It is almost impossible to contemplate the saints without considering that among the ranks of martyrs there could be almost 40 new saints in Heaven today from the Syrian Catholic cathedral in central Bagdad where armed militants seeking the release of jailed Al-Qaeda members killed at least a fourth of the congregation. Were they martyrs for the faith? I don't know. I will be praying for them on All Souls' Day tomorrow.
In broader meditation on the subject of saints, I repost this for today's feast of All Saints' Day because I didn't remember it and found it a good meditation.
Shortly after he converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking the streets of New York with his friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Merton what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic.I read this earlier in the week. It really made an impression and kept returning to my mind.
“I don’t know,” Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic.
Lax stopped him in his tracks.
“What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!”
Merton was dumbfounded.
“How do you expect me to become a saint?,” Merton asked him.
Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”
Yes, the goal is to get to Heaven, but didn't I expect a stopover in Purgatory? Didn't everyone I talked to laugh somewhat about how long they'd be stuck there too?
It struck me that what this attitude reflects is not aiming for Heaven, but settling for Purgatory. We should be happy that Purgatory is there like the net under tightrope walkers, to catch us if we fall short. But we should be aiming for, and expecting, to achieve our greatest potential ... that for which God created each and every one of us. That with His grace and our cooperation we can each be a saint.
St. Teresa of Avila crossed my mind. St. John of the Cross. You know where I'm going with this right? Blessed Teresa of Calcutta (a.k.a. Mother Teresa). The dark night of the soul. I know that these saints thought it worthwhile but I'm not into signing up for that duty.
I then thought of my grandfather, Raymond. A wonderful man, always happy and cheerful, willing to work hard to help anyone who needed it ... an anonymous saint to the Church but one to all who knew him. No dark night of the soul there. Yet, I'm sure he skipped right over Purgatory. Would I be willing to follow his example? Of course.
I thought of my patron, Saint Martha (you know, of the "Mary has chosen the better part" story). The last time we see her serving is notably different from the first. Mary is washing Jesus' feet and Martha is mentioned as serving in the background. To me that says she has learned the lesson Jesus gave her about "the better part." Would I be willing to follow her example? Natch.
My glance fell on a book I recently received about Solanus Casey, a favorite of mine because he was a humble porter whose holiness shown through to the people of Detroit. Similar to St. John Vianney, another favorite of mine (yes, I have lots of favorites), in that both found studies difficult and consequently were not thought much of by their orders.
Of course, it was borne in upon me yet again that we have so many examples of all the different sorts of saints God makes to suit each time and place. Why I would feel that it necessarily requires a "dark night of the soul" I don't know ... how silly of me!
The culmination of all this thinking took place last night while I was waiting for the Vigil Mass to begin. I was saying the rosary (more about that in another post) and kept coming back to the subject of saints. I got a growing feeling of excitement and anticipation at the unknown future when we completely give ourselves over to God ... when we desire to become a saint. Nothing new here intellectually that's sure, but for me it is that sense of possibilities, of waiting for a surprise ... and that is always what we discover when God is involved.
I'm not settling any more. I'm aiming higher.
Isn't this gorgeous? There's more where that came from ... Recta Ratio.