Saints We Are
When we talk about “saints,” we immediately think of the “canonized ones” – those proclaimed by the Church as blessed because they have lived extraordinary lives beyond that of an average Christian. Here we note that the Church does not make or create saints, but rather recognizes their virtues and present them to the faithful as role models in the practice of the faith.
The first saint I have known is San Antonio of Padua. My mom entrusted me to his care in my childhood. She even added it as my baptismal name. He was known for his persuasive preaching and impressive miracles borne out of his deep faith in God. The saint who inspired me most is St. John Bosco. Having read his life as a boy, his personality captivated me because he was such a talented individual both in nature and in grace. But my favorite saint is John Paul II because he inspired me to be a priest. Most of all, he is the only saint I have seen in my life.
Many times the saints are projected as bigger than life. We think of them as extra-terrestrial beings who lived perfect and pure lives having no struggles and concupiscence. They seem to be so high on their pedestals that they are beyond the reach of ordinary mortals. Moreover, we focus on their miracles and their phenomenal deeds that make them super human beings. They become like “superheroes” whose lives we love to tell but whose lives we simply cannot imitate.
In reality, they were men and women like us who experienced doubts, fears, worries, joy and hope. They cried and felt hurt. They also had to make difficult decisions in life. They were men and women of their times who were affected by the conditions of their surroundings. What made them extraordinary is that they never allowed their darkness to control them. They cooperated in the grace of God to transform them into vessels of light.
In a broad sense, saints are those who follow Jesus and live their lives according to his teachings. In fact, St. Paul in writing to the different Christian communities of his time, he called them “saints.” Indeed, all of us baptized into Christ are potential saints. We have the capacity because we are children of God as well as the means through the sacraments that give us spiritual strength. In the strict sense, real saints are the men and women who have persevered in their earthly pilgrimage. They have reached the finish line and are now receiving the glorious crown of eternal life.
The lives of the saints continue to challenge us. Even today, there are practical ways that the saints are inviting us to do. Every saint prayed well. They endeavored to have a close relationship with God. They believed that man does not live by bread alone but also needs God’s guidance and direction through His Word. While they kept their feet were firmly rooted on the ground, their eyes were fixed on the spiritual home beyond the stars.
Every saint worked well. First of all, they challenged themselves to overcome their laziness and mediocrity. They responded to the deep yearning in their hearts to seek for real happiness which only God can give. Motivated by the spirit of self denial, they made a commitment to follow Jesus and take up their cross daily. They tried to put into practice the lifestyle and attitude of Christ.
Every saint lived well. Love is the most essential quality of a saint. Every saint is a great lover of God and neighbor. They show their love and compassion even to the point of sacrifice because saints are convinced that there can be no love without sacrifice. Even Jesus declared that “there is no greater love than one who lays down his life for his friends.” Saints live the beatitudes practicing meekness and mercy,
The Irish poet and playwright, Oscar Wilde once wrote: “every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Saints are never perfect people. Its inspiring to realize that we all have the potentials to be numbered among them. Every day I encounter simple and ordinary people who work well, pray well and live well. I feel God’s grace working quietly in the world despite its confusion and turmoil. Mysteriously, God inspires every willing heart to strive to a life of godliness.
This article appeared in my Sunday Column “Sharing the Word” at Cebu Daily News on November 05, 2017.