Saintly Societies

Saints come in groups.

Did you ever think about that?

Perhaps it can't really be used as a universal statement - but as a general rule, if you find a saint, chances are there's another one somewhere nearby.

Take the early Church, for example. It was a community practically built up of saints, and many if not all of these saints knew each other. Mary. The Apostles. Mary Magdalene. Joseph of Arimathea. Lazarus. Martha. Stephen. Paul. Barnabus. Titus. Timothy. And the list goes on. And on. And on.

That was very natural, of course. Christians were a small group back then, seen as an eccentric sect, and you kind of had to stick with like-minded people if you wanted any friends. When Christians left their saintly communities to travel into pagan ground, they made the pagans into Christians, and the Christians then became saints. Simple, right? Exactly what you'd expect to happen.

And it kept happening. Not only in the beginning but all throughout history, saints tend to come in packages rather than alone.

During the Roman Persecutions....

Martyrs naturally strengthened their fellow Christians to remain true to Christ to the death...and, quite often, ended up taking their family and friends with them to Heaven. Before her martyrdom, St. Cecilia managed to convert both her husband Valerian and his brother Tiburtius (I love those names, don't you?) to the Catholic faith. They paid the price for their religion in blood. St. Perpetua and St. Felicity were martyred together. St. Sebastian converted a large number of pagans before his death. St. Agnes had a foster-sister who was later martyred, St. Emerentiana. (For more on St. Sebastian and St. Agnes, I highly recommend the novel Fabiola, by Cardinal Wiseman. Not sure how fictionalized it is, but it makes for a top-rate book.)

In the 4th Century...

Where would St. Augustine have been without St. Monica, the mother who prayed him into holiness? Or without St. Ambrose, the kindly bishop who helped enlighten him on the truths of the faith and later baptized him? And while these three are a group in themselves, they weren't alone. Flipping through a dictionary of saints one day, I realized that lots of characters from St. Augustine's Confessions are actually honored as saints - St. Alypyus, for example, was one of Augustine's closest friends, and St. Adeodatus was Augustine's illegitimate son.

In the Middle Ages...

St. Francis and St. Clare worked together to found the religious order which helped rejuvenate the Church. St. Clare's younger sister Agnes followed her into sainthood. St. Thomas Aquinas was friends with both St. Albert the Great and St. Bonaventure.

In the 1800s, in France...

We all know and love St. Therese the Little Flower; she's one of the most beloved saints of all time. Who started her on the road to holiness? Her parents. Louis and Zelie Martin were just canonized this year.

In the 1900s, in Portugal...

Few stories are more touching and inspiring than that of the three shepherd children of Portugal who were visited by Our Lady in 1917. The history of the apparitions is well-known; but what is less talked of is the life of the three children after the famous Miracle of the Sun. Bl. Jacinta and Bl. Francisco died very young and suffered very much in their last days; but the three saints were always very close to one another and encouraged one another to offer up their sufferings for poor sinners.

Today...

My point? If one person is a saint - if one person is holy - then chances are they're going to help other people to become saints, too. And if we want to be saints, we should choose friends who are going to help us become saints. It works both ways, and it's almost like a chain reaction.

I don't think I'm the only one who thinks it'd be absolutely awesome to have a saintly society - a community of dedicated Christians willing to spill their blood for the faith, as enthusiastic and contagious as the Church of the first century. It's possible. But it's not going to happen all at once. It has to happen bit by bit....group by group....trio by trio....person by person.

Which means it starts with one true friend, one person who is willing to seek out the straight and narrow path and drag their loved ones along with them.

It starts with me.

It starts with you.



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