Yet not all of them died so long ago. Saint Katharine Drexel died 57 years ago. Thomas Merton, 44 years ago. Dorothy Day, Ita Ford and Oscar Romero, 32 years ago. And even more recently, even in my own memory, Bl Mother Teresa died 15 years ago and Bl Pope John Paul II 7 years ago.
There's so many from so many different eras - some whose bones are all we have, others so long ago that their only physical legacy is their legend, and still others who we ourselves can remember dying.
Yet somehow, they're all still alive.
In my life, God has used the saints to help me feel that I'm not alone, to tug my heart in a different direction, to develop my spirituality, even to turn my world upside down. Their lives, their faithfulness, their love, and their wisdom touch me in accordance to God's purpose.
Sometimes I meet the saints in books - a dusty biography on a library shelf, a recommended spiritual one, or one that "just looked interesting". Sometimes I meet them through other people, like how I met Padre Pio though a close friend with a special devotion. Sometimes I meet them "by accident" - through things that can only be labeled as Divine Providence. I met St Elizabeth Ann Seton when I went to college in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she founded the Sisters of Charity and later died. I met St Katharine Drexel during my prepostulancy/postulancy in Macon, Georgia, where I worked in a church and school founded by her.
The saints have become friends on the journey, a comfort during the hard times and a welcome presence during the joyful times. Outside of Catholic circles, it's commonly misunderstood our devotion to the saints. To me, they're friends. Not God, not Jesus...but rather, the saint is my imperfect friend there to teach me something (even if from their own mistakes) and there to embrace me and say "I'm praying for you". And, as trite as it might sound, there's nothing quite like someone saying a heartfelt loving prayer for you. And the saints do just that.
Each saint I've encountered, canonized or not, has taught me something. They taught me about the Good News of love, about service in the name of Jesus, about contemplation, about peace, about suffering and about resurrection. But perhaps the biggest lesson of all, or rather the summary of it all, is "keep on journeying, Amanda....there's lots to learn and lots to do but it's worth it, believe me."