What’s in a Saint?

My confirmation saint was Anthony of Padua, or as most people probably know him: the Anthony that finds things. He is a great match for me because I’m a guy that loses things so we work well together.

What makes a saint? They come in all shapes and sizes, from all different backgrounds. It’s important to remember that everyone who gets to heaven is a saint, we only canonize the really good ones because it is so obvious to the leaders of our church that those individuals made it. We need to not forget about all the saints that still made it, those unsung heroes.

Saints are examples for us to follow, there are so many different examples to observe. The saints’ lives are incredible and incredibly diverse.

We all want to be like saints but we need to find the right saint to be like. If I try to be like Pope John Paul II, it might work like me trying to go to the gym. I wake up extra early to go before work, I get all pumped up and I dive straight for the giant weights. As I curl the dumbbell and stare at myself in the mirror I feel pretty good. I’m off to work and feeling great. Come the next day, my arms no longer work and I spend another 6-18 months out of the gym before I think about trying it again.

This is what it can be like to be intimidated by the great saints. We need to draw inspiration from them, being careful to not sell ourselves short.
Here is a quote from Pope Francis at the 2013 World Youth Day:

“We need saints without cassocks, without veils – we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints – saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.”

So let’s take a step back and look at the fundamentals of a saintly life. We need to have both faith and works, but most importantly, we need everything we do to be deeply rooted in love.

1 Corinthians 13:2-3 says:

“If I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing”

This is one of my favorite bible verses and will eventually be part of my tattoo. What it means is that we can do all these great things: prophesize, give away everything we own, even have faith to move mountains; but if we do not have love, we gain nothing and we are nothing. Imagine having faith to move mountains and in the end it means nothing. That is what happens when we do not show love to our brothers and sisters.

1 John 2:7-11 says:

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says, ‘I am in the light’, while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.

“Whoever says, ‘I am in the light’ but hates a brother or sister is still in darkness” and “whoever hates another believer is in the darkness”. That’s pretty powerful, and it ties directly into the verse from Corinthians. We can say we are in the light, we can say we believe or are followers of Christ, but if we hate another believer we are not truly followers of Christ. As Christians, we are called to love. Jesus told us the most important commandments are love God and love your neighbors. The saints are such great examples for us to see how to live a life of Christian love.

When Saint Francis of Assisi founded the Franciscan order he composed a rule for his Friars: to follow the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and to walk in His footsteps. Obviously Francis knew his scripture.

John 8:12 says:

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”

We need to get fired up about our faith and go out evangelizing with love. Saint Ignatius got fired up when he was bed-ridden from an injury. He read about the life of Jesus and the lives of the saints, especially Saint Francis of Assisi. He was so inspired by the life of Francis that he gave up his military career and devoted himself to a life of serving God. Perhaps best known for forming the Society of Jesus, Ignatius created a huge impact on the Church following the example of love set forth by St. Francis.

As one of the first Jesuits and a buddy of St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier devoted much of his life to mission work. He led missions to Asia and literally gave his life for the mission and eventually died near China.

Another great example of someone working the life of love based on the life of the saints is our new Pope, Francis. He is a great advocate for helping the less fortunate and living a modest life and is already making waves down through the local diocese. It’s no surprise he chose the name of Francis as a Jesuit priest. Here we see a domino effect from one saint inspiring another, inspiring a pope…and how many of us have been inspired by Pope Francis?

Another very inspirational saint is St. Vincent De Paul. He was captured by pirates and sold into slavery. His faith was so great that it moved his master to return to his own Christian faith and follow Vincent back to Europe. Vincent is known for his works of generosity and charity. We are all called to charity – given through our time, talent, and treasure. I know at times we can feel like we don’t have much to give, but we need to all give what we can.

We have these great examples of awesome saints from long ago, but these saints lived in a much different time. Remember what Pope Francis said…the world now needs saints like us. So I challenge you to find your 21st century path to sainthood. Find the way that you can give back to the world. Show love to everyone, every brother and sister, believers and nonbelievers. Always have love in everything you do so that when you have faith to move mountains it really means something.

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