Saturday, November 01, 2014

Be Like

Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”  I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”  He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”  Revelation 7:13-14

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  1 John 3:2

“Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”  Matthew 5:12A

I believe in the holy catholic church: the communion of saints:
The forgiveness of sins:
The resurrection of the body:
And the life everlasting. Amen.
(From the Apostles Creed)

Who exactly is on this Cloud of Witnesses?  Who really is a saint? 

We have traditional lists and calendars of holy men and women.  Yet in my childhood, I remember when the church purged the list of saints much to the distress of people who had Saint Christopher medals in their car.  Saint Christopher’s commemoration was dropped from the Church’s calendar in 1970 after Pope Paul VI (now a saint himself) issued Mysterii Paschalis, an apostolic letter that reorganized and updated of the list of liturgical celebrations in the General Roman Calendar.  Did that make Christopher or others any less “saintly” because July 25 was no longer an official commemoration of his life?

Of course not.  Whether a saint has a day commemorating his or her life, saints are all who have “survived the time of great distress.”  Or life.  In Catholic teachings, all in heaven are considered to be saints, but some are considered to be worthy of higher honor, emulation, or veneration, with official church recognition given to some saints through canonization.  We don’t make saints.  We just recognize them.

Pope John XV was the first pope to proclaim a saint. At the request of the German ruler, he canonized Bishop Ulrich of Augsburg on 31 January 993. Blessed Pope Paul VI is the newest saint, recognized just last month by Pope Francis.   Our next “saint day will be 4 NOV when we recognize the life and work of Saint Charles Borromeo. 

After an examination of the person’s life, at a minimum, two important miracles are required to be formally declared a saint. These miracles must be posthumous before the pope will canonize the person.

In his book, on Making Saints, author Kenneth L. Woodward notes the following:

A saint is always someone through whom we catch a glimpse of what God is like—and of what we are called to be. Only God "makes" saints, of course. The church merely identifies from time to time a few of these for emulation. The church then tells the story. But the author is the Source of the grace by which saints live. And there we have it: A saint is someone whose story God tells.

Melanie Rigney, author of Sisterhood of Saints, researched more than 700 women in compiling a book highlighting the lives of 365 of them.  She notes that they were not perfect.  Some were outcasts.  Some were teachers.  Some walked with the poorest of the poor.  But some were just ordinary people like you and me. She writes in the Preface: 

No matter how different they were, no matter whether they lived in the first century or the twenty-first, whether they lived in India or Peru or Italy or France or Germany or Mexico, or the United States or Canada, they loved God.

Even more importantly, they knew God loves us, through the good times and the bad.  They didn’t always understand God or the situations he put them in, but they knew he was love.  They whispered that to [Melanie] as they told [her] their stories.

Is there a saint (canonized or not) who changed your life?  Or is there a saint you are especially fond of praying to and imitating?

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