Studying the saints is a good thing. Read their biographies. Read their writings. Be inspired to imitate them.

But the best thing about the saints is that we can foster relationships with them. Talk to them. Ask them for favours. We can approach them the way a small child approaches a favourite aunt or uncle: boldly and sincerely.

Pope Francis gives us a good example of this. As Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Cardinal Bergoglio made no secret of his devotion to St Thérèse — perhaps the greatest of our modern saints; certainly the most popular!

From “El Jesuita” (“The Jesuit”), a book interview written by Sergio Rubin and Francesca Ambrogetti:

We pause before a vase full of white roses standing on a shelf in the library. In front of it is a photograph of Saint Thérèse.

“Whenever I have a problem,” Bergoglio explained, “I ask the saint not to solve it, but to take it into her hands and to help me accept it and I almost always receive a white rose as a sign.”

Lo and behold:

On Sunday 8 September, the day after the long prayer vigil for peace in Syria – when some passages from texts written by Saint Thérèse of Lisieux were read out – Pope Francis received a white rose as a surprise.

The Archbishop of Ancona and Osimo, Edoardo Menichelli broke the news, with Francis’ authorisation.

“The Pope told me he received the freshly-picked white rose out of the blue from a gardener as he was taking a stroll in the Vatican Gardens on Sunday 8 September,” Mgr. Menichelli said.