A statue of St. Teresa of Kolkata and St. John Paul II at Holy Redeemer Parish in Vancouver, Washington, give Catholics a chance to kneel in prayer and ask for intercessions from the two modern saints. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)
A statue of St. Teresa of Kolkata and St. John Paul II at Holy Redeemer Parish in Vancouver, Washington, give Catholics a chance to kneel in prayer and ask for intercessions from the two modern saints. (Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel)
The road to heaven can be puzzling, but, luckily, great saints exist throughout history to show the way.

St. Paul

Though St. Paul the Apostle is considered one of the most influential saints, his story begins as a persecutor of Christians.

“Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains” (Acts 9:1).

On his way to arrest Christians, he saw a flash of light. Falling to his knees, he heard a voice ask him, “Why are you persecuting me?” The light was so blinding he could not see for days. It was not long before Saul was baptized a Christian and became Paul.

He went on to bring God’s word across Europe — to Macedonia, Italy, Greece and even Spain, as well as to Asia Minor. Thirteen of the letters in the New Testament are attributed to Paul.

He was arrested and killed in 67 AD. He is the patron saint of missionaries, evangelists and writers. His feast day is June 29.

St. Teresa of Kolkata

Known before her death as Mother Teresa, the future saint was born the youngest of three children in Macedonia. She entered the Sisters of Loreto at 17. She then was sent to Kolkata in India to teach at a high school. While riding a train, she uncovered her calling to serve the poor. She said at the time that she received an order from God to leave the convent and work and live among the poor. She was granted permission by the Vatican to do just that. She worked in the slums, teaching poor children and caring for the sick in their homes. In 1950, she founded the Missionaries of Charity to extend her work of serving the poor. From the initial house in Kolkata, nearly 500 houses have been established around the world by the Missionaries of Charity.

“A sacrifice, to be real, must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves,” Mother Teresa once said. “The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, the fruit of service is peace.”

Mother Teresa died in Kolkata in 1997 and was canonized in 2016. Her feast day is Sept. 5.

St. Ignatius of Loyola

Long before he helped found the Society of Jesus, the members of which are called Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola was an ambitious Basque soldier. Young Ignatius had a taste for fame and dueling. But at age 30, he was struck in the legs by a cannon ball. During his long and painful recovery, he turned to reading. One book particularly struck him, “De Vita Christi,” which provides an account of the life of Christ and a spiritual exercise of envisioning oneself in the presence of Christ on his journey.

A desire to become a servant of Christ sparked up within Ignatius and he spent his time serving the poor and developing spiritual exercises. He discerned the difference between when evil brought him unpleasant thoughts and God brought him happiness. He became well known for being a spiritual advisor, having penned the Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius pursued education later in life, not receiving a graduate degree until the age of 44.

Along with Peter Faber and Francis Xavier, Ignatius went to Rome to seek the creation of the religious order “Society of Jesus.” The society established schools around the world, having 35 alone before Ignatius died in 1556.

St. Ignatius is the patron saint of educators and soldiers. His feast day is July 31.