Thursday, May 07, 2015

Saints in Our Midst

For those of us who are Catholic (and some of the rest of you, too), we have all these saints in heaven that we look up to, and we can pray to. We honor them (for those who might not know, no, we do not worship them).

We make much of them as great people, and rightly so. But what if we were to find out some day that we had saints in our own circle of friends, indeed, in our own homes, even among our own children? If we thought of that, would we, today, treat them differently than we do now? 

But they aren't perfect, we might say. No. No one living today - or through many past centuries - was perfect. Jesus was perfect. Mary was sinless. Saint Joseph must have come in at least a close third. But the rest of the saints? Were they perfect? Nope.

A saint, I was taught, is someone who practices virtue to a heroic degree. I never read anything about them practicing every single virtue to a heroic degree. They often had some particular virtue they were especially known for. What I think? I think we have a whole lot of saints running around right now, right where we are. Okay, maybe many of them are actually walking, not running, but they are out there, and we are bumping into them every day. 

So, what if we treated every person like he or she is a saint? What if we honored the good in each person? What if we overlooked the familiarity for a moment ("it's just my..." child, friend, neighbor), and thought about what Jesus did for each and every soul. What if we overlook the sins we think we see, and notice the good? It wouldn't be easy, would it? 

For me, the difficulty would be especially apparent on the road. Just yesterday, I caught myself glaring at a woman in her car for her offense, whatever it might have been; I don't even remember now. And then I realized what I had done, and I thought, "Who appointed me the teacher of drivers?" I don't know why she did what she did in that moment, but I do know I've made my own driving mistakes. And I've had to forgive myself for them. Can I do less for someone else?

What if we stopped, stopped the judgment and criticism of ourselves and others? What if we treated everyone - children, adults, neighbors, strangers - as the saints they have the potential to be?  We might fail many times. I will probably still find myself getting mad at other drivers. But if we just keep getting back up and trying again, we might begin to experience on earth some of the joy and peace we shall experience in heaven, the joy of living among the saints. 

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