For he being who he is brought it about that I could rise and walk and not be crippled; and who I am used this favour badly. (St. TERESA OF AVILA, The Book of Her Life, in K. KAVANAUGH ocd, O. RODRIGUEZ ocd, translated by, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila, Institute of Carmelite Studies, Washington D.C., 1987, pp. 51-54.)
I wish you to benefit from the powerful intercession of many saints, imitating their virtues, so as to become a saint yourself, or, better, a great saint.
We all need it!
For this purpose I assure you my prayer and my blessing.