The Communion of Saints
Christians are known as the Communion of Saints. To be a saint, one must be sanctified. Through Christ, we are sanctified. Together, as the body of believers, Christians in heaven, purgatory, and here on earth make up the Communion of Saints, the body of Christ.
If we are all saints, then why does the Catholic Church make a separate distinction of those who are canonized as saints? This was a question that I had prior to my time in RCIA. The Catholic Church does not make someone a saint; they simply recognize them as a saint through the canonization process. Those that are canonized as saints have led a life that can be an example for the rest of us to follow. The Church sees that they held special favor in God's eye, and they can pray for us on our behalf. Saints are saints because they were sanctified by Christ, not because the Catholic Church has made them so.
As with Mary, saying a prayer to the saints is often misunderstood. In our prayers to the saints, we are asking them to pray on our behalf. When we are looking for a new job, we may look to someone who can give us a good recommendation. When we meet a boy or girl we like, we ask someone to put in a good word for us. When we pray to the saints, we are asking them to do the same.
Praying to the saints is not inherently wrong. People assume that Catholics are worshiping them instead of Christ. I admit that there is a danger of this happening. Catholics must be mindful of their thoughts and ensure that they are approaching intercessory prayer in the right manner. Only Christ Himself can answer our prayers. Saints cannot. But, we can ask the saints to pray on our behalf so that Christ may be more likely to answer our prayers.
Based on their lives here on earth, many saints have become the patron saint of a particular cause. For instance, St. Anthony of Padua is the patron saint of lost items. His ministry and time on earth was spent helping those who were lost find their way back to faith. Now, whether you have lost your keys or lost your faith, St. Anthony of Padua can help you find it.
My first experience with patron saints came prior to being Catholic. Skeptical, I decided to pray to St. Jude during an especially difficult time in my life. My sister, a Catholic, had shared with me a prayer card for St. Jude. With my life out of control, I had nothing to lose. Every night, I prayed to St. Jude to ask him for help. As time went on, my life began to change. I did not experience a miraculous overnight change in my life, but things started coming together. Praying to a patron saint may be something new for you, but you never know if it will work if you never try.
Confirmation and RCIA Names
One common practice is to choose a saint for our Confirmation name. Basically, by choosing a saint's name as your Confirmation name, you are asking that saint to act on your behalf throughout your life. Like a permanent intercessory prayer, the saint will watch over and pray for you. At the same time, choosing a saint that fits your life will help to keep you focused on your life of faith.
Choosing a saint for my confirmation name became a lengthy process. During RCIA, I spent a great deal of time looking online and reading at bookstores to find a saint that fits who I am. In the end, I found that St. Ignatius of Loyola was a military man that came to faith later in life. There were parts of his life that mirrored my own. For that reason, I chose to use St. Ignatius of Loyola. Some time later, I learned of feast days for the saints. I decided to look up the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and I found out that it was July 31st, my birthday.