The “saints next door” are holy “each in his or her own way.” Pope Francis says in Gaudete et Exultate. How about canonized saints? If you look at the saints we celebrate the last few weeks in our liturgy, they’re holy, each in their own way too.
St. Romuald, the founder of the Camadolese, remembered on June 19th, found the religious communities of his day hard to live with– they found him hard to live with too. He liked to be alone, but alone to face the mystery of God, not because he didn’t like other people. He was called to be a hermit. To know God on our own, alone, in our inner room, is part of the call we all have. Romuald reminds us of that.
St. Paulinus of Nola (June 22), a gregarious 5th century bishop, is Romuald’s opposite. He started life in politics as a member of a well-heeled Roman family. After his only child died and then his wife, he accepted God’s call to begin a larger family. As bishop of Nola in Italy he promoted the shrine of St. Felix as a pilgrimage center. The more people came, the better. He liked people. Celebrations with ringing bells and processions and statues were his specialty. In fact, if you head to the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY, around his feast, you may see Italians from his area in Italy carrying a gigantic tower honoring the saint. He promoted popular religion.
St. Aloysius Gonzaga ( June 21 ) also belonged to a powerful, aristocratic family, who were shocked when the young man announced, after hearing stories of Jesuit missionaries in China, that he was entering the Jesuits. His family did everything to stop him, but the young man wouldn’t listen. He entered the Jesuits. In 1591 a fierce plague broke out in Rome where Aloysius was studying and he took care of the victims, despite his own bad health. He died from the plague, expressing his conviction that God called him to this dangerous ministry. Today he’s celebrated as a patron of those who care for victims of AIDS.
St. Thomas More (June 22) is known to many through Robert Bolt’s “Man for All Seasons” which follows More’s confrontation with Henry VIII that ended with his death in the Tower of London July 6, 1535. Bolt’s title, taken from a contemporary’s description of More, captures his complex, many-faceted personality. He was learned, devoted to his family (promoted education for women) active in his society and his church. More’s holiness was expansive. It belongs to all of life’s seasons.
Interesting to note that More and Bishop John Fisher are honored in the Church of England’s calendar (July 6) as “saints and heroes of the Christian church.”