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June Article for The RI Catholic

Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND

A few weeks ago the Church received two new official saints. By calling a person to canonization, the Church is saying that we believe that this person is now with God. It does not say that everything the person did or said in life is either true or holy. It does not say that we have to like the person who is becoming a saint. It is not saying that we have to admire them or emulate them. It simply says that they are with God.

A classic example of a life not to imitate is a man brought into heaven by Christ himself, one of the thieves who died on the cross next to Jesus. Jesus said to him, "This day you will be with me in paradise." The Church acknowledges him as saint, even gives him the name Dismas; but there is no encouragement to live as he did. The list of the sins of the saints is longer than the list of the saints, so we always have to keep clear the limits of a decree of canonization. Otherwise we find ourselves in a position of wondering why we have saints who made so many mistakes.

Back to our two newest saints. I saw a cartoon that is calling them the Vatican 2. Both men lived in the 20th century and served as Popes. One for a relatively short four years and one for over 27 years. They came from different generations, different countries, different backgrounds and different world views. They were followers of Christ who tried to share Christ to all the world. They each gave their lives for the Church which Jesus entrusted to us.

Neither man was canonized because he was pope. A brief history of the Church reveals how many popes were notoriously sinful. Among them there was hardly a sin left untried. Yet it is beginning to seem as if being pope or a founder of a religious community puts someone on a fast track to official sainthood. There are more un-canonized saints than there are canonized ones.

Going back to the decree of canonization, it means the Church believes the person is with God. With that definition clear, it is good to reflect on people we have known in our lives who we believe are with God. We can add them to our own Litany of the Saints, an ancient prayer where we call on saints by name to pray for us.

In 1985, a Servite priest, Fr. Martin Jenco was taken hostage in Lebanon by Muslim extremists. At the time he was the Program Director for Catholic Relief Services. He was held for 18 months before his release. When speaking about his time in captivity, Fr. Jenco said he prayed often the Litany of the Saints, but his own version. He related how he always began with his own grandmother and then went through his favorite official saints mixed in with all the people he knew in his life who lived good lives and were now with God. This communion with all these holy people helped him through his suffering.

God speaks to us through ordinary life and through the people we meet along the way, those whom we love and who love us, as well as the stranger and even those who harm us. Not everyone lives in love as God intends, but we have many who are the guideposts of how life can be lived to the fullest – in good times and in bad, in birth and in death.

During these slower days of summer, it might be a good time to savor those people we have known who have touched us with love and to pray our own Litany of Saints. We are never separated in the Body of Christ. They are with us still, living and more living.

All you holy saints of God, pray for us.

Originally published in the Rhode Island Catholic.


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