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The Difference of a Saint

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I was talking on the phone with a friend of mine over the weekend. He was saying that Catholics needed to be good at what they did, visibly doing well at life and in their work in order to attract others to the faith and to Jesus. There had to be evidence in the way they lived that what they believed fit the facts of the world, that we had the truth and that truth permitted us to do well in life.

I agreed that there certainly was room for visible success in the Church, and people of note like former chancellor of England St. Thomas More or the medieval king of France St. Louis IX could have an important place. But it was important to never forget the role of the hidden, the forgotten, the least among us in the Church. And we could never let our action outpace our prayer. The interior life of prayer, fed by the Word of God in the Scriptures and the Sacraments, was absolutely indispensable.

My friend was a little slow in agreeing, so I said, "Just think of the difference between the average Christian and a saint. Think of the impact of Mother Teresa versus that of any ordinary one of her Missionaries of Charity, or of St. John Paul II versus that of an average parish priest, even before he was pope, even when he was 'just' a priest. Things go right around a saint — supernaturally right. And the world is changed."

Those two contemporaries — Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul II — demonstrated the difference of a saint to many of us alive today.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whose feast we celebrate on Sept. 5, was an inspiration and a sign of hope during her lifetime, which coincided with some remarkably dark times in human history, times of genocide and war, of a cultural shift which would cost the lives of millions of the most vulnerable, and times when the pace of current events could seem beyond the ability of anyone to keep up. Through all of that, she was a constant witness to Christian love, smiling constantly, serving perennially, preaching the Gospel in season and out of season in front of presidents and prime ministers, loving the least and sending the Missionaries of Charity everywhere in the service of Jesus Christ.

She lived the concern for the poor and the least among us preached by John Paul II. He spoke of the dignity of every human person; she sought out the lost and abandoned. He proclaimed the Gospel of Life; she took in the elderly and the orphaned. He called for a civilization of love; she created little islands of that civilization with each of her houses.

Thanks be to God for two such saints in the spiritual darkness of the late twentieth century! Thanks be to God for two examples of what happens when people say a generous yes to God's transforming grace, to the life and the love of the Holy Spirit working within them and through them to touch the world. Thanks be to God for two such missionaries of Divine Mercy, devoted children of Mary and brethren of Jesus Christ.

As we celebrate the feast of Mother Teresa, let us ask her and St. John Paul II for their intercession that we say the same generous yes to God that they said every day of their lives. Let us ask them to pray for the poor, the abandoned, the forgotten, that all might find a home in the civilization of love.

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