Christians especially look to saints as models of holiness. Chapter One, introducing its theme “The Call To Holiness” reminds us of the breadth of holy role models in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
In numbered sections 3 through 5, we look at the saints who encourage and accompany us. That last word shouldn’t be a surprise for Pope Francis watchers–accompaniment litters his writings. Do we sense saints in our lives and acknowledge their regard for us? That is a very Ignatian sense of relationship. Saints are not just teachers, but companions.
3. The Letter to the Hebrews presents a number of testimonies that encourage us to “run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (12:1). It speaks of Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon and others (cf. 11:1-12:3). Above all, it invites us to realize that “a great cloud of witnesses” (12:1) impels us to advance constantly towards the goal. These witnesses may include our own mothers, grandmothers or other loved ones (cf. 2 Tim 1:5). Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.
Companions share things with us. Even our flaws.
4. The saints now in God’s presence preserve their bonds of love and communion with us. The Book of Revelation attests to this when it speaks of the intercession of the martyrs: “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; they cried out with a loud voice, ‘O sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge?’” (6:9-10).
The Pope Emeritus was aware of assistance in his life; it applies no less to any believer:
Each of us can say: “Surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God… I do not have to carry alone what, in truth, I could never carry alone. All the saints of God are there to protect me, to sustain me and to carry me”.[Benedict XVI, Homily for the Solemn Inauguration of the Petrine Ministry (24 April 2005)]
And a brief word on the official recognition of holy believers:
5. The processes of beatification and canonization recognize the signs of heroic virtue, the sacrifice of one’s life in martyrdom, and certain cases where a life is constantly offered for others, even until death. This shows an exemplary imitation of Christ, one worthy of the admiration of the faithful.* We can think, for example, of Blessed Maria Gabriella Sagheddu, who offered her life for the unity of Christians.
*This always presumes a reputation of holiness and the exercise, at least to an ordinary degree, of the Christian virtues: cf. Motu Proprio Maiorem Hac Dilectionem (11 July 2017), Art. 2c