Whenever you hear the word “saint”, you might think of the person with their hands folded, always doing nice and kind things. Or maybe you think of someone holding a poor child and smiling, someone helping the poor, bringing hope and faith to people, or maybe giving sage advice. Maybe helping to build schools and hospitals and healthcare programs.
But while we might look at the saints and all the good they do, it means we are not listening to the saints. Because the saints themselves will always talk about what God does with their weaknesses. Saints are all obsessed with what God does with the bad stuff they’ve done in their lives.
Let’s look at some of the saints. Augustine had a great case of procrastination. “Late have I loved you,” he said about God. But he lights the path for so many who turn to God later in life. His mother, Monica? She had a bit of a drinking problem. Because she had a little drinking problem, she wasn’t allowed to bring her customary gift of wine to the church, so she began to give to the poor and to offer her prayers – and she got the conversion of her son.
St. Therese of Lisieux was so stubborn that she had the unrealistic desire to have every vocation and wouldn’t let go of it. That made her have to really do some thinking and praying and digging, and she discovered her “little way”, a simple way for people to walk with God when life is too big and complicated. Just in time for the world wars and social upheaval and technology boom of the 20th century that made everyone’s life bigger and more complicated.
Saint Paul was more legalistic than Judge Judy, but after he met Jesus, he went around to all the people of the world who knew nothing about the law, to tell them the good news that they don’t need this law of God. You need someone who loves the law and knows it inside and out to get people to believe that!
St Francis was the most ambitious of his peers. He grew up on the middle of the mountain of Assisi – middle class. He wanted to rise up to the top of the mountain where the nobles and knights lived. After his conversion, he put all his effort into living at the bottom of the mountain. If it’s hard to climb the mountain of success, it’s even harder to deliberately descend it. You need a really, really ambitious person to do that.
St. Thomas’ doubt got him to be able to actually put his fingers into the wounds of Jesus. No one else did that. Well, you needed that hands-on testimony for everyone who would come afterwards and never had that visitation from the Resurrected Christ. If no one actually touched Jesus and His wounds, how do you know it wasn’t all in the imagination of the apostles? Look what God did with Thomas’ doubt!
And finally, Jerome. Jerome had an anger problem, so because of his relationship problems, he thought it best to go off to solitude in Bethelehem. While there all alone, what else did he have to do but pray and study? So he translated the Bible into Latin, and the Church used that Bible in the liturgies for over 1000 years. Without Jerome’s anger, there’s no Vulgate.
Look what God did with all their faults and weaknesses!
We have faults and weaknesses, we have things about us that turn us away from doing good, and we do bad stuff, we make mistakes and sometimes we deliberately do bad stuff, we “sin”. But God can do great things with all that. That’s the testimony of the saints. That’s why they’re there.
I have a friend that says, “Death comes once per customer.” There’s no avoiding our weaknesses and faults. There’s no avoiding doing bad at least once in a while. And there’s no avoiding death. The key is to let God have it all. Trust in Him. He can do great things with it all.
I believe that after we all die, when we are in heaven, we’ll all be saying to one another, “Look what God did with my mistakes and the bad I did. Look what He did with my anger, my chasing women, my spending sprees, my drinking.
And Wow, look at what he did with my death!”
“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55)
Happy feasts of All Saints and Commemoration of the Dead!