Pondicherry Archdiocese

Saints are made here!

It is commonly said that marriage is made in heaven. This saying reflects the divine mercy and grace in married life. In the Catholic tradition, saints are thought to be in heaven; they are known for their heroic sanctity. Hence, they are considered to be celestial beings, honoured by us, humans, revering them in pictures or statues. Thomas Aquinas said: ‘that the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly. They are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell. On account of this thought Thérèse of Lisieux opined: ‘I have always wanted to become a saint. Unfortunately, when I have compared myself with the saints, I have always found that there is the same difference between the saints and me as there is between a mountain whose summit is lost in the clouds and a humble grain of sand trodden underfoot by passers-by.’ This supposition overwhelms us to be closer to saints. However, there is another side of the coin that saints are made here in the world.


All Christians are Saints?

The word saint comes from the Latin sanctus, with the Greek equivalent being “hagios” (holy) which means things / persons set apart and dedicated for God’s purpose. The Evangelists apply this term to Jesus Christ (Lk 1:35), the Spirit of God (Mk 12:36) and angels (Mk 8:38). In the early Church, agios was applied to all who believed in Jesus Christ and who followed His teachings (Act 9:13; Eph 1:1; 2 Cor 1:1). The assumption was that those men and women who followed Christ had been so transformed that they were now different from other men and women and thus should be considered holy. Nevertheless, sainthood always referred not simply to those who had faith in Christ but more specifically to those who lived heroic lives of virtuous action inspired by that faith. They excelled in a life of faith-witness beyond that of the average Christian believers. While other Christians struggled to live out the gospel of Christ, these particular Christians were eminent examples, exhibiting the gifts of the Holy Spirit in their lives.


Hospital of Sinners

Pope Francis said, “I see the Church as a field hospital after battle” and the Church is also thought to be not a museum of saints, but a hospital for sinners. True, these expressions came up only in the context of the nature of the Church’s mission which should strive to be a healing balm to the wounds caused by multiple social and personal evils. This is carried out by various ministries done in the society, by committed disciples of Christ. These disciples, though soiling their shoes with the dust of the dirty streets of a corrupt world, live among / for the ‘wounded’ people; but they always adhere to their master, Jesus Christ, who transforms them for a greater glory (cf. 2 Cor 3:18). In a sickly society of materialism and consumerism where human fraternity is obliterated by the waves of selfishness, Christ’s disciples arise as angels of unjustly downtrodden victims; in this endeavor they sacrifice their own earthly life, because their citizenship is in heaven (cf. Phil 3:20). For their self-sacrificing mission they are hated, tortured and even killed, because “they do not belong to the world” (cf. Jn 15:18-19; 17:16). They are recognized as saints.


The World is the Platform

Saints, the heroes of virtuous life, are not products of heaven, neither are they heavenly beings, although God’s mercy and love accompanies them. They walked our streets, shared our meals and came across the evils of human life. When Paul could ally with the life of Christ (Gal 2:20) he could boast that “from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ” (Rom 15:19). From ancient times till today Ignatius of Antioch stands as the model-witness for a joyful martyr for Christ as he lived among the victim-slaves of the Roman Empire. It is Francis of Assisi, as a poor mendicant, who walked in the troubled streets of medieval Europe, being an instrument of peace and sowing love, pardon, faith and hope in the context of hatred, injury, doubt and despair. The pearl-fishery coast of South India and even the region of Mealaka and beyond were the platform for St. Francis Xavier to exhibit his deep zeal for proclaiming Jesus’ Gospel. In our own days, it is the slums of Calcutta that changed Mother Teresa to become a saint, who showed Jesus’s mercy and love for the abandoned.


We are Saints

To become a saint, we need not be a religious, nor founder of religious congregations nor have an important    position in the Church. Maria Goretti was a simple village girl, Thomas Moore was high chancellor during the rule of Henry VIII, Devasagayam Pillai was only a family man; today, Carlo Acutis is already touted as the “patron saint of the internet.” Thus, we can find saints from different walks of life and in our own times. When Augustine, a sinner could become a saint why can’t you and I? What is needed is journey from membership to discipleship to being full-time Christians, bearing the image of Jesus in heart and mind and witnessing to Him in society with love, mercy and justice, in short, we have to be “just really, really good.”