There is no praying to the saints instead of to God. We Catholics join our prayers to theirs, and we ask them who are in heaven to pray for those of us here on earth. They are our companions and our examples. The more we join our prayers to the saints, the closer we draw in prayer to God.
When I was a teenager, I first encountered St. Josephine Bakhita. She was enslaved and taken from her home in the Sudan to Italy, where she encountered the Church. Due to the laws of the province where she was taken, she was able to sue for her freedom, which was granted to her. With her newly acquired freedom, she chose to enter into religious life. She would spend the rest of her days serving the Lord and His Church, becoming renowned for her gentleness and grace. Whenever asked about her captors, she had one thing to say: “If I were to meet the men who imprisoned and tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands. If not for them, I would not be a Christian today.”
I was, and still am, moved by her peace and her ability to forgive. She had that because she saw how the Lord redeemed even the darkest parts of her life, and the love she felt for Him left no room for hate. Of course, I also wondered if I would have the strength to do the same in her situation. And so I prayed to her, and have done so many times, saying “St. Josephine Bakhita, pray for me, that I may be as faithful to God and full of His love as you are.” I am certain that she is doing so now.
By Father Zackary Gray, parochial vicar of St. Joseph Parish in Lakeland, October 13, 2022