Saints will be the answer to the problems of our culture

Bishop Andrew Cozzens | November 5, 2020

Last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of All Saints, which is always for me one of the most inspiring feast days of the year. It reminds me that I am not alone and that I am surrounded always by this “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1) who are members of the same Church as I am, and who are not only models for me but friends who are helping me to attain the goal of my life.

The goal of my life, by virtue of my baptism, is to become holy, in imitation of the holiness of Jesus. One of the greatest renewals that came from the Second Vatican Council was emphasis on the fact that every member of the Church is called to holiness. “The Church, whose mystery is being set forth by this Sacred Synod, is believed to be indefectibly holy. Indeed Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is praised as ‘uniquely holy,’ loved the Church as His bride, delivering Himself up for her. He did this that He might sanctify her. … Therefore in the Church, everyone, whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (“Lumen Gentium,” 39).

Bishop Andrew Cozzens

We are living in tumultuous times. The pandemic that continues to profoundly affect our daily lives, the violence and the breakdown in morality that has wracked our country, the many tensions including racial ones that continue to divide us, and of course the tumultuous election — which, as I write these words, is still undecided. I believe that politics and other social movements, important as they may be, cannot save our crumbling culture. The problems of our culture, like those of every time, are rooted in sin, which is the great divider and destroyer of life. If sin is the real problem, and we cannot legislate it away, then what will save our culture? The answer is people bringing the truth, the love, the goodness of Jesus Christ into our culture, which overcomes sin and transforms ordinary humans into saints.

What is a saint? Saints have been captured by the merciful love of God manifested in Jesus Christ and desire in gratitude to imitate Jesus Christ as his faithful disciple in everything they do. Saints are also sinners, but they know the joy of being forgiven and have entered fully into the daily struggle of seeking to be holy in every aspect of their lives. They love virtue and seek to grow in its practice daily. Of course, they begin to live their daily lives through the strength of the three great virtues of faith, hope and love. But they also love virtues particularly lacking in our modern culture like humility, chastity, temperance, prudence, courage and perseverance.

There has never been a saint who did not have a deep personal relationship with God in prayer, and through daily spending time with God in prayer and meditating on his word they develop a supernatural outlook, which allows them to see the problems of our modern culture from God’s perspective. Led by the Holy Spirit, they learn to give their whole lives in fidelity to God’s particular call for them, whether that is serving the poor daily, being the best lawyer or judge they can be, bringing the love of God to medicine as doctors or nurses, teaching and forming children in the home, counseling women considering abortion, or an infinite number of things, always using the particular gifts God has given to them. Again, to quote Vatican II: “This holiness of the Church is unceasingly manifested, and must be manifested, in the fruits of grace which the Spirit produces in the faithful; it is expressed in many ways in individuals, who in their walk of life, tend toward the perfection of charity, thus causing the edification of others” (“Lumen Gentium,” 39).

Saints are the most joyful people on earth because they have discovered and are living the true meaning of their lives. Through prayer they have learned to model their lives on the paschal mystery and they begin to see their daily sufferings as their participation in Christ’s suffering. This makes their suffering deeply meaningful because they know that through uniting their sufferings to Christ’s at holy Mass, it is fruitful for the whole world just as his was. Nothing can conquer this joy of knowing that their lives are part of the great work of redemption that Jesus began with his incarnation and continues in his Church throughout all time. This is why the universal testimony of the martyrs is that they went to their death with joy! For saints, even the greatest evil of death becomes another step toward union with the one they love.

The great mystery of human life is that we were created by God to be saints. As St. John Henry Newman said, “God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.” Thus, the only real tragedy in life is not to fulfill this mission from God. What a sad thing it would be to die and to meet God and to have him say to me, “Look at all the wonderful things I wanted to do through you, if only you would have listened to me more in prayer.”

What must we do? Each of us must commit ourselves to fulfilling this God-given mission we have. It begins when I honestly look at my life and ask myself: Is holiness, imitation of Jesus Christ, the real goal of all my life? Am I doing everything I can to love the Lord, my God, with all my heart, with all my soul, and with all my mind, and to love my neighbor as myself?”

If I’m not doing this, then my life has to change, today. I need to seek out those who can help me do this. It will certainly be difficult, but not impossible. And it is important to remember the saying my mom always told me, “If you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem.” Let’s be saints and be part of God’s plan to heal our world.

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