Successful and Unsuccessful Saints

In yesterday’s post I offered a summary of Bishop N.T. Wright’s talk to the Italian Catholic Bishops in which he stated that our understanding of the resurrection of Jesus is influenced today by the thinking of the Enlightenment, which placed God (if God exists) beyond our world. We are the lords of creation, according to that thinking. This life and all in it is in our hands to shape and control as we think best.

Yet, the Risen Christ is Lord of creation, still present in our world, fashioning it to become God’s new creation. He has not just come and now is gone, with us only at our death to take his own into heaven. Nor is he just lord of the perfect. Every knee bows before him.

I wonder if the thinking of the Enlightenment has also influenced our thinking about the saints. We like “successful saints” who seem to leave their mark in society by what they accomplish: building schools, hospitals, blazing new trails on the world scene. We like saints who do something big.

What about saints like Saint Gemma, Saint Pio–who seem to be sidelined most their lives without obvious human accomplishments­– aren’t they witnesses to the power of the Risen Christ to reach into humble life and be present there?

I heard recently that Saint Pio is probably the most popular saint in the church right now. Interesting. Books about St. Gemma are the most popular books we distribute at Passionist Press. Interesting.

Is holiness only for the perfect, the bright, the accomplished? Or does the Risen Christ reveal himself to the humble, sometimes giving them the treasures of his wounds? Maybe the voice of the faithful is telling us something.

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