Living Saints

Relfection from Fordham University’s Sapientia et Doctrina Vespers Service at the Graduate School of Religion

I woke up this morning a bit poorer…no I’m not talking about my 401K…I woke up thinking about the tragedies that I’ve seen both globally and personally in my own fairly young life.

I’ve seen madmen take over airplanes and take the lives away of 50,000 New Yorkers including 3 of my friends. I’ve seen the government ignore the poor who floated in the devastating waters of Hurricane Katrina. I’ve seen young soldiers come back maimed, scarred, and psychologically damaged…and I’ve seen students lose their lives simply by going to class.

What’s more is that I’ve seen this in more than one country. For several summers I spent time working in an orphanage and with the poor in Nicaragua. I’ll never forget holding a child who was abandoned by the side of the road because she couldn’t walk…she couldn’t talk…she was half the size that a child her age should have been. And as I sat with her in the makeshift chapel that we had helped build the year before…I felt completely helpless. With my master’s degree from Fordham and all my knowledge and all my gifts and with my so-called first world know-how…I was completely unable to do anything for this little girl. And she was completely unable to change her lot in life too. Together we sat in this… poverty…in a third world country. All I could do was hold her and love her. She’d smile this big wide smile…and laugh when I’d tickle her belly. She didn’t need the latest ipod or a pair of cool sneakers…somehow….I was enough for her. And in that moment she was more than enough for me. Together we were poor…and but by God we were blessed.

Could this be what Jesus means when he says “How blessed are the poor in spirit?”

Tonight…we have people amongst us who indeed have blessed the world with their gifts their talents and have done it all—simply by being themselves—by being the best version of who they already are. Moreover, they have done it in a world that indeed can make one feel an immense poverty.

We see that in Fr. John Grace who in the aftermath of the violence and unexplainable madness that took place during the shootings at Virginia Tech, Fr John showed us that the raising of young voices in song can carry far higher than the sounds of gunfire.

Saints are among us…You know it…I know it.

We see that in religious educators like Sr. Marie Pappas, Fr James DiGiacomo, and Carole Eipers, who have spent their lives passing the faith along in a world that often seems faithless and sometimes to students who don’t seem to appreciate them. Their teaching has blessed the minds of literally thousands of students and helped to shine Christ’s love to a world that often tells us that Christ doesn’t matter in business, or law, or science.

Saints are among us…You know it….I know it.

We see that in people who minister to young people. Like Bob McCarty who doesn’t look at the young as a bunch of no-good, do-nothing nuisances but rather as people who hunger for God in a fast-paced, dog-eat-dog technological world where everyone tells them that all they need to do is become productive members of society and to hell with everything else.

Saints are among us…You know it…I know it.

Charlie Mayer and Sr. Joanne Piccurro counsel and direct people and become companions for people who are often so stuck in crisis that they can’t even see where God is working in their lives. They help pull that veil away that the world often puts there that tells us we are not loved—we are not be-loved by anyone or anything. And when they do that and reveal that God has been there all along in the rhythms of all of our lives—not only does deep conversion happen but lasting psychological and spiritual healing does as well.

Saints are among us…You know it…I know it.

Tonight we honor those who are able to see the face of Jesus amongst the poor near Penn Station, and they all have brown robes. That when everyone in society tells us that the homeless are far too hard to love—these Monks—moved by the spirit of St Francis remind us that God’s love holds no boundaries and calls us not only to mercy but also to drop our own prejudices towards people that are often kicked to the curb.

Saints are among us…You know it…I know it.

Mario Paredes and Carl Landegger have been able to use their financial resources not merely for their own personal gain but to indeed move all people into conversation—They remind us that we need to keep talking to one another whether we are young or old, rich and poor, Hispanic and Asian. Whether we love the church or disdain it—We have to keep talking to get beyond all of our prejudices and biases.

Saints are among us…you know it…I know it.

And finally, when a young man, filled with rage shoots a police officer in the prime of his life and puts him in a wheelchair for the remainder of his days—I think I’d be the first to start throwing the stones his way. But with every last ounce of energy Detective Steven McDonald would not let violence beget violence but would remind the world that violence can not hold a candle to forgiveness.

Saints are among us…you know it…I know it.

Thomas Merton while walking with his good friend, Robert Lax was asked who he wanted to become…he told his friend he didn’t know…perhaps a Good Catholic. His friend, a practicing Jew, responded…You should say that you want to be a saint. Merton laughed…a saint? How can I do that?

Lax responded, “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

Merton, of course, knew his friend was right. And he would go on to become one of the great spiritual thinkers and writers of the last century and His friend Bob Lax would later convert to Catholicism himself — and begin his own journey to try and be a saint.

But the words Lax spoke are also for us.

You should want to be a saint. And to be one, all you need is to want to be one.

Of course, if you only want to be a run-of-the-mill, average Christian, that’s probably all you’ll ever be. It’s fairly easy to be ordinary—and while the people who are behind me are probably too humble to tell you how hard it is to be extraordinary—to be saint-like—I think they’d all say that they really discovered just who they were in the tough jobs that they all have done with such grace and fortitude.

Yes, brothers and sisters there indeed are saints among us…They are people who simply live their lives as best they can—they become all that they can be, nothing more and more importantly NOTHING LESS. They are like little Elvira…who couldn’t do much…but yet with all of her disabilities she is one of the only people in the world who has been able to provide me with such an intimate and profound feeling of God in my very midst. These are the people we have come to honor as—and we don’t toss this word out very casually—living saints.

You know it…I know it… and let’s be sure we let the saints amongst us know it too.

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