In the Catholic Church we have patron saints for just about everything, from Alpine troops (St. Maurice) to zoos (St. Francis of Assisi). They’re an important part of Catholic spirituality, because we believe that the saints are still alive, that we are still connected to them through the Holy Spirit in the Communion of Saints, and that they can still help us with their prayers since they’re united with God in heaven.
We should each have our own patron saints as well. Mine is St. Joseph, which is my middle name and he’s the saint I chose for my Confirmation name. I chose St. Joseph because he’s the Protector of the Church, the patron for a holy death, and because he’s the foster father of Jesus Christ. He’s a paternal figure and example for the entire Church, showing us the meaning of earthly fatherhood and spiritual fatherhood. I ask St. Joseph to pray for me every day, and I often ask for his help with particularly difficult situations. Who’s your patron saint? Do you know about their life, and do you ask them to pray for you daily?
We also have a patron saint of the United States. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the patron saint of our nation under her title of the Immaculate Conception. Her feast day usually falls on December 8, but this year December 8 is a Sunday so we move the celebration of her feast day to Monday. It’s also usually a holy day of obligation, but you should already be going to Mass on Sunday, and the obligation doesn’t move with the day in these circumstances.
The Immaculate Conception refers to the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary was preserved even from original sin from the moment of her conception in the womb of St. Ann, the grandmother of Jesus. This was a special grace granted to Mary through her Son Jesus, even before He was born, to prepare her to conceive Him in her womb, which we celebrate at the Solemnity of the Annunciation. Confused yet? To put it another way, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception we celebrate that Mary was, as the Archangel Gabriel said, “full of grace.” From the very moment of her conception God was with her in a powerful way. She is a sign to us that God is also with us, and that we are destined to join Jesus and Mary in heaven, so long as we follow Him. That’s why we pray in the Hail Mary, “Pray for us, now and at the hour of our death.” Tomorrow, as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and the patronal feast of the United States, let’s remember to ask Mary to pray for us and for our country now, and at the moment of our greatest need.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.