My main objection to praying through saints had been that such prayer would inevitably direct one away from God. While I can't speak for others, I discovered that for myself, the case turned out to be the opposite. Through becoming emotionally intimate with a saint—or, as a skeptic would say, with my image of who a saint was—I gained a better understanding and appreciation of how God moves in our lives.
Show me a person with lukewarm faith and I'll show you someone who does not believe in a personal God. As it says in Hebrews, "Those who come to God must
believe that He is and that He is the rewarder of all those who diligently seek Him." Yet it is God's very ominipotence—His hugeness—that often makes it difficult for us to understand how He can care about us individually. Imagining God's love personified in Jesus helps, but Jesus, despite His humanity, still seems much larger than life.
Kolbe became, for me, what I believe the saints are for other believers as well—God with skin on. Because I believed that the saint understood completely what I was going through—including persecution, fear, self-doubt, and guilt—I believed that God understood them too. Yet I felt more comfort when addressing certain prayers through Kolbe than when addressing them directly to God—though I continued to pray to God as well—because he put a face on the compassion and empathy that God had for me.
To be honest, I still have trouble imagining how saints figure into God's means of answering prayer, if at all. Then again, if I think about it, I have trouble figuring out how prayer itself figures into God's means of operating the universe. But I've been showered with blessings these past few weeks, and the comfort I've felt in praying through Kolbe makes me wish to give the saints their due.
I'm very fond of this post for a number of reasons; first, I'm overjoyed to see how the saints have interceded for Dawn. Second, I think it's a great reminder that the saints can and do play very active roles in our lives, if we let them. It's understandable that non-Catholics approach this practice with apprehension; what is truly unfortunate is how many Catholics, who should know better, fail to take advantage of the help that awaits them, if only we ask for it. This isn't meant as a rap against non-Catholics, nor should it be taken as some kind of I-told-you-so on my part. I wish I could admit such powerful experiences in my own life; alas, another case where I should practice what I preach more often and more fervently.
But the fact is that the saints are real, as real as you and I are; and they can and do hear and pray for us, through the graces that God provides them. Their prayers for us are that much stronger and more effective for their proximity to God's presence. Wherever you are, whatever else you're doing while you're reading this post, imagine how exciting this concept is; that angels and saints are moving through the air you breathe, interacting in your life at this very moment, working in concert with God and with others to make a direct impact in your life. If you've seen Wim Wenders' stunning movie Wings of Desire, you'll know what I'm talking about. This kind of thing happens all the time, and only rarely do we become aware of it, although the fruits of their activity can be as plain as the nose on our face, if only we look in the mirror.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe, countryman of our late beloved Pope, thank you for petitions granted, pray for us all.