It seems that almost every blogger out there is currently engaged in writing about the year in review. When I was on a blogging community (Livejournal), I used to reflect on the past year as well. However, I would like to do something different this year and write about a custom that has been spreading like wildfire across the Catholic blogosphere: selecting a patron saint for the year.
It used to be the custom in convents and monasteries around Europe that the monks and nuns would select a patron for themselves by drawing his or her name out of a selection of holy cards. According to this custom, we do not necessarily choose our patrons on our own, but they select us. St. Faustina, the apostle of the Divine Mercy devotion, wrote about this custom in her diary and so did Maria Augusta von Trapp (of “Sound of Music” fame).
I first became aware of this custom when I saw that certain Catholic bloggers had patron saints for the year. Of course, I wasn’t surprised. A person can have as many patron saints as he or she needs. Yet I was completely mystified by how people come by the saints that they do. So I decided to investigate.
During the course of my investigation, I found a number of blogs that had featured the saint for the year devotion. Most of them recounted what the devotion was and featured an extract from St. Faustina’s diary. In the comments, one could request a saint. Also, some of these blogs featured testimonials about favors being granted through the intercession of saints and how wonderful the devotion was.
I really wanted to make a request myself, but found that I had missed the deadline since it was the First Sunday of Advent (the first day of the liturgical year) and not January 1 (the first day of the civil year). I was discouraged and decided to pray about it.
A couple of days later, I was arranging holy cards in my copy of “The Raccolta” and matched the cards to prayers to certain saints. I found that I had a beautiful holy card of St. Paul of the Cross that I had found in a book months earlier. I placed it next to a prayer in his honor and left it at that. Throughout the day, I kept thinking about St. Paul of the Cross and looked on the internet to find out about him. The more I read about him, the more I realized that St. Paul was my patron for the year:
St. Paul of the Cross (April 28th) was born in Italy and cherished a devotion to Our Lord’s Passion since his earliest years. Since childhood, he frequently meditated and mortified his body with night vigils, fasts, and flagellations. On Fridays, he drank vinegar and gall. As a young man, he yearned for martyrdom and wanted to join an expedition against the Turks. God, however, had different plans and St. Paul became a priest. After his ordination, St. Paul founded the Congregation of the Passion (Passionists) whose purpose is to meditate on the Passion of Our Lord and to preach Our Lord’s Passion in order to convert hardened sinners. Like other saints, St. Paul faced many hardships in his establishing his order and yet his work increased a hundredfold. St. Paul of the Cross died in 1775 and was buried in the Church of Sts. John and Paul. (Excerpted from “The Church’s Year of Grace, Vol. 3.”)
In reading his life, I have come to realize that St. Paul of the Cross reminds me of another great 18th century saint: Alphonsus Liguori. Like St. Alphonsus, St. Paul was called by God to revitalize the Church. Both founders established preaching orders that sought the conversion of sinners and those that had not otherwise heard the Lord’s Gospel. Like St. Francis and St. Dominic, St. Paul and St. Alphonsus fulfilled an important need in the Church: to preach the love of God to everyone, even those that would otherwise reject it.
The Passionists themselves are among one of the strictest orders in the Church. It has been written that St. Paul envisioned the Passionists living a life that was close in rule to that of the Trappists, but also had the spirit of the Dominicans. Therefore, the Passionists are a contemplative order that center their lives around the Divine Office and yet they are also active because they go out into the world to preach and to give retreats.
Indeed, God’s works are mysterious and our patrons are sometimes those saints that we least expect. May God bless us to know more of His chosen ones in this new year and may He bless you abundantly.
Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!
St. Paul of the Cross, pray for us!
St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!