Pope Francis stresses the role of the saints not only in helping individual Christians, but also in inspiring the whole church. He writes, “the saints lead the Church forward … the Church cannot go forward without them … all of them are the living blood of the church. They are the witnesses that lead the church forward, those that attest that the Lord is risen, those that attest that Jesus is alive” (22 April, 2017). For the saints Christ is indeed truly alive and present in their lives and in the world. They may not feel his presence but their faith gives them absolute certainty concerning it. They live in the presence of the God who is love (1 John 4:16) and radiate God’s love by the example of their holy lives.
When the church is facing some special challenge or crisis it is always the saints who come to her rescue. In the words of St. John Paul II, “Men and women saints have always been the source and origin of renewal, in the most difficult circumstances of the church’s history” (Christifideles Laici 16:3). During his long reign as Pope, he guided the church through the difficult period of renewal ushered in by Vatican II Council. To aid in this renewal he gave practical expression to the need for more saints around the world, by canonizing 482 new saints and by beatifying another 1327. He encouraged the faithful to pray for more saints to strengthen the faith of their communities. His successors, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, have followed in his footsteps by giving the church still more saints from many different countries.
At times when she is persecuted, it is the martyrs who come to the rescue of the church and ensure her survival. The saints who died as martyrs for the faith have always had a special place in the hearts of the faithful,l because of their deep faith and great moral courage. As already indicated, in the early church the martyrs were very numerous because of the severe persecutions of Christians. The young Christian communities showed their special love and admiration for the martyrs by celebrating Holy Mass over their tombs. To some extent this pious practice is still observed, by having relics of martyrs embedded in church altars around the world, so that the Eucharist is still celebrated over them. The age of martyrs is never over. We are privileged to have Blessed Benedict Daswa as one of them. Even today Christians are suffering and dying for their faith in large numbers in many parts of the world. They are in continual need of our prayers and sacrifices to help them in their sufferings.