Roy5 said: “When I pray I go to God. No intermediary needed. It strikes me - in reading of saints - that some were canonized more for political than spiritual reasons.”
Saints pray for us just as you would if I asked you to pray for me.
To the politicization, it may seem that way, but you one thing to keep in mind is that Catholicism is not like a business corporation, where we view the hierarchy as the singular point of authority, that is, the only possessors of guidance by the Holy Spirit. The entire Body of Christ is led by the Holy Spirit, and there are many instances where that guidance guides the Church itself.
Saints, in the oldest sense, were local to communities. It is still this way in many parts of western Europe. Local Saints were people who lived, worked and worshiped in the community. Their canonization is because of the people, the Body of Christ, who knew the person(s) while alive and understood who these people were/are.
So in the decision making process for local saints most often it is the faith of the people who decide the patron saint. This can appear political, ie, appeasing the locals sort of thing, but that is not what it is. It is the Holy Spirit acting in and through Christ’s Church, which consists of ALL The faithful.
However, that being said, sometimes people can perceive political activism as charitable acts. This can and does occur, though I believe usually with the best of intent. I think that is what your comment is re: Mary Magdalene being the patron Saint of UT…that it is political activism, relevant to the dominant Utah culture.
A book I have on the history of Catholics of UT only states that the first Catholic church dedicated in UT was in 1871, and was named in honor of St. Mary Magdalene. Could be she was a favored saint of the current priest or Archbishop of San Francisco, or who knows. At the time, there wasn’t much more of a backwater Catholic place to be than UT, and very few Catholics were living in Utah. Most were miners, soldiers or working for the railroad companies. I would think the selected patronage would be more for the benefit of the faithful, not for Mormons.
Since she is associated to contemplatives, which is often associated to desert monasticism, it could be the local desert climate or the “spiritual desert” of UT.
When that small church was replaced in the early 20th century by the current cathedral, it retained the patronage of St. Mary Magdalene.