Friday, March 30, 2012

I Know a Saint

Do you?

Doesn't it strike you as odd that one can state that so casually?

I won't tell you who it is, because saints love obscurity. And if I can not go down in history as a saint, I can at least go down as a saint's biography, and I'm sure that there's some residual grace cast-off involved in that.

My saint.

How do we evaluate it?

1) The presence of the miraculous is the typical indicator for most people.

2) Infallibility.

3) Persecution.

4) Faith-piety.

5) Soundness of life.

I am drawn to (5). And my saint reveals this. I don't know of any miracles associated with him (1). I have seen him make mistakes (2). He has not been beaten or murdered for Christ, although he has suffered for his commitment to Christ - but so have I - that's a low-level indicator...

Soundness of life. I could have said something like integrity (the modern term), holiness, or as they used to prefer in Antiquity, 'justice,' or as the monastic tradition prefers, 'stability.' Sometimes we need to chose an alternative phrase from the ones most commonly employed. A change-up can make a greater impact. So I say soundness of life, where integrity, holiness, justice and stability all apply.

Whatever term you prefer, to me the hallmark of sanctity of life is that consistent good and faithful behaviour that indicates the presence of deeply entrenched virtues. Virtues are, as Thomas Aquinas says, a sort of second nature. They can be changed, but not easily. In other words, their presence does not guarantee that their possessor will never lose them, but they are hard to gain and hard to lose.

What are these virtues? Besides exhibiting stability or consistency, my saint exhibits that humility whereby his views are not self-aggrandizing and religious practices are not ostentatious. In other words, he would say what he says and do what he does whether there were people present or not, no matter the kind of person present. His life is for the Gospel and he does not see his personality as a necessary part of that. While not being infallible - that infused prudence whereby one always knows the right word to say and thing to do is a grace of perfection, but not one that is present in all the saints at all times - he is consistently kind, generous, supportive, not controlled by mood or passion. Again, he is dependable.

He is single-minded but not closed-minded. Healthiness of mind requires that one continues to reason and evaluate new problems and ideas. A saint must have a healthy mind; no saint is a fundamentalist, for that is a sign of objective unhealthiness. Someone who is merely mentally controlled by the doctrine of the faith is not holy, is not healthy, is not mature, is not a sign of the divine glory. This is why (4) above is not the best indicator of sanctity - a widespread error. Some of the most vicious people have been deeply faithful. That is nothing more than fanaticism, and it deeply hurts the Church.

Love overshadows 'credalism' - a word more apt than faithful in this case. He is distinguished more by his loving kindness than by his intellectual stubbornness. A saint sees himself as so insignificant compared to the great good of God and of life and of the small role he gets to play in that. A 'credalist' ascribes to himself so great an ability to know and to will that he removes his life from the hands of God.

A saint is only motivated by his desire to serve God. He is kind, loving, and merciful. Everything else is secondary or perhaps a rare grace found in some saints but not in others.

I know a saint. Do you?


  1. I can think of a certain someone we know in common who fits this description to a T.

  2. Interesting. I hear what you are saying.

  3. Of course you've got me guessing and I've got three in mind, all men, all here in Barry's Bay.

  4. Interesting. No comment. But I did use masculine pronouns.