I find saints to be helpful, provocative and needed. Christian living is difficult enough that I find myself in need of good witness to help me understand the horizons of Christian life, to invite me to live differently and to anchor me more squarely in the reality of what Scripture and tradition propose. Read the Roman Martyrology and you’ll notice through the centuries there are men and women lifted up by the Church as worthy of following. Recall that a saint’s purpose to is to point us not to himself, but to Jesus Christ. Saints are not self-referential.
Christianity can really be characterized as a genealogy beginning with the Trinity right down to our present age. In history we count the Mother of God, Mary, as the first disciple of God; in the coming months we’ll have two new disciples honored at the altar, John XXIII and John Paul II. These men for me, indicate a path to a right relationship with the Lord.
On one hand saints tell us not to be overly anxious, that following Christ is humanly possible and yet, work is needed to be a true follower of Christ. By work I mean a personal attention to the desires of the heart, knowing the person of Jesus, having a substantial freedom from a divided heart and tongue (sin) and a life worthy of being in the presence of God. A saint realizes he or she is a sinner and the only to be with God is to rely on His grace.
The other day Andy Crouch of the WSJ wrote a good piece titled, “Saints Be Praised–Officially or Otherwise: Catholics have the most rigorous process for naming them, but even Protestants have informal ones.” Here we have a broad approach among Christians in recognizing holy men and women.
In part Mr Crouch writes,
Saints, whether formally recognized by Catholicism or informally regarded as such by other denominations, are bracing reminders that the transformation of spirit promised by religion—so elusive for most of us—is possible in this life. Christians of any kind can appreciate the remarkable lives of the two men the Catholic Church will canonize later this year.