Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Saints and Me

Terry Nelson
Nov 15th, 2008

Conversation in heaven.

In ancient hagiography one often reads that this or that particular saint, because of his deep recollection and prayer, lived more in heaven than on earth. Of course such behavior would indicate great holiness and union with God. When I was little, not a few people told my parents that I was using religion as an escape - a remarkable thing to say about a little kid, don’t you think?

Priests say the darndest things.

Surprisingly, the most notable person to say it happened to be a priest; in his opinion, because I wasn’t good at sports, I took refuge in pious devotions. He told my parents I should be playing baseball rather than making visits to the Blessed Sacrament. (In my day, a boy who came from a mixed marriage - my dad was Lutheran - and whose parent(s) had been divorced, was considered ineligible for priesthood. These things were impediments and required a dispensation - hence the priest probably thought I was wasting my time praying.)

Imitating those who imitated Christ.

In some respects, I suppose the priest was correct, I expect I had found an escape from a very difficult home life, although, I learned from a very early age that heaven is my true home, and my family there is my support. Therefore, from the age of 5 or 6, I developed an attachment to the saints, the Blessed Virgin, and Jesus in the Eucharist. I read about the saints - often reading stories of my favorites over and over, I tried to imitate their virtue and prayer, but I failed miserably. Perhaps the one thing I might have done as well as the saints, is to frequent the sacrament of penance - but that is about it.

Nevertheless, they became my companions and very best friends. They were my confidantes and teachers. In fact, I attribute my success in certain studies such as history, geography, and language to my knowing the saints, who took me (my imagination) all over the world.

What becomes of the broken hearted?

Growing up, I maintained my relationship with the saints, who never abandoned me even though I abandoned the faith for a short time as a young adult. Today, they remain a part of my life in a much deeper way, and I see how their prayers have helped me, even delivered me from so much evil, while being such a consolation in this long loneliness of life.

This morning at prayer I suddenly thought of Matt Talbot, and I began to reflect upon his life. It seemed as if he purposely came along this morning to remind me of something he once said, “How can a man be lonely when he has Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?”

You see Matt renounced a life of dissipation and alcoholism, and after his conversion, he lived as a penitent the rest of his life. That meant he left behind his bar friends, who had no time for him anyway since he wasn’t drinking. He embraced a life of celibacy, convinced Our Lady desired this for him. His loneliness was filled with prayer and devotion to the saints, Our Lady, and Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Matt balanced his life of prayer with labor and good works.

How can a young man remain sinless?

Matt reminded me how lonely it can be for younger people who happen to be in difficult situations in life. I remember when I was in my early 20’s, I was scared a part of my body would wither and fall off if I embraced a life of chastity - I’m serious. I remember one night coming home from the bars - alone - crying out to God: “Please, please, let me find someone - I just want to have someone to love me and share my life with.” Loneliness is a killer. (Yet God hears every prayer.)

The practice of the presence of God.

After many fallings and risings, I rediscovered Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, as well as my friendship with the saints; and early on, Matt was one of many who taught me how to live alone with the Great Alone - God, in His angels and in His saints. If we learn to practice the presence of God we realize we are never alone, and that only God can fill our loneliness. And in so doing, He heals the wounds that aggravate the pain.

Note: Additional postings by Terry about Matt Talbot can be found at