Is there value in giving official recognition of sanctity to women and men in our Church?
On the plus side…
The church is Catholic – universal. We are women and men of diverse vocations and life choices. We embrace different charisms and spiritualities woven into the tapestry of our history. We come from many cultures, professions, and educational back-grounds. We need to know saintly women and men who led lives like ours, people whom we can relate to, look up to and be inspired by. We need heavenly patrons – a personal link to the powerful prayer machine called the communion of saints.
For a religious congregation or ecclesial movement, having a founder or member elevated as a Blessed (beatification) or Saint (canonization) is a source of great energy and pride. It not only affirms the person`s sanctity, it is also an affirmation for the spiritual path chosen by their followers.
On the negative side…
There`s no denying that beatification and canonization is a bureaucratic process. It is an intense and expensive venture requiring years of painstaking research and investigation before the cause can be presented to the Vatican for consideration. Many smaller communities, congregations or movements cannot afford either the time or the money.
There can also be political overtones. Elevating a person to sainthood does not automatically canonize all their thoughts and teachings. But, the appearance of ideological support is hard to ignore. For example, despite the controversy surrounding Opus Dei, John Paul II canonized their founder, Josemaria Escrivá, a mere 27 years after his death. Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day are yet to be beatified despite their active social justice works.
We need our saints, from centuries ago and from modern times. The Church`s process for beatification and canonization merely affirms that a person led a life of courageous faith and sanctity, and we believe that they have now entered eternal glory. We all know many saints who have gone before us. The hidden lives of these holy women and men, family and friends, may not receive a Vatican celebration. But they share the same glory as the great saints of history.
Whether or not our loved ones make the official list, we unite with them in prayer across time and space. We know that they will pray with us and pray for us.
The River Walk is a must see for any visitor to San Antonio, Texas. On a recent visit, I spent a few leisurely hours exploring it with friends. We began by walking, and then opted for the touristy boat tour. A highlight of the River Walk is a lovely bronze statue of St. Anthony by the sculptor, Leopoldo de Almeida. It was presented to the city by the government of Portugal in 1968. Catholic or not, everyone wants to see San Antonio!
Stop and think of how many cities and towns in your part of the world are named after saints. Canada is full of them, both English and French. The place-names are a testament to the faith of the early settlers. Churches and cathedrals are built in their honour. Candles are lit and flowers are placed at statues. Feast days and processions are celebrated in gratitude for prayers answered, and with hopes for future protection from their heavenly patrons.
I`ve always been a lover of our Catholic saints. They`re a colourful bunch! And I love a good story and meaning behind a name. Often place-names become so common-place that we forget about the person behind the name. Here`s to St. Tony, and the wonderful city of San Antonio!
My husband is hoping to give up `giving up` this Lent. His tongue-in-cheek comment reflects a desire for a more positive attitude – to embrace the proverbial half-full glass rather than feeling overwhelmed by life`s challenges. Lenten fasting can be as much about embracing and sanctifying our present life and circumstance as it is about giving something up.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux became a saint by following her `little way`. She always wanted to be a saint, but she was not destined for the grand road of missionary work or martyrdom. She lived a quiet life in a small Carmelite convent in France. It was a quiet life, but not an easy life. Living and working with her sisters gave her multiple opportunities for sanctity each day. She struggled to remain silent when falsely accused of minor infractions. She tried to maintain a pleasant disposition with crotchety nuns. She didn`t complain when she received a smaller or inferior portion of food. She offered up each and every inconvenience and annoyance as a sacrifice. It was her `little way` – a way that led her to become one of our most popular saints.
Everyday life often presents enough challenges without needing to take on extra penances. The sleep deprivation of new parents is more sacrifice than most of us can handle. Parenting at all stages poses unique stresses that easily overwhelm us. The aches and pains of illness and aging are suffering enough. Crises at work, at home, and in our world test our patience, fortitude and courage.
Sometimes the best Lenten fast that we can pursue is to simply embrace the present challenges given to us with faith, hope… and an extra dose of love.