Our calendar is full of Saints whom we celebrate. In the past two weeks we have celebrated Saints Ignatius Loyola, Alphonsus Liguori, John Vianney, Dominic, and Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, (Edith Stein), just to name a few. Next week we are celebrating Saints Clare, Jane Frances Chantal, Maximilian Kolbe, and Stephen of Hungary, not to mention a major feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary! We love our Saints, and as a Church we enjoy celebrating them. But what is most interesting is how varied these people are; they are not "cookie cutter" people. Rather, they are as different from one another as can be. For example, of those named above, one started out as a college professor who was also Jewish, one had trouble with his studies and could not pass Latin class, one was a lawyer before entering religious life, one was a king, and another was a former soldier who may have killed someone during his courtly career! There are no two alike, though some may have similar stories. And this is one reason I love the Saints: there is a Saint (or two or three) for everyone.
If we want to grow in holiness we must realize that if we have something which we cling to that comes between us and God, (not necessarily material) we need to let go of it. It means being emptied in order to be filled. The Saints are the ones who have learned that if they want to be filled with God, they need to create a space for Him. One cannot be filled with wisdom and grace if one provides no room. They learn through the hard work of prayer and interior struggle to let go of all that is not God. They do this because they learned to love God so greatly that they do not want anything to hinder their relationship, and not because God forces them to let go. When they let go of that which they were attached to and attach themselves wholly to God they find true riches.
For many, being inspired by a Saint was how they came to become Christ-like and therefore, holy, themselves. They simply grew in love of the Lord and therefore they lead us to God as they reflect God to us. The Saints live the Gospel and they can be a gateway to God for others through the love they share. All of us should aspire to such holiness. By nature of our baptism we each share in a universal call to holiness. Even if we are never noticed in a global way, and most of us will not be, we can make a difference in the lives of the people we touch.
There is no corner on the market for sanctity. While we do imitate certain Saints for a particular virtue that we find inspirational, we are not called to be exactly like someone else. We are called to be the unique person that we were created to be, using the unique set of gifts, talents, experiences, and circumstances we have been given. We need to realize that our diversity as a people is what makes us so beautiful. Every person, no matter who they are, no matter how small it seems, has something to offer the Kingdom. The beauty of our call is that we do not have to worry what situation we encounter: God is the one who gives us the graces we need to serve Him as we are called.
The Saints are good role models whose influence we seek as well as their intercession for us and our world. By celebrating them we are celebrating both who they were and that holiness is attainable. We can have the heroic virtue they had if we let God help us to build upon our own virtues. And ultimately we can have the joy of being filled with His grace and love, savoring it more deeply and intimately, as we share that love others. The evil in the world may seem to be overpowering, but we must remember that ultimately God is in control. In the end He will be victorious. And it is with our perseverance, guided by the Saints, that we can make a difference.
May we be inspired by the variety of Saints to give our own unique gifts such as they did! May we look to the Saints to understand how to love greatly in all the little things we do! May we learn from the holy ones how to persevere in trust in the Lord! May we celebrate the lives and the feasts of the Saints through imitating their virtues! And may we accept the gift of holiness that the Lord is offering to us! Let us continue to meet in the heart of our Lord Jesus! Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
The photos are mine, taken in Colorado on Copper Mountain.
The icons are the work of Fr. William Hart McNichols. The first one is Edith Stein: Patroness of Europe and it is found at http://www.standreirublevicons.com/gallery-views/holy-women-and-girls-gallery/product/70-st-edith-stein-patroness-of-europe
The second is St. Andrei Rublev Patron of Iconographers and is found at http://www.fatherbill.org/component/hikashop/product/123-st-andrei-rublev-patron-of-iconographers
The third is Santa Clara y San Ignacio and it is found at http://www.fatherbill.org/gallery-views/holy-women-and-girls-gallery/product/66-santa-clara-y-san-ignacio