Sunday, July 19, 2009
Who are saints? Saints are people like us, who live or lived a life full of love for God and others. In brief, they cared for the "Other." This "Other" is Christ who lives in the needy, the sick, and the oppressed. Saints are the ones who do the Father's will in their lives and forget their own will. Saints rejoice in others who repent by the power of the Holy Spirit. Saints are known by their humility. As greed was the origin of sin, humility is the crown of holiness. But above all, saints are open to God's grace in their everyday life. They labour in the Lord's vineyard without regard to their entitlement. We find many saints in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. The Church commemorates them and many more. Above all the Blessed Virgin Mary was and is the humble and silent servant of God. For this, the Lord wished to be born of her and she foretold that "all generations shall call me blessed." She was silent so that Christ speaks. The Gospels hardly speak of her, yet we know from Tradition that she is the most pure of all creatures. The 3rd Ecumenical Council proclaimed Mary "Theotokos" (i.e. bearer of God) in 431 A.D. John the Baptist is alslo highly commemorated since he prepared the way for Christ by his austere life and obedience to God. From the Old Testament, we see many people who listened to God and followed him. One of them is Samuel who said to God "Speak O Lord for your servant is listening." Another silent servant of God is St. Joseph, Mary's fiance, who was a simple carpenter. In spite of his doubts about Mary's virginity, he was humble enough to accept what the angel told him in a dream. There are many saints in the history of God's people. Think of Stephen the first martyr who was stoned to death by his fellow Jews and yet he asked God to forgive them as did his Master. From the early Church, in addition to the apostles and disciples of Christ, we recall St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Basil, St. Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Gregory, St. Augustine, St. John of Damascus, St. Benedict, St. Barbara, St. George, St. Damiane, St. Anthony, St. Polycarp, St. Cyril, St. Methodius and many more. From the more recent history we recall St. Francis, St. Rita, St. Charbel, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas More, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius Loyola, St. Jean Vianne Cure d'Ars, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, St Edith Stein, St. Faustina, and St. Rafka. Some of the recent Beatified are Blessed Marie Bawardi of Jesus Crucified (a Melkite nun who lived in Egypt & Palestine in the 19th century) and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The cause for the beatification of Pope John Paul II is almost complete. The Church has proclaimed some 4,000-5,000 saints to-date but heaven has a lot more saints. Many unknown saints have never been noticed. In order to avoid abuse, since the 15th century the Catholic Church established rules for declaring saints. There are three important steps that must be examined and completed for a person (candidate) to be beatified and canonized. These are: 1) Heroic life of virtue must be established based on testimonials by people who knew the candidate. 2) The candidate's faith must be in accordance with the teaching of the Catholic Church based on documents written by him/her and/or certification by authorities. 3) At least 2 miracles (that cannot be explained by scientific investigation) are attributed to the candidate's intercession. These are established through a medical committee. Following the cause for beatification, the Congregation for sainthood must approve the above findings before they go to the Pope for approval and proclamation. Saints point us to Christ. They pray for our salvation. And they rejoice when one sinner repents. The essence of sainthood is nothing else than love - true love.