Saturday, November 1, 2014



During this past week we celebrated the feast of the apostles Simon and Jude, and today (Saturday) I'm
writing this on the Solemnity of All Saints. So I've been thinking about the terrible hoax that continues to be perpetrated on Christian believers by various writers over and over throughout the centuries. I'm referring to the idea that a "saint" is someone who is "perfect." Almost from the beginning certain biographers of saints felt compelled to show that their particular saint had no faults, no shortcomings and was free of all imperfections.

I'm sure that there must be folks around today who believe that the Church is watering down her definition of "saint" by canonizing people such as John XXIII and John Paul II whom we knew, and whose imperfections and weaknesses were well known. But in recent years the Church has once again restated the ancient idea that every one of us is called to be holy (in Latin and the Romance languages the word for "holy" is the same word as "saint." This "universal call to holiness" is not a call to be faultless, flawless and untainted by sin -- that is clearly not possible for anyone but God alone -- but it's there nevertheless. So we have to figure out how to be saints despite our imperfections.


Did you ever look closely at the twelve people that Jesus chose as the ones who would spread his word to the world? The gospel passage for the feast of Simon and Jude listed them by name, and the roll call is pretty discouraging. Matthew was a tax-collector for the Romans, a trade despised by his fellow Jews. Simon the Zealot was a member of a group who hated the Romans and continually plotted their violent expulsion from Israel; I wonder what he and Matthew talked about over supper. Then there were James and John, nicknamed Boanerges or Sons of Thunder - (in other words, they were vociferous -- maybe even Loudmouths). There was Thomas who wouldn't take his brothers' word for anything but needed to see it wth his own eyes, and the blustery Peter who bragged that he would follow Jesus to death but then denied even knowing him. Judas Iscariot, whatever his motives, wound up handing Jesus over to the Sanhedrin.


I thought of this yesterday during a community meeting with my brothers in the monastery -- one abbot and twelve monks, an interesting number. As I scanned the group, each of us with our strengths and weaknesses, our talents and our troubles, I thought of the motley group of Jesus' helpers, each one handpicked personally by Him yet full of faults and foibles. "Yeah," I figured, "I guess we're a match for them."

I pray that like the twelve apostles our closeness to Jesus will allow us very ordinary men to do whatever extraordinary things the Lord calls us to do. Meanwhile we just keep trying and striving. That's what saints do, they keep trying and striving and helping one another along the way.

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