October 14, 2018
If our wanting to be saints grows in proportion to our longing to return to Christ the love that he showed for us on the Cross, then the return will find its shape in the concrete situations of our daily lives. That is, there is no one class of persons or particular field of endeavor that produces saints. Rather, saints illumine the transforming power of Christ’s love in each and every life in each and every age in each and every place in each and every society.
The Blessed Virgin does this for motherhood; Saint Joseph for fathers; Saints Joachim and Anne for grandparents; Saint John the Baptist for ‘second fiddles’; Saint Peter for the spineless and Saint Paul for who hate.
In later ages, the Church has come to recognize this ‘illuminating’ power of those who love to be loved by Christ in young saints. Dominic Savio offered himself as a victim to bullies; Maria Gorretti forgave the drunk who sexually assaulted her and brought about her death; the Shepherds of Fatima never wavered in telling the truth; Tarcisius became a heroic ‘martyr of the Eucharist’ back in the days of Roman persecution.
Since long life expectancy is a relatively recent phenomenon, really old saints are relatively rare in the catalog. But Saint Anthony of Egypt was more than a hundred when he died after years of mortification in the Egyptian desert and John XXII and Paul VI and John Paul II were all relatively old and full of patience and ‘afflictions’ in the latter years of their lives – no retirement from loving to be loved by Christ!
Some more modern saints demonstrate the necessity and the power that lies in them to resist evil with good: Romero, who continued in the episcopate despite death threats; Kolbe, a priest who volunteered to take the place of a family man in a Nazi prison camp; Franz Jagerstatter, who died because his conscientious objection to National Socialism could not be compromised.
Others who had been really ‘bad’ sinners reveal he power of Christ’s love to save all kinds of folk: Dismas was a first-century terrorist; Matt Talbott (pray for his canonization!) was a violent drunk; Longinus was the Roman soldier in charge of the execution of Jesus; the attacker of Maria Goretti, Allesandro Serenelli, may well be canonized one day because of the depth and length of his penitence.
If you need examples of how to be a saint in circumstances that seem to be non-conducive to sanctity, do not be discouraged. You may be a pioneer in new fields of holiness. You may just be unaware of someone who had gone before you – ask me, or someone holier, or check it out on the web (who will be the first canonized user of Facebook?). Certainly, do not let the customary literary conventions of hagiography deter you from looking beyond them to see the real person in a real relationship with Christ.
Really and truly and hopefully yours,