Friday, October 14, 2005

"God, deliver me from sullen saints." - St. Theresa of Avila

Tomorrow we celebrate the life and death of this renowned Doctor of the Church. I don't pretend to be an expert on her or any of the saints, but she is one of my favorites.

I like her so much because of her humanity; when her food tasted good, she ate it with zeal, and was known to stand on her head and giggle at the upside-down world. At the same time, she was a profound mystic, prone to overwhelming illness and visions of glory.

My Protestant understanding of "saint" was just somebody who was saved. And I'll even continue to use the term in that sense, provided the "s" is lowercase.

But a Saint, to the Catholic understanding, is someone who the Church has determined beyond the shadow of a doubt is spending eternity in the presence of God. That's why the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael have the title.

That's not to say that everybody that clears the pearly gates is declared a saint; in the litany of saints we ask "all holy men and women" to (insert music here) pra-ay for us. We can't possibly canonize everybody, as we aren't always given the knowledge.

The cries of "Santo Subito!" in St. Peter's Square at John Paul II's funeral reflect the Church's faith/trust/hope in his holiness, which I don't dispute. But I recall hearing about a holy abbot who died: the monks in his abbey, considering his holiness, waived the traditional three masses said for his soul. He reportedly appeared to them and asked why they didn't have the masses said, as he was waiting for the help to get through Purgatory.

We can never know the inner secrets of the soul of another person. That's why God is our judge, and man can only judge his fellow man imperfectly.

Still, knowing my own faults and secrets so well, I hope to be a Saint someday. I long for the opportunity to intercede for my Christian brethren still bound to their mortal form. I don't really care if I'm officially canonized or not; it's not about the glory. Or at least, not about my glory.

I am not perfect. But I desire absolute holiness, and as I progress from vices to veniality to virtue through the choices in my life I am better able to perceive the fruit of that desire.

Lord, make me hungry for more!

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