by Archbishop Timothy Dolan
When I was in second grade, Sister Mary Bosco, our teacher, spoke to us about our patron saints, and how important they are. She then asked each of us who our patron saint was. I, of course, responded, “St. Timothy.” Sister, replied, “But, which one? There are quite a few of them.”
I figured I better go right to the source. So, I asked mom that afternoon after school, “Mom, which St. Timothy am I named after?”
Mom replied, “You’re named after your grandpa. And, believe me, he was no saint!”
Not much help there!
Anyway, I take Timothy, the disciple of St. Paul, the first bishop of Ephesus, as my patron saint.
To have a patron saint is a powerful and beautiful part of our Catholic Faith. We as individuals have them — claimed at Baptism and Confirmation — and parishes have them, dioceses have them, hospitals have them, clubs and organizations have them, causes and professions claim them, nations and countries appeal to them.
Well, because we belong to a family that extends beyond the here and now. We are members of a supernatural family called the Communion of Saints. Our Blessed Mother, the angels, the apostles, the martyrs, women and men of heroic virtue of every time and place are all part of our spiritual family. When we claim one of these to be a patron, he or she becomes a model for us, and a helper in heaven.
In Italy, where I lived for several years, they take patron saints very seriously. Everybody has a patron saint. Their onomastico — the feast day of their patron saint — is as important as their birthday. The Messagero, the major daily newspaper in Rome, lists the feast day of the saint on the Masthead every day. The Vatican even has a holiday on the feast of the baptismal patron saint of the current Pope. (Romans are upset because the feast day of Pope Benedict’s baptismal patron — St. Joseph — was already a holiday!).
Many of us here in the United States mourn the weakening of the tradition of patron saints. A recent study tells us that names for newborns tend to come from soap operas, TV shows, and movies. So, here’s an invitation: parents, give your baby a saint’s name, either as a first or as a middle name. There are thousands of them. If, for whatever reason, you do not choose a precise saint’s name, still entrust your baby to a particular saint, and tell your child who it is when he or she gets older.
A second invitation, this one to our young people preparing for reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation: choose a name of a saint for your confirmation name. If your baptismal first or middle name is that of a saint, you can keep that one, if you wish, but everybody is free to choose a new saint’s name for confirmation.
Let’s begin to reclaim this wonderful tradition of patron saints!
St. Timothy of the New Testament was the son of a Greek father and a Jewish convert mother. A friend and travel companion of St. Paul, he accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey. Tradition tells us that after Paul’s death Timothy went to Ephesus where he became a bishop. He was stoned to death when he protested a celebration in honor of the goddess Diana.
From Doers of the Word: Putting Your Faith Into Practice, by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan. This 128-page paperback book is $9.95 plus S&H. Click here to order or for more information»
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