Each year on the feast of St. John Vianney I think of the permanent deacon who instructed me as a catechumen and then baptized me nineteen years ago this month.
The deacon thought of himself a simple man, and had found in John Vianney another cleric who had persevered through difficulty in his theological studies. Over the years I've realized that this was an important thing for me to see; it was my first real-life experience of personal devotion of a saint.
There are all sorts of devotions to saints, all of them blessed.
Sometimes we find in a saint or spiritual writer a resonance with our own experience of Christianity; we see some similarity in the graces and struggles and find someone in whom we can see ourselves. For me I think of Augustine, Benedict Joseph Labré, Thomas Merton, and Edith Stein.
Sometimes the saint seems to have something that we desire, or who seems like an intercessor consonant with what we seek. For me I think of Joseph, Monica, Thomas, and Bonaventure.
Sometimes a devotion arises from something like a combination of these two sorts of dynamics; the life and holiness of the saint not only speaks to something in our own experience, but of taking it to a depth or a place that we still want to go. For me I think of Francis.
Sometimes we can become devoted to a saint because his or her doctrine helps us understand the operation of grace in our own prayer and desire for Christianity. For me I think of Cassian and John of the Cross.
I suppose there are many more ways that we come to receive the gift of devotion to different saints. In all of it we give thanks to Christ, because it is his death and resurrection that has established us in a communion that transcends time and death.