These 8 Saints were painted for a school down in Louisiana, to inspire the religious ed kids to strive to sancitity. I hope they inspire you just as much!
1. St. Therese always longed to be a Saint, but when she compared her life to the Saints, so felt as far removed as a grain of sand trampled underfoot and taken far from the mountain peak.
In churning over these thoughts, and holding fast to the idea that God does not put desires on our heart that He does not intend to fulfill, she knew it was still possible for her to become a Saint.
And from that, we get her Little Way:
“You make me think of a little child that is learning to stand but does not yet know how to walk. In his desire to reach the top of the stairs to find his mother, he lifts his little foot to climb the first step. It is all in vain, and at each renewed effort he falls. Well, be like that little child.
Always keep lifting your foot to climb the ladder of holiness, and do not imagine that you can mount even the first step. All God asks of you is good will.
From the top of the ladder He looks lovingly upon you, and soon, touched by your fruitless efforts, He will Himself come down, and, taking you in His Arms, will carry you to His Kingdom never again to leave Him.”
Do ordinary acts with extraordinary love and you will be lifting your foot to climb that step, and God will provide the graces you need to make those virtuous acts.
2. St. Joan of Arc was given mystical visions of St. Michael, St. Catherine, and St. Margaret, Joan was told she was to be the savior of France and to go present herself to Charles, drive out France’s enemies and get him crowned as king.
She managed to convince Charles of her mission and was sent out with the army, marching into battle carrying the banner. While she never killed anyone in battle, and always deferred to the commands of the noblemen in charge, they in turn attributed many of the victories due to her advice which they accepted as Divinely inspired.
On two occasions she was wounded in battle – once taking an arrow to her shoulder/neck and at another time a crossbow bolt to the leg. In her last battle she was thrown from her horse and captured by the English.
Over the course of months she was put on trial in England that blatantly broke many laws of the time, and later many of those involved admitted that transcripts were altered and the truth was conveniently ignored when it suited them. Eventually she was condemned to be burned at the stake in 1431.
Twenty years later, the Church opened a retrial to see if she was justly condemned, and in 1456 they declared her innocent. Even so it wasn’t until 1909 that she was beatified, and 1920 when she was declared a Saint.
3. St Josephine Bakhita is a testament to forgiveness and love even through the most horrible of situations. Her joy and love is why I decided to make her halo pink with the yellow/gold background of Heaven.
Born in what is now Sudan in 1869, the Saint was abducted by Arab slave traders at the age of 8 and would be bought and sold over 5 times in 12 years.
She eventually was sold to a kind owner, and then gifted away to another family in Italy, where she was left behind in the care of the Canossian Sisters, an order of religious sisters in Venice, while her owners took a trip to Sudan.
It was there that she came to know God, the Creator she had known in her heart all her life without having a name for Him.
When her owners returned to claim her, she refused to leave. The ensuing court case ruled that Bakhita was never legally a slave and her freedom was given to her instantly.
With full control of her life and infinite possibilities, she chose to remain at the convent, entering as a sister 3 years later.
She spent the next 48 years of her life serving the local community with surpassing love and gentleness and a constant smile. And when she died at the age of 78, it took three days to get through everyone who wanted to pay their respects.
4. St. Gianna Beretta Molla was a pediatrician, with degrees in medicine and surgery, who opened her own practice. Later she met her husband, an engineer and had three children.
In her fourth pregnancy, her doctor discovered a tumor in her uterus.
They gave her three options; abortion, a hysterectomy (which would have removed her whole uterus, thus killing the child), or a surgery to remove as much of the tumor as they could without harming the child.
This third option would not guarantee her survival; the tumor could grow back.
The Church forbids abortion, but if a child dies in the womb as an unintended consequence of a surgery that would save the life of a mother, that surgery is morally permissible.
In this case, Gianna could have chosen the hysterectomy, saving her life, because it was a normal procedure to remove a tumor like Gianna’s, even if her child died as a result.
However, Gianna chose to not think of herself. The third option would preserve her child’s life, and could be enough to save her life as well. It would be enough for her to make it full term, and she could undergo other treatments after.
Her motto for the rest of the pregnancy was “Whatever God wants”. She knew that the third option was the most dangerous for her, but she knew God is supreme, and could preserve her life with treatments after, or take it, and she was not concerned.
She told the doctors and her family “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child. I insist on it. Save the baby.”
Gianna delivered the baby, Gianna Emanuela, via C-section, and was rushed off to treatment. They did all they could, but a week later Gianna died of septic peritonitis.
Gianna didn’t just reject abortion, and she didn’t sacrifice her life for her child like we
would say if a mother threw herself in the way of an oncoming bullet, but she simply thought of herself last, commending her very life to God, and put her children first.
That’s the action of a Saint.
5. St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Franciscan from Poland who loved Out Lady. She visited him as a child offering him two crowns: a white one for purity and a red one of martyrdom and asked him to pick. He bravely said “I choose both!”. From that day he dedicated himself to our Lady.
Some years into being a. Franciscan, Kolbe spent 6 years in Japan on mission. Under the guidance of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception he founded a monastery in Nagasaki, but by our lady’s inspiration, moved it to behind a hill a little outside the city, and there it survived the atomic blast.
The monastery exists to this day and the gardens have been named a national treasure of Japan.
I love images of Kolbe with his beard because it is the only first class relic we have of him – he was cremated in Auschwitz after giving his life for a fellow prisoner.
The monastery barber (another friar) decided to keep Kolbe’s beard clippings because he suspected Kolbe would be canonized one day.
Kolbe noticed the barber keeping his beard, chastised him for presupposing his sanctity, and told him to throw it into the stove to be burned.
The barber obeyed, knowing the stove was cold because it was summer. After Kolbe left, he rescued the hair and kept it safe.
And now they are the only relics we have of St. Maximilian Kolbe.
6. St. Isaac Jogues is one of the seven North American martyrs. When he heard a fellow Jesuit talk of the hardship and treachery of those who went to evangelize the Native Americans, Isaac was completely inspired to join them, willing to risk his life to bring Jesus to these people.
Upon arrival in in America in 1636, he wrote, “I do not know what it is to enter Heaven, but this I know-that it would be difficult to experience in this world a joy more excessive and more overflowing than I felt in setting foot in the New World”.
After being driven out of villages for months and being sent to build Fort Sainte-Marie (where Catholic Natives found refuge) a group of Mohawks captured a group of the Catholic Hurons.
Isaac volunteered to join those captured to comfort the prisoners. The captors took a particular delight in tormenting Isaac, beating him with sticks, tearing out fingernails and gnawing on his fingers until his bones were exposed.
This is why he is missing three fingers in the painting.
Through the next 13 months, Isaac ceaselessly prayed for his captors and comforted, baptized, and heard confessions.
Eventually the Jesuits rescued Isaac and he was sent to France where he was acclaimed by the Pope as a living martyr.
Within a year and a half, Isaac longed to return to New France to continue the missionary work, even if it meant his martyrdom.
And soon after his arrival, the Mohawks blamed Isaac for sorcery when another plague broke out. They seized him and his companion and beat them extensively, killed Isaac with a tomahawk and Jean the next day, dumping the bodies in the river.
7. St. Thomas More is best known for opposing King Henry VIII’s separation from the Catholic Church and his divorce of Catherine. For this opposition he was executed for refusing to acknowledge Henry as the supreme leader of the new Anglican church.
But more than this witness of staying true to the Catholic Church, Thomas was a lawyer, and judge, and a devoted father, deeply invested in his children’s education, both his son and daughters equally, which made an impression on the other nobles who knew him.
His best friend, Erasmus, reflected, “Did nature ever invent anything kinder, sweeter or more harmonious than the character of Thomas More?” He was “born and designed for friendship; no one is more open-hearted in making friends or more tenacious in keeping them.”
8. St. John Paul II is the beloved pope who wrote tirelessly on the dignity and beauty of the human person. He championed the young and inspired a desire for holiness, especially in marriage and the family.
There’s so much to be said about JPII.
Recently I read Chris Sefanick’s Way of Beauty, a translation of JPII’s retreat given on the topic before he became pope which includes reflections from four artists about the retreat. It was an absolutely amazing book, and I highly recommend every artist read it!