Like many, I learned yesterday of the coming canonization of two recent popes, John XXIII and John Paul II. Some old reflexes were activated: I was displeased at the thought that one would get it and thrilled for the other. I remembered those I would like to see canonized, being kept at the margins of sanctification, for political reasons mostly. One pope balances out the other. It makes the news acceptable.
In the tumult of my mind, a thought bubbled up: there are many more saints than we know.
The first one who came to my mind was my friend Cristina. She hoped to die gracefully of lung cancer. She died in a saintly manner. In the five years which it took her to pass away, she had emptied herself completely. By the time of her last breath, Godde’s light shone through. She had become luminous. All those who around her death bed at the hospital would attest that Godde’s presence filled the room. Her inner peace is still with them. I often talk to her, when I feel scared about something, asking more for her company than for anything else. Cristina is one everyday saint.
I can think of many others. Anyone taking care of a parent or spouse with Alzheimer is a saint. S/he may not come to sainthood willingly and might have chosen another path, had s/he been given a chance. My neighbor, the young divorced mother with three young children (8, 4, 2) is a saint. Her angelic patience, her kindness to all, are signs to me. My friend with polyarthrosis who bears her pains with a gentle smile, maintaining her compassion and generosity, who sometimes needs to be carried by her husband because her body cannot carry her any longer, is a saint.
I can think of so many friends who are slowly being hollowed out of their willfulness to do what needs to be done; who never fail to give a helpful hand or an encouraging smile; who listen to others complaining over their fate when they have truly been dealt a more difficult hand…
In the final analysis, yesterday’s announcement turns out to be a gift for me. It helps me realize all those folks I know who are being made holy by their life and the way they accept it. If I start thinking of all those places where atrocities are committed day after day; people struggling there are all saints in the making. They might wish it were not so…
Carrying our crosses, this self-emptying which comes with aging, illness, failure of any kind, is our way of being one with the Risen One. As He tells us, come and follow me, we pick up our cross and do so, willingly or unwillingly. We all are part of a Mystery in the making.
Can you think of everyday saints in your life?
Photo: my friend Cristina