Reflection for Day 8 – Diverse But One in Holiness

It should be said that there are increasing numbers of figures regarded as saints even though they have not been declared definitively so by the Church. As a priest who ministers to many believers in the African-American community, I can attest that there is a growing awareness of ethnic holy men and women, such as:  Pierre Toussaint, Henriette Delille, Sister Thea Bowman, Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange, Julia Greeley and Fr. Augustus Tolton. Indeed, there is a growing number of what might be called secular or interdenominational holy personages or heroes like the Baptist minister Rev. Martin Luther King who stood up against racial injustice and the Lutheran minister Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who opposed NAZI brutality and oppression. Pope Francis, side-stepping any canonical listing, noted four exemplary Americans who through “hard work and sacrifice – some at the cost of their lives,” were able to build “a better future” and shape fundamental values: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day. It is true that statements of this sort concentrate on the vertical and not the horizontal nature of existence. The emphasis is upon the here-and-now and not the here-after.

Of course, that does not mean we fail to hope that our secular heroes might all find themselves in heaven. While it is more problematical for non-Catholic Christians, we cannot imagine that any that believe in Jesus and love the Lord would be forsaken by him. This hope becomes more strained when we call to mind figures like Gandhi who loved their fellow man but from outside the saving dispensation. In an age where a quaint sentimentality would have people more worried about whether pet dogs will join them in heaven; we need to do more to proclaim the Good News of Christ to men and women. At least when we have done what we can, we can prayerfully say with a clear conscience, “Thy will be done.” In any case, we are moved by those who are true prophets among us for charity and justice.

Frequently we hear the criticism that just as with Church authority, the canonical saints are overly slanted toward men. However, there is a quick corrective to this in that the most important human person among the saints is a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Further, Christian history is filled with many of her spiritual daughters who have enriched the Church through their loving service: Saints Felicity and Perpetua witness as martyrs in the early Church; St. Faustina is the great apostle of the Divine Mercy; St. Joan of Arc shatters the stereotypes of her times; St. Katharine Drexel gives up everything to educate and to empower Native and African Americans;  St. Teresa of Calcutta cares for the poorest of the poor;  St. Elizabeth Ann Seton helps in the establishment of the Catholic school system; St. Elizabeth of Hungary puts aside the privileges of royal rank to help the less fortunate; St. Catherine of Siena ranks as a spiritual doctor of the Church; St. Bernadette is the visionary of the Immaculate Conception at Lourdes; St. Clare of Assisi complements St. Francis in his work of restoring the Church; St. Therese of Lisieux testifies to the holiness of a quiet and short life; St. Maria Goretti as a teen testifies with her blood on behalf of chastity; St. Teresa of Avila actually tries to save the Church from herself; St. Edith Stein faces death in the Holocaust as a Jewish convert to the faith; St. Gianna Molla gives totally of herself as a medical doctor, wife and mother, and the list goes on and on.  Every woman of faith could have been the one chosen as the Mother of God. Saintly women realize their potency in this regard, not by actually giving birth to the physical Christ, but by giving him spiritual birth in their loving and prayerful care for others.

About Father Joe

Father Joe Jenkins I am the pastor of Holy Family Church and a Catholic priest in the Archdiocese of Washington, DC.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s