Most folks who know me would expect a discussion on the midterm elections held just Tuesday. While that would be a logical probability, I knew that’s not how I wanted to start my “blogging career,” if there is such a thing as that. I actually had difficulty deciding what topic to write for my first post here on CBC. I was relieved for Br. Emmanuel’s own post on community and sainthood. In continuity with his and Michael’s post, it makes sense to do the same. But first, I’d like to give a small forewarning.
I’m a student of politics, and I love it. Sometimes, though, that can get me impassioned and zealous. If I can have an opinion on something, I usually do. As I’ve been told, this can leave me sounding condescending and biting—I want to assure you that as we develop an author-reader relationship, in no way is that my intent, to look down upon you. It may be filled with a hard confidence, but not an unsupported sense of superiority. With that out of the way, let’s get to it.
I want to talk on sainthood. In my first draft I originally elaborated on Br. Emmanuel’s operating definition of sainthood. I was nearly two pages in speaking on the question of “Who am I?” before I even began to answer it, tying in Victor Hugo and tons of other fluff. It would all eventually lead to what follows, so let’s just get to my point: saints aren’t carbon copies of each other. I once heard a friend say that the treasury of the Church’s blessings and prayers is the sum of the individual lives of the saints. How incredible it is that we today have such a wealth of grace that we can rely on, all the tradition and history of our fathers in faith!
But wait a minute, read that again: the treasury of the Church’s blessings and prayers is the sum of the individual lives of the saints. Individual lives that were lived uniquely and completely genuine. This makes sense. There is a very big difference between St. Thomas More and St. Thomas Aquinas; one was a charming statesman and the other chased a prostitute out of his room with a hot iron! They, too, relied on the teachings of the Church, but they have contributed so much as well. We today still consider Aquinas the pinnacle of Catholic thought, and More the epitome of prudence. Without men and women like them, where would we be?
Christianity isn’t some cookie-cutter we use to shape people into piety. No, the Church exists to provide the stability and authority of Christ, a foundation upon which we can firmly stand. The liturgy (a big interest of mine) does not change easily because it belongs to the heavenly banquet in John’s Revelation. The teachings certainly do not change, but only the understanding of the Truth as it is further revealed to us. Those discoveries, though, do not spurt from some magical mitre at the Vatican. No, the wealth of the Church comes from ordinary men and women doing ordinary things with uniquely and completely great love.
This is something I’ve been struggling with for a while. I keep asking The Boss, “God, what do you want me to do? What are my marching orders? Got a mission for me?” And I get static. Until one day I realized, in front of the Blessed Sacrament of course, that what makes a saint is his or her commitment to simply love. You can’t expect to be an Aquinas when you don’t have a mental capacity for it, or a More when your life isn’t challenged. Your cause will most likely not be “santo subito” like it was for JPII. You may never attain the Doctoral thesis on love that was put forth St. Therese of Lisieux, who by all accounts had a rather regular life. But it is love that matters! “Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) And without God, obviously, there’s no sainthood, so you need love. And love is both universal and relational. Meaning, while we all love the same Christ, we often love him in those we see everyday—at work, in class, across the street, on the project committee. Those relationships are unique!
It was before that Blessed Sacrament I heard, “Stanton, you have Mama’s rosary, Michael’s shield, Leo’s brains, Joseph’s hands, John Paul’s attraction: I mean, c’mon, man! What more do you want, a delivered invitation? If you need more tools, I’m right here. Use the saints, use the Church, use the Scriptures, and even use the Fr. Barron YouTube channel if you want. But eventually you’re gonna have to figure out that they aren’t you and you aren’t them. They’re not your answer, they’re just guides. I’m your answer. If you want me, you’ll start doing it in your own way.”
Whoa. It was a little bit of a kick in the head. Of course, Jesus isn’t saying here to be a relativist or be arrogantly independent. What he’s asking of me and you and everyone else is to be your own saint. Be your own source of wealth for the Church. You have a soul; say some of your own heart’s prayers every once in a while. The rosary and the litanies and so on are there for when you need a stable and continual flow of grace. For that special mucho-grace called holiness, though, you have to find it in your heart, in love. It’s in a love that we do not initiate, though. It all starts with the First Lover, who instills in you this desire to be a saint. It was the Little Flower that said, “God would never inspire me with desires which cannot be realized; so in spite of my littleness, I can hope to be a saint.” And don’t think you’re alone in your response to God’s love; the saints are right there to back you up. They know the struggles are real (see: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta).
God calls you to be your own saint. Why? Well, I’m no philosopher or theologian, but I’d be willing to guess it’s because he deliberately made no one else like you. Note: that’s not a look-how-special-you-are-here’s-a-participation-trophy-for-being-you kind of thing. It’s more of a there’s-no-one-else-for-your-job-so-get-the-hell-up-and-get-to-it kind of thing. If not you, then who? You can participate in all the Holy Day indulgences and chaplets and store up all the purgatory grace-points you want. But without saints—individuals who decide to fill the positions needed—the Church just dries up into very nice-mannered people in pews.
I’ve said enough this first post. Br. Emmanuel gave you a bit of direction of how communities of saints work. Michael described what kind of community we are, and I’m here telling you more-or-less how saints are made. If this flood of information doesn’t do it for you, well, I suggest reading G.K. Chesterton or Venerable Fulton Sheen. They’re a hell of a lot more entertaining and experienced than we are.
But then again, they did their own thing, too, didn’t they? Huh…