What’s in a Name: Heavenly Patrons

Vicente_de_Zaragoza_anonymous_painting_XVI_century

Thus it was Vincent’s body that suffered, but the [Holy] Spirit who spoke.  And at his voice, impiety was not only vanquished but human frailty was given consolation. -St. Augustine

Today is the feast of my patron saint, Vincent, Deacon and Martyr.  While serving the third-century Church in Zaragoza, Spain he was captured during the persecutions of the Emperor Diocletian. Refusing to give up the location of the Church’s  holy books (Scriptures, liturgical texts, sacramental rolls, etc.), Vincent was tortured to death with a ferocity that shocked even the early Christians, already so accustomed to witnessing martyrdom.  His name, which means “to conquer” took on special significance as he prayed for his persecutors to the end.

If you were to consider Vincent’s martyrdom only human endurance, the his act is unbelievable.  But first recognize the power to be from God , and it ceases to be a source of wonder
-St. Augustine

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel afloat in the ocean of the world.  Washington moves so quickly around us, life takes on an almost tidal force.  It’s an awkward feeling, no floor beneath your feet, nothing to grab on to.  Steadiness, direction, definition are not necessarily givens.  One starting place especially dear to Catholics is our names.

Names define.  Names, connect us to our families and launch us forward in the context of their hopes for us.  Names can also connect us to heavenly patrons: saints whose examples we strive to emulate and who’s intercession before God aides our earthly cause.  Preparing for today’s feast, I’ve been thinking about St. Vincent and taking as a daily motto, “Today’s another opportunity to conquer my life with Christ.”  It’s been a great spiritual exercise that’s helped me over the last few days and lets me look with optimism toward the future.

Whether you’re Catholic or not, the saints love you and are there for you.  Just about every name in the western lexicon has some connection to a saint.  If yours doesn’t, that’s OK, pick a saint and start a relationship with him/her.  You’ll be amazed at how the ground rises to meet you as you journey one with greater confidence than before.  St. Vincent, pray for us.