Who is your favorite saint? St. Patrick, St. Anne, St. Anthony, St. Padre Pio, St. Jude, all have huge fan clubs. Sts. Elizabeth Seton, Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac and Catherine Labouré are dear to many of us. Within the Charity family, we’re proud to have two new saints-in-process: Sister Blandina Segale, the Cincinnati Sister of Charity whose legacy of schools, orphanages and clinics in the Southwest is legendary, and Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, Sister of Charity of Saint Elizabeth (NJ), who died young with a spiritual wisdom beyond her years. Newer saints on the block include Sts. Zelie and Louis Martin, parents of St. Thérèse (the Little Flower), St. Mother Teresa, St. Pope John XXIII, and St. Pope John Paul II.
What a variety of cultures, languages, ages, and lifestyles! We think of them as our “dream team,” our big-time winners. They prove that mere mortals can get it right. They cheer on the rest of us who plod our way toward the full vision of God that is our calling and our birthright. For sure, we’re not saints yet – and if we don’t know it, there are plenty around us to remind us otherwise. But we’re on the way, walking the path together, learning as we go. In God’s family, we who are saints-in-the-making do indeed qualify as “fellow citizens with the saints.”
At a meeting recently, someone looked at the group around the table and said, “Who knows? Maybe there’s a saint among us!” Her words reminded me of the story of an abbot in a long-ago monastery. The petty, jealous behavior of his monks drove him to seek advice from a rabbi. The wise old man confided to the abbot a dream that the Messiah was living among the monks of that very monastery! The abbot ran back to tell his monks the amazing news. Was it Ivan? Could it be Francesco, or maybe William? From that moment, the monks began to look at one another with fresh eyes, to treat one another with care and respect, to seek and offer forgiveness for long-held hurts. And the monastery became known as a place of peace and healing, sought out by all.
It became a “thin place,” a place where the distance that separates heaven and earth is narrowed and one can glimpse the glory of God. An ocean beach, a mountain meadow, a favorite church or window or well or house – all can be thin places. Among my favorites are the Palisades, the majestic rock cliffs in New Jersey formed 200 million years ago. I see them each day from my home at Mount St. Vincent. I can feel the spirits and souls of the native peoples who walked along those cliffs at dawn, and who climbed down to fish in the Hudson River.
I love this time of year, this time of saints and souls and thin places – reminders of those who have gone before, those who still touch us with their grace. They teach us that we are forever joined with all who have lived, all who are living, and all who will live in the centuries to come. They remind us that our God is a “lover of souls, [whose] imperishable spirit is in all things.” (Wisdom 12)
We pray in trust, with St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: “When shall I with thy Saints behold thee in thy glory? What they believed I believe, what they hoped for I hope for, where they are gone I trust through thy grace to arrive, and through all my life while waiting the coming of thy glory, I will rejoice to adore thee, My Lord and My God.”
–Regina Bechtle, SC
Sr. Regina serves as Charism Resource Director for the Sisters of Charity of New York. A retreat leader and spiritual director, she gives presentations to lay and religious groups about St. Elizabeth Seton and our Vincentian-Charity heritage of spirituality.Palisades photo by Elena Miranda