The Growing in Holiness article series shares the stories of Catholics in the Diocese of Parramatta who are striving to grow in holiness through the means provided by the heritage of the Catholic Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph 2013: “All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity.” (LG 40 § 2) All are called to holiness: “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48)
Jean Seah has had many adventures with the saints, such as running away to join a convent after graduating from law school. After testing a vocation she studied the liberal arts at Campion College in western Sydney and now works as a social media manager.
The saints provide Jean with prayer, guidance, inspiration and consolation.
“Saints are great friends, Christ like examples and fabulous prayer partners,” Jean said.
Jean’s parents introduced her to the saints in early childhood with a book detailing their many adventures of faith.
“I have always enjoyed reading about their exploits,” Jean said.
“Did you know that St Vincent de Paul was kidnapped by pirates, sold into slavery in Tunisia, found a lapsed Catholic Frenchman, restored him to the faith and escaped with him in the dead of night?” Jean asked.
She points to the magnificence of God’s work in the lives of His saints: “How monotonously alike all the great tyrants and conquerors have been: how gloriously different are the saints! (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)”
Novena prayers are one way to call on the intercession of the saints. This means praying a prayer nine times, usually over nine days.
“Sometimes I pray novenas leading up to a saint’s feast or other special day,” Jean said.
Her many saint companions include Blessed Ivan Merz, a Croatian patron saint of World Youth Day, St Anne and St Thérèse of Lisieux.
“St Thérèse is known for sending roses when you pray to her, and throughout every day of the novena, I saw roses everywhere I went!”
Jean will ask particular saints for their intercession in their areas of patronage, relating to their earthly life. Current favourites include St Isidore of Seville – patron of the Internet, St Scholastica – patron of bad weather and St Anthony – patron of missing things.
Jean’s life was missing a boyfriend, so St Anthony came to her aid while on pilgrimage to the Holy Land this year.
“I made an earnest prayer to St Anthony in the Church of the Wedding at Cana, asking for his help to locate my husband, if it was God’s will that I marry.”
“When I returned to Brisbane, I met my boyfriend at Mass in QUT.”
Prayer to the saints is not worshipping them, Jean added carefully. Worship requires sacrifice; such as the perfect Sacrifice of the Mass.
The practice is scriptural, with references such as Hebrews 12:1 about the intercession of the saints as the ‘Cloud of Witnesses’ urging Catholics on to Heaven.
Devotion to the saints is only acknowledging God’s work in His people’s lives.
“God is the Lord of the living, not the dead, and those in Heaven are truly alive in Him,” Jean said.
“Nothing unholy can exist in Heaven, which is communion with God.”
Jean calls on all Catholics to renew their devotion to the Communion of Saints in the Mystical Body of Christ; i.e. the Church.
“As a Catholic, you belong to the Mystical Body of Christ not only on earth but also in Heaven. You are never truly alone.”
“Satan is the loneliest being in the entire universe because he has cut himself off from Love.”
“This is why it’s so important to practice penance, prayer and fasting, to gain indulgences and pray for the holy souls in Purgatory.”
The saints have been cleansed by God’s redeeming fire of Love, Jean said.
“However, when you look at how badly the saints stuffed up, and how they managed to become holy by the grace of God, you can be more motivated to keep striving to live a holy life.”