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The Celebrity of Sainthood

Matthew Harrison

Monday, April 23, 2007

St. Augustine of Hippo, a great doctor of the Church and a saintly hero to Pope Benedict XVIThis past weekend Pope Benedict XVI traveled to northern Italy to visit the cities of Vigevano and Pavia. In Pavia, the Holy Father visited the tomb of one of his heroes, St. Augustine of Hippo.
The Holy Father's visit reminded me of my early days in Toronto some years ago. It was my first time in the big city, and I was caught up in the novelty of famous people floating out and about, and making public appearances. I remember regularly heading to the studios of a popular radio station to try and catch a glimpse of, or snag an autograph from, my favourite musicians at the time.
I’m not exactly sure why I habitually did this. Maybe it’s because celebrities we see on television and in magazines often seem so inaccessible and to see one (as if they are a rare species) in person is some kind of monumental victory!
Contrast that with the true celebrities of our faith – the saints. The holy men and women that make up the great communion of saints are far more accessible than any celebrity I could watch on television or see plastered on magazine’s at the grocery check-out counter (and their lives are often quite a bit more edifying as well!). To have a moment with someone the Church has declared a saint is relatively easy. The obvious way is to pray for that saint’s intercession, and develop a relationship with that particular saint through prayer. If you're up for a more tangible experience, an encounter with their relics or visit to their tomb, like our Holy Father’s visit to St. Augustine's tomb this past weekend, is often possible as well. I remember being awestruck at the fact that I was able to kneel at the tomb of St. Albert the Great – St. Thomas Aquinas’ teacher – and pray to him. It was dizzying to consider that I could venerate something that was once St. Thérèse of Lisieux's! These encounters were far more satisfying than a poorly framed photograph, a nonchalant wave, or an awkward encounter ending with a scribbled name on a slip of paper!
Most people have a favourite saint (check out a few young people's favourites in our production Saints: Gospel Artists). So which saint has influenced you? Who do you have devotion to? Is there a particular saint who you always turn to in the time of need? We'd love to hear a comment from you about this -- just click on 'Comments' on the next line.

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