The Christian call to prayer is a call to communion with God and other believers. While our time of prayer is personal, it’s not individualistic. The Christian – even if physically alone – always prayers as a member of the Body of Christ, united with those on earth and those in eternity. Our prayers are offered together before the throne of God.
The Church has many prayer methods, such as lectio divina, composition of place, and poustinia. The prayer method, however, that most emphasizes prayer as a communion with other believers is called the saint method.
The saint method resembles the composition of place but is distinct from it since the composition of place normally involves an event or scene from the written Word of God. By contrast, the saint method draws from an event or scene in the life of a saint.
Like composition of place, the saint method employs the use of our spiritual imagination. We select a scene from the life of a saint and re-create the event within our spiritual souls. Using some poetic license, we ask ourselves what we see, hear, taste, touch, and smell.
Unlike the composition of place, the saint method has us walk with the saint in the event and talk with the saint about what’s happening. We talk and we listen to this older brother or sister in eternity. After conversing with the saint, we then do our colloquy – the conversation – with the living God. We do the colloquy with the saint by our side. We can even have the saint do a colloquy with God before we do our own.
The point of the saint method is to engage a holy one and see their experience of God from the narrative of their lives.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of the importance of the saints: “The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were ‘put in charge of many things.’ Their intercession is their most exalted service to God’s plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world.”
The saints are still with us. They commune with us behind the thin veil that separates life here and life in eternity.
By using the saint method, we allow ourselves to feel and know more deeply of the presence, friendship, and intercession of the holy ones. As we might struggle with issues, heartbreaks, finances, health, relationships, sin and temptation in this world, we can turn to the ones who also walked this walk and ask them for their words of encouragement and consolation. We can seek their help and intercession.
As an example, I have a deep devotion to Saint Katherine Drexel. I once lived in a house where she herself visited. I have always felt a deep affinity for her and her witness of turning sorrow into service. I have known of Mother Drexel’s presence in my life and have regularly turned to her for wisdom and spiritual strength. I am regularly inspired by Mother’s tenacity, relentless, and keen sense of mission. I have studied her life and consider her a true sister, mother, and friend.
In my use of the saint method, I have often put myself with Katherine Drexel at the feet of Pope Leo XIII. The young heiress, with millions to spend, offered to pray for missionaries to go and minister to the African American and Native American peoples in the United States. In response, the elderly pope, told Katherine: “What about you? You go and be that missionary!”
In my spiritual scene, I imagine the grey hair and whispered voice of the pope. I hear his voice being pushed to strength as he summoned her to do the work of the Gospel herself. I feel the breeze of the wind, the pain on our knees as she and I kneel before the pope. I can hear the rumbling of the people behind us who are waiting for their turn to meet the pope.
Through the saint method, I allow my spiritual soul to take me there with this saint. It is not only Katherine Drexel who is being challenged by the pope, but also me.
This is one example of the saint method. The method has its esteemed place among the major prayer methods of the Church and it’s a helpful method for us to feel and know of the presence and friendship of the holy ones in our lives today.