During a recent break in Portugal I explored the local towns like most holidaymakers do. Inevitably this meant visiting churches, many of which were no longer open for worship but simply well-preserved monuments to a past time and practice.
One of my holiday companions was a non-Catholic who was forever asking me about the statues of saints which adorned these very beautiful churches. I quite enjoyed showing off my knowledge to him, recalling many stories from my childhood about the heroic acts of the saints. It was an interesting exercise for me as well as for him, I hope, as once more I came to realise how very important our saints are to us as Catholics.
These heroes of our faith are our friends and have an active role in heaven of interceding for us. This idea of the intercession of saints was new to my friend who thought we believed that saints had powers of their own – and who was quite surprised when I explained that any favours we receive through our prayers to a particular saint always come from God.
Of course, if we believe in a spiritual life then it is reasonable to think that friendship and love continue beyond this life, and that is why we ask them. My friend liked that idea, and I got the feeling that saints for him were no longer lifeless statues or images but new friends he was anxious to get to know better.