Recently my wife approached me with one of those looks alerting me she had something important to say. In a gleeful tone, she announced that her “saint day” was drawing near. I thought, “OK, that’s nice.” Seeing my apparent indifference to her comments, she proceeded to explain that growing up, celebrating her “saint day” was more important than her own birthday. I thought, “Must be a European thing.” Continuing, she elaborated that, since her name was Patrice, a Belgium version of Patrick, her patron saint was, of course, St. Patrick. Given her Irish heritage, my only thought was “makes sense to me.”
Apparently, the look on my face did not reflect the appropriate sense of excitement, so with a wee bit more feistiness, she reiterated that celebrating her patron saint was a big deal and I should be ready to celebrate it too. At that point, I connected a few dots. St. Patrick – Irish. Hmm, now I get it, this must be her way of telling me that celebrating her saint day is a good excuse to drink beer and wear green. Alas, you would have thought I had just insulted her cooking. Too late I remembered — she doesn’t drink beer. At this point, I realized it was a far, far better course of action to just shut up and listen. I was about to be educated on the honor of carrying the name of a saint.
Allow me to sum up the extended conversation that promptly ensued. However, since a discussion usually involves at least two folks, this verbal exchange can best be characterized as “Patrice talks, Buddy listens.” Fortunately, I am a good listener.
“Do you have any role models in your life? A parent, grandparent, close friend? Some may be living while others have passed on, but the impact upon your life remains, right?” (My contribution to this conversation primarily involved a series of verbal affirmations.) “Having a patron saint is not an excuse to get drunk and wear green. Rather it is an opportunity to study the life of an amazing person, reflect upon their virtues, and glean from their life what might inspire you to be more holy. Doesn’t Scripture exhort us to “imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7)? (At this point, I was finally able to utter a resounding “Amen!”)
I must confess, her explanation was less of a lecture and more like a pep rally – made me want to stand up and cheer. While I had not grown up with the concept of patron saints, I do recall many people who influenced my life positively. On a personal level, there were, and are, men and women who I have admired that served to inspire and energize me as a husband and father. Likewise, the idea of examining the lives of extraordinarily faithful people of the past as spiritual role models also makes sense to me.
What can I discover from their lives that might help me be a better man? Or as a Christian, how can I be more like Christ?
My wife’s comments reminded me of the lyrics from the 1988 song “Find Us Faithful” by Steve Green.
We’re pilgrims on the journey
Of the narrow road
And those who’ve gone before us line the way
Cheering on the faithful, encouraging the weary
Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace
Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses
Let us run the race not only for the prize
But as those who’ve gone before us
Let us leave to those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through Godly lives
Maybe learning from the saints who have marched before us will help us live out our true calling and, like them, become “a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace.”
To paraphrase another lyric from Green’s song, “May the fire of their devotion light our way.”
Interesting what a guy can learn when he listens to his wife. So, while I don’t know what you will be doing come March 17th, I will be with my joyful wife celebrating a particular saint’s day by honoring him and learning about the heritage of faithfulness.
……….And I will probably be “wearin the green” too.
Ps: check out the picture at the blog site for this post. It is one taken at Clonmacnoise, an ancient monastic site on the River Shannon. A top visitor attraction in Ireland, my wife’s family ancestors, including the Kings of Ireland, are buried there.