Program #0407 for Wednesday, October 31, 2012: Questions and Answers about the Saints

October 31, 2012

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Questions and Answers about the Saints

Questions and Answers about the Saints

Summary of today’s show: All Saints Day is tomorrow and Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams welcome the man who literally wrote the book on the saints, Fr. George Evans. His book, 101 Questions and Answers about the Saints, provides fodder for discussion about some of the more obvious and obscure questions we all have about saints, helping us to appreciate these role models and older brothers and sisters in the faith.

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Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams

Today’s guest(s): Fr. George Evans, pastor of St. Julia Parish in Weston

Links from today’s show:

Today’s topics: Questions and Answers about the Saints

1st segment: Scot Landry welcomed everyone to the show and reminded listeners that today is the eve of a holy day of obligation, All Saints’ Day. He welcomed Fr. Matt Williams and they discussed a video they made today with about 100 students from St. Mary High School in Lynn, presenting them with the facts about Question 2 on physician-assisted suicide. Among the lessons they demonstrated was the natural inclination to defend and protect life and that suicide is not a natural inclination, but a thought that comes from brokenness.

Scot reminded listeners that Cardinal Seán is tweeting everyday at Many more resources on Question 2 are available at and

Father Matt said the aim of today’s video for high school teens was to make thi available so that every Catholic high school in Massachusetts can show it in schools this week and use it to start a conversation with family and friends.

The video will be available online on Thursday evening at

Preparing for All Saints’ Day, our guest today is Fr. George Evans, who has written a book called

2nd segment: Fr. Evans has been pastor of St. Julia parish in Weston and Lincoln since 2003. He also serves on the current Pastoral Planning Commission for the Archdiocese. Scot asked him what prompted him to write the book and how did he find the time.

Fr. Evans said he broke his ankle and was confined to bed for seven weeks in 2004 and so he started writing this book he’d wanted to write for some time. There were some glitches in the process, including crushing his computer accidentally under his assistive chair. He’s not sure the book would have seen the light of day without that broken ankle.

Scot noted this is a part of a series by Paulist Press on 101 Questions and Answers on various topics. Fr. Evans said he was a conference and was browsing books and an editor from Paulist asked him if he had an interest in writing book. He said it took some time to hone the proposal because he needed to come up with 101 questions first.

Fr. Evans said he remembers in his fifth grade class in Catholic school learning about the North American martyrs. He’d loved biographies as a child, especially of US presidents. That set him up to enjoy the saints. He got a book, “Heavenly Friends: A Saint for Each Day” which he still has. The stories were edifying and very much reminding us that we’re part of a long stream of holiness. As a student at Catholic University, he remembered reading a book called “On the Meaning of Saints,” and he thought this would be a help to get him to his doctoral dissertation. Some of his advisors, including then-Father Avery Dulles, had been looking for something to help them with their Lutheran-Catholic dialogue they were involved in. Dulles later told him that he’d wished he could have written the dissertation that Fr. Evans wrote. It included the views of Martin Luther and his contemporaries an the achievement of the Second Vatican Council in providing a harmonizing what was said in the dialogues in the 16th century.

Scot explained the significance of Fr. Dulles, who was made a Cardinal by Pope John Paul II at the end of his life, one of the few who aren’t bishops.

Fr. Evans said his favorite saints growing up were the missionaries, those connected to the United States, and the more famous saints that you’d learn about in school. Fr. Evans recalled a parish priest who gave a life of St. Francis Xavier during a novena, a bit each night of the novena.

Fr. Matt asked if he thought there was more of a call to people to emulate saints more than before. Fr. Evans said the Second Vatican Council’s emphasis on the universal call to holiness is evidence of it. Everyone involved in the life of the Church is called to holiness. John Paul II was one of the important people at the council.

Scot said Question 47 in the book asks how many saints were canonized by Pope John Paul and how he compares to the rest of history. The answer is that John Paul canonized more people than all the popes of the past four centuries combined. He did it in an attempt to let the Church’s call to holiness be sounded loudly and widely. He wanted holiness to be seen in the people he beatified and canonized around the world and in places that not many saints had come from before.

Scot said there are many figures in the Old Testament who aren’t given the title of Saint. That’s another question in the book. Fr. Evans said the process of declaring saints was a Christian era phenomenon. The saints of the pre-Christian era are listed in the official list of saints in the Church, but not included in the liturgical celebrations of the Mass.

ANother question in the book is number 14: Is Jesus a saint? Is the blessed Mother a saint? Fr. Evans said Jesus is the fullness of holiness and Mary is the pre-eminent disciple. At the same time, we differentiate Jesus from the saints because he is the one of whom the others are a reflection. His uniqueness as human and God puts him in another league, but saint means “holy” and he is holiness to the max. Mary is the queen of all saints, and we have many churches called St. Mary’s.

Fr. Matt recalled a story of Pope Benedict at St. Patrick’s in New York talking about the saints like stained glass windows. In order for the windows to achieve their fullness, the light of Christ must shine through in all his greatness. Fr. Matt said God doesn’t want us to be another St. Francis, he wants us to be a saint in all our uniqueness. The many men and women John Paul canonized makes sainthood accessible to us right where we are.

Scot asked about whether we can say our deceased loved ones are saints. Fr. Evans said we don’t force on God or the Church the certainty that someone is with God in the fullness of life in heaven. But we can have that as a hope and a personal sense. Only God knows all the saints. The Church recognizes a few as canonized saints. He said we have to be a little modest in talking a little too definitively as a saint and this is why the canonization process started, because people were being widely acclaimed as saints who weren’t suited and thus undermining all the rest.

Fr. Matt asked if that’s what All Saints’ Day is. Fr. Evans said it’s inclusive of all the saints, but highlights all of those who have died and are in the presence of God, but we don’t know. The splendid nobodies, in the best sense. Those people shine in a way that makes their anonymity all the more splendid because they are indeed those who were dutiful and loving in ways that aren’t greatly celebrated.

Scot asked the link between Halloween and All Saints Day, which is question 19. Fr. Evans said in the early centuries of the Church there were many martyrs. That shedding of blood led people to celebrate so-called white martyrs, those who died to sin and selfishness and lived wholeheartedly for Christ. The Church was looking for a way to celebrate all of them. The day chosen for this coincided with a pagan feast that celebrates the end of the harvest. The word Halloween means literally All Hallows Eve or Eve of the Feast of All the Holy.

3rd segment: This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Mary Cournoyer of Portsmouth, RI

She wins “The Story of a Soul”, the autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux, audiobook on CD.

If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.

4th segment: Scot said if you think of all the good questions people have had on the saints over the years and they will be in this book. He strongly recommends the book.

Scot asked how patron saints get designated, for example for parishes. Fr. Evans said parishes can be named for saints who are favored by the founding pastor or bishop, although today there is usually a more consultative process. He notes that St. Julia’s is named after the founding pastor’s mother’s patron saint in 1919. St. Julia was an early church martyr with not much known about her.

Scot recommended for more information about patron saints of various disciplines. He asked how a saint is determined to be patron saint of, say, astronomy. Fr. Evans said in some cases the devotion to the saint came from the grassroots, ordinary people praying perhaps based on some small fact. Other times, the Church has been asked to designate a patron for some cause. St. Clare is the patroness of television. There was a story that when she was ill and confined to her room ,she heard and saw the Mass being celebrated some distance from herself. Pope Pius XII thus declared her the patroness of TV at a time when TV was new.

Scot said St. Anthony is patron of a lot of things, but most famously for lost items. St. Jude is patron of lost causes. Fr. Evans said back in the 1920s, an American Claretian priest found a holy card of St. Jude and developed his own devotion to St. Jude. As the Great Depression began, he and his Claretian community began public devotions to St. Jude in a church in Chicago. They started a newsletter and people sent in letters about how St. Jude’s intercession helped them in desperate circumstances.

St. Anthony was very erudite and there’s so much that is imitable in his preaching and pastoral care. But there is a story about a book that was stolen and it was restored when he prayed for it. Another story tells about a man who cut off his own limb and St. Anthony restored it.

Fr. Matt clarified that St. Jude is Jude Thaddeus, the Apostle. Simon and Jude have a combined feast day and are lesser known apostles. That quality of being lesser known may have made him more appealing to those who are themselves lesser known in tough times.

Fr. Evans said there’s always been the tradition of naming saints after one or many saints, but it swung toward one patron of the parish in the old days. But he doesn’t think we ever did enough to explore the lives of our patrons. But there have also been All Saints Parishes. You see that more often know when parishes combine.

Fr. Matt asked what is a saint. Fr. Evans said a saint is someone who is so full of the light of Christ, which is a metaphor for truth or for love. They become attractive or guiding of others. You could also speak about the journey toward heaven and the saints are like guideposts along the way. Saints are also friends.

Scot asked why we pray through the intercession of the saints, instead of just to Jesus directly. The Church has encouraged us to this practice. Fr. Evans said some say that saints are obstacles to Christ. The truth is that in our experience we ask each other to pray for us and our needs. We’re praying in a way that doesn’t block Christ, but extends his prayer into the Body of Christ. Christ is still the one who prays par excellence, but that work of mediating is shared and we all do it because we care. We pray for what’s important to us and why not pray for people and pray with people.

Fr. Evans said one of the sources of understanding is religious experience and the effectiveness of intercessory prayer. The way we think of the saints is not that they’re a go-between connecting us to Christ in a way we couldn’t otherwise. Instead they are in a circle with us around Christ. They are with us as companions.

Scot recommended Pilot Parish Finder for those looking for a parish for an All Saints Day Mass tomorrow.

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