One of the new books on top of my work desk is a Roman Catholic *hagiography that walks readers through a year of celebration of the lives and witness of acknowledged saints. These stories of historical heroes whose lives have given hope and courage to Christians for years. You might want to consider how reading about saints could inform your own spiritual well-being. That’s what happens for me!
When I read about these exemplary people of faith, I realize what it means to sacrifice for one’s beliefs. I am reminded how the saints of old—as with today’s not-yet-canonized saints—put their faith to work, oftentimes under trying circumstances. I see how their lives were turned around, inspired others and changed history.
Sure, some of what I read could be just a little bit over-the-top. Some of the stories border on works-righteousness and clericalism. These saints were not ever perfect examples of righteousness. (Luther was right: We are simul justus et peccator –both sinners and saints!) Some of the stories go far beyond anything I could ever experience—I don’t think I could travel to a dangerous place, die for my faith or start a society of devout believers who would forsake all they had for the sake of Jesus.
On balance, though, I’ve always had a fond place in my heart for these good folks. Many of them had no inkling that they were changing the face of society, or establishing patterns of thought or behavior that would preserve the Church for centuries. Almost all of their saintly accomplishments started as seemingly ordinary acts of caring, justice or devotion to God.
Many of them were common folks. A good share of them were martyred when they were young—but an equal number lived long lives filled with witness to the love of God. They all seem to be characterized by deep and lasting humility.
How to translate saint-admiration into your faith life? Whether as a daily discipline or a form of devotional reading, pick out a saint and explore the life story of this person. (See https://www.catholic.org/saints/ for examples.)You can find circumstances where that saint’s life matches your own. You can refocus some of your life patterns. You can start to find today’s saints, perhaps as close as the people around you.
To give this idea a try, look at the lives of four saints who are celebrated at this time of year. (See descriptions and links that follow.)
And may God bless your saintly life!
*A hagiography (hag-ee-AWE-graw-phee) is a listing of acknowledged saints, usually historically significant within Christian traditions. Muslim and Hindu hagiographies also portray their spiritual heroes.
St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross – A convert from Judaism and philosopher, she died in a Nazi gas chamber. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-teresa-benedicta-of-the-cross-edith-stein/
St. Lawrence – A legendary pre-Constantinian priest who was martyred for defying civil authorities. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-lawrence/
St. Clare of Assisi – A nun who lived in extreme poverty in order to minister to the poor.
St. Jane Frances de Chantal – A widowed mother who became a nun late in life, founding an order devoted to establishing a religious order for women not accepted into other religious communities. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-jane-frances-de-chantal/