Last year 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! I've been pondering, what is the point of proclaiming saints? what difference do these saints make to me?
Here’s what I’ve come up with...
- 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, to 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 this constantly reminds me that my faith is little “c” catholic. I am not alone in my quest and desire to live for God. I have a cloud of witnesses that share with me this longing for God! And in addition, their stories remind me that -- no matter how much I screw that up (if you haven't heard, there are saints whose lives are worthy of a spicy HBO movie!) -- these are people who understand just how difficult it can be to live out this desire to live for God. They are saints because they never gave up trying!
- I need saints like Archbishop Romero and Father Stanley Rother, our Oklahoma martyr, because being holy –and 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 this final act, this witness of love, was possible because they had lived with a desire 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 Francis Rother,|
Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
[This post is an edited version of a May 2015 post in Day by Day with María]