By Fr. Rich, O.P.
The one who serves God willingly is heard;
his petition reaches the heavens.
The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds;
it does not rest till it reaches its goal,
nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds,
judges justly and affirms the right,
and the Lord will not delay. (Sirach, from the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
The prophet Sirach offers a succinct description of someone who could be considered among the ranks of those “sainted.” This suggestion is supported several centuries later by Paul in his letter to Timothy:
I have competed well; I have finished the race;
I have kept the faith.
From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me,
which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day (2 Timothy)
As you recall, “saint” is defined by The Concise Dictionary of Theology thusly: it’s Latin for “one who is holy or set apart.” I have known some people in my life who I would place in that category. My Dominican brother, Henry, was prayerful, loyal to Jesus in all his dealings and peaceful and gentle. Each day that I met him in our chapel prior to Morning Prayer, he was already on his second rosary of the four that he would offer throughout the day. Committed to the Dominican pillars of prayer, study, community, and ministry, he worked diligently every day, quietly celebrating the Sabbath by reading Scripture and praying. There have been others.
All of us could share stories of people in our lives who we do not doubt are in the ranks of a
great multitude, which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation)
The Brother Henrys in our lives are there to show us that saintliness is not a theoretical concept, not an unattainable level of relationship with our God. Each of us has the makings of sainthood: the raw material that weaves our energy and prayerful growth in holiness.
It comes with a price. We are called to deeper sense of our vocation as a child of God, a stronger willingness to reach beyond ourselves to experience what Jesus challenges us to take on: taking up our Cross and walking in His steps. Forgetting ourselves and our own desires, goals, and needs fall away in our search for sainthood. And when we are in the midst of the struggle, lost in our fears and doubts, surrounded by the challenges and temptations of our world, those who have gone before us serve as anchors, lights in the darkness, reminders of the possible, and the attainable.
Many of our saints are known, admired, prayed to as intercessors, and studied as sources of wisdom and grace. Some are from deep in the Church’s history; some are known to us through the media, recent and respected. There are, however, many more who quietly led lives that were holy, prayerful, and committed to loving God with a determination beyond all telling.
All of them began as you and I, on a path to a relationship with God that nurtured us. We invite others to join us, committing at some point to allow the Holy Spirit to set our hearts and souls on fire and leaving the mundane world for a universe of being swept up by God.
So we honor these men, women, and children, respecting their achievements and yearning to join them. Be prayerful. Be joyful in your faith and strong in your love of God. Perhaps, we will meet in heaven.