From Catechumen To Convert Part 2: My Patron Saint

patron saint anthony

A patron saint isn’t something Protestants have anything to do with. All I knew of a patron saint was seeing TV and movie Catholics kissing their St. Christopher medallion before a shootout or a feat of derring-do.

Now I had to decide on my own saint.

Orthodox Christians choose a saint prior to being received into the Church. This saint is regarded as an advocate or intercessor for us, and the model of a Christian life in their earthly deeds. In the Divine Liturgy, we take on the name of this saint, and are known (at least at the Communion chalice) by that name.

By taking the name of a saint, we honor their life on earth, and identify in part with their glorification. It is a way of uniting us with the history of the Church, and of participating in that ‘great cloud of witnesses’ who have gone before us.

I had a hard time accepting the idea of praying to saints, or to anyone that was departed. As a Christian I do believe we have a soul. But what happens to it after death? Do we just lie in suspended animation until some future revivification? Are we ‘soul sleeping?’

Or are we alive in Christ? Isn’t He the God of the living? I continued to wrestle with this as I continued on my journey.

When practical, a catechumen chooses a saint that shares their first name. In my case, it was assumed to be St. Anthony. I knew nothing of him so I began to read St. Athanasius’ account of his life.

I came to realize that each Sunday, the place I stood during Liturgy was right next to an icon of St. Anthony. I had never noticed this before. The next time I was in church, I made sure to examine the icon, and noticed the scroll in his hand.

Written on the scroll were the words, “I used to fear God, but now I love him.”

Warmth flooded my heart at that moment. This simple statement expressed my journey so well.

All my life, I had lived in fear of an angry God who was poised to render judgment on me. My continual sins left me ever more in need of reprieve from my sure damnation.

Orthodoxy showed me a different way of looking at God. He truly is the Great Physician, eager to see us return to him like the Prodigal Son so that we may be healed. How can I not love a God with such endless mercy?

Having found a connection with a saint whose name I shared seemed fortuitous, and I was glad I had found my saint.

Our icon corner has an icon of St. Anthony that I see every day. I think often of his ability to resist the snares of the Devil and pray that he will help me to do the same. He is a role model and a reminder that we can love God without fear.

As I approach the chalice each week since I was received into the Church, I feel that bond with my patron saint as I hear the words of my priest:

“The servant of God Anthony receives the precious and all-holy Body and Blood of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ for remission of sins and for eternal life.”

This is a continuing series on my conversion to Orthodoxy. Part 1 can be found here.