The Papal Artifacts’ Collection is primarily dedicated to artifacts connected to the papacy. Individual popes, their biographies and multiple items belonging to them, including first and second class relics, make up the majority of this Collection. But that isn’t all it is.
Father Kunst has a deep devotion to the saints as can be readily seen in viewing the Saints & Blesseds section of this site. We invite you to visit Papal History/Saints & Blesseds to view the many canonized and beatified men and women who make up this section of the Collection.
Saints Provide Us a Direct Line to God
The church, in all her wisdom, gives us guideposts, people who have lived through the centuries who not only walk with us in our pilgrim journeys, but also give us examples of how to follow Christ.
There are thousands of canonized saints, yet only a small number have made it on the church’s liturgical calendar. Though we celebrate All Saints Day in November, it is August that has more saints’ feast days than any other month.
What is a saint? And why do we as Catholics have saints as part of our spirituality and sacred tradition?
The most basic definition of a saint is a person who has died and is now with God in heaven. So very likely you and I have relatives who are saints. I would be very surprised if my holy grandmother were not a saint. I refer to these family and friends of ours who lived upstanding lives and now rest in God as saints with a small “s,” whereas the select few who lived their faith to a heroic level and are canonized are saints with a big “S.” These are the people after whom we name our parish churches and to whom we pray in the liturgy.
It is very common for parents of a young child who just lost a grandparent to say that Grandma or Grandpa is still with us and is watching over us from heaven. In the most simplistic way, that parent just explained the role of a saint.
We do not hesitate to ask a friend or a family member to pray for us when we are about to take a test or go to the doctor’s office. If we can pray for one another, why can’t someone who is now with God in heaven do the same thing? Do we believe that once someone has gone to heaven that they no longer have concern for those of us still on our pilgrim journeys?
Someone may protest that they would prefer to go directly to God in their prayer. Praying to a saint is going directly to God. We would never say that the person you asked to pray for you before you have surgery is getting in the way of you and God; the person simply is adding his or her voice in prayer to God for your intentions.
That is what a saint is doing, but the saints have a more efficacious prayer insofar as they are one with God in heaven. Saints cannot get in the way of God, because they are praying to God; they have no value whatsoever without God.
Most Christian denominations believe in angels, and part of that faith in angels is that the angels can watch over us and even protect us from harm. Well, if God has given angels the ability to have prayerful interaction with those of us on earth, why would we say that the saints do not have that ability when they are in the same place as the angels—in heaven?
Some of our earliest Christian manuscripts speak of praying to the saints. It has been a part of Christian tradition from the earliest of times. Christians have had a common history with the common practice of praying to the saints all the way up to the 16th century. It strikes me as odd that all of a sudden some Christians would claim that it is inappropriate to pray to saints after 1500 years of doing so. How could the church have been doing something terribly wrong for so long, only to have it unilaterally corrected by particular individuals?
An aspect of saints which may very well get its own apologetics column in the near future is the use of statuary and sacred images. Most every parish church has statues of the saints or Mary. Statues have the exact same role as the photos on your wall at home or in your purse or wallet. Statues remind us of those people who were heroic in their Gospel fidelity. They are not idols and they are not little gods; they are images to help spur us on in prayer and help us live more faithful lives, just as the picture of your mother helps you remember her. Again, this is a very ancient practice; go to the catacombs in Rome, and you can see images of the saints and Mary that predate any denomination that has a problem with statues and images.
Another aspect of the importance of saints is the example they give us. Pope St. John Paul the Great often was criticized for canonizing so many saints, but he would say that we live in a time that needs saints more than ever. We live in a dark period of history that needs more and more examples of the Gospels lived. And what it boils down to is that is what a saint is. A saint is a person who lived the Gospels. The church, in all her wisdom, gives us guideposts, people who have lived through the centuries who not only walk with us in our pilgrim journeys, but also have given us examples of how to follow Christ.