Earlier this week, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdamez of El Salvador was beatified. You may recall that Archbishop Romero was assassinated in 1980 as he celebrated Mass, just a day after pleading and ordering soldiers to stop killing innocent Salvadorians.
Ever since I first heard the news announcing Archbishop Romero’s beatification, I have found myself pondering why I need saints in my life.
I don’t mean just the holy people that have graced my spirit and shaped my life, like my dear Pat Stankus or my grandmother Josefita—but also the kind of holy that is proclaimed a saint by the universal Church.
First, let me be clear. I’m not trying to articulate—or defend—an intellectual, theological concept regarding sainthood.
What I’ve been asking myself is much more tangible, and self-centered… what is the point? what difference do saints make for me?
Here’s what I’ve come up with this week.
- I need saints because they intercede with God on my behalf. Theirs is the sort of passionate pleading akin to the mother I met years ago in Austin whose son was on death row in Huntsville. When the Governor of Texas refused to see her in person to hear her plead for a stay of his execution, the determined mother set up a tent to live in across the street from the Governor’s mansion, and she invited the local press, the local bishop, and anyone else who would listen and join her in prayer and in peaceful demonstration. Who doesn’t need this sort of passionate intercession?
- I need saints because they connect me to others—across time and geography—and that constantly reminds me that my faith is little “c” catholic. And I am not alone in my quest and desire to live for God. No matter how much I screw that up, there are saints whose lives are worthy of being a spicy HBO movie—and they get just how hard that desire can be.
- I need saints like Archbishop Romero and Father Stanley Rother (whose 52nd anniversary of ordination was this week!) because being holy –and at the very least, learning to live holy lives – is possible for everyone, no matter how ordinary. Romero and Rother, who died a year apart, became martyrs for the faith. But they did so by desiring to respond in and through their faith to every person, every circumstance, every moment in their ordinary lives.
At the ceremony for Archbishop Romero’s beatification this week, the Cardinal who heads the Vatican’s Congregation for Saints’ Causes called Romero, "a bright star shining in the American spiritual firmament.”
"And,” he added, “thanks be to God, there are many."
Father Stanley F. Rother,
Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
[To check out and pre-order my book on Father Stanley Rother, click here]