As Election Day draws near, our minds turn to the various candidates who are putting themselves out there not merely as potential decision-makers, but as embodiments of the American Dream. Our nation holds in great reverence the so-called “self-made man or woman,” the person from any walk of life who encounters the right circumstances, takes initiative, and achieves great things.
The saints have made the honor roll; they are our “Who’s Who Among the Children of God.” But our respect for them far surpasses the celebration of opportunity-takers or rugged individuals; rather we are really worshipping the God who made them for Himself, supplied what they needed, and became their greatest fan.
We can reflect today upon a few faces in the Church’s family portrait. Ready to mind comes Francis of Assisi, a deacon, a friend to the poor and to all God’s creatures; Teresa of Avila, a teacher of mysticism and reformer of consecrated life; Damien of Molokai, a caregiver to lepers who himself became afflicted; or the recently canonized Anna Schaeffer, who was injured in an accident and became an example of patience in suffering.
It should not surprise us that many of the saints maintained a kind of defiance to human preferences in favor of what they truly believed was the will of God for them. Gianna Molla was a physician but more importantly a wife and mother who permitted her own death for the life of her unborn child. Lucy refused an arranged marriage to a pagan man and suffered great torture for her decision because he exposed her as a Christian during a time of persecution. Thomas of Aquinas, renowned philosopher and theologian of the Church, had been put on the fast track to become Abbot of a Benedictine monastery but desired instead to become a Dominican friar. His dismayed family even had him kidnapped and imprisoned, but he escaped to pursue his heart’s desire.
Christ our Savior is our model of holiness. He wills to conform us (with our consent) to His image, but His plan doesn’t destroy our individuality. It seems to have the opposite effect, accenting everything worthy about each person, especially as we place this or that characteristic at the service of God and people. That’s what saints do, and holiness results. It doesn’t get much more complicated than that. As for the miracles necessary for canonization, we can let people worry about that after we die.