Going for a walk. A fitness walk. I reach the beginning-to-get-tired-and-breathless stage. I look at my watch. I think of how much further I have to go…distance-wise, time-wise.
I look ahead. Ah, at the top of the hill is a tree. Keep your eyes on that tree, Leonie. Move ahead, you can do it, you can make it up that oh so steep hill. Think only about the tree, the point in front.
This helps. This point of focus becomes my encourager. I keep going, focused on what is ahead, that shining beacon if you like. And the steep hill does not seem quite so steep after all.
My life is a little bit like that. Sometimes, a focus on what is ahead helps make the here and now easier, more pleasant, more do-able.
For me, some of those beacons of light are the saints.
Just like that tree, that point of hope, the stories of the lives of the saints, the writings of the saints, give me hope.
Just like that walker or runner a little ahead of me, he who is keeping faithful to the walk, who is not quitting and who, by his example, encourages me, urges me on, urges me to pace myself, who gives me inspiration to know I can do it, if he can I can, no quitting..so, too, the saints, in their lives, and their intercession, give me help, encouragement, inspiration.
The saints are models of a Christ-like life. They are models of what our lives could be…yes, models for me, that busy working and homeschooling mum, for my friend who works nights to support his family, for the lady from work who has worries about the care of her elderly mother, for that child who leads a full life, for that teen with his questions…
But even more than that, the saints can be friends.
Okay, right now, you are thinking…That’s weird. Dead people as friends?
Well, yes. Just like when I read an excellent novel or series of novels (Laura and the statements of Ma from Little House on the Prairie will always stay with me) , watch a haunting spell binding movie ( I can never forget Meryl Streep as that nun in Doubt) , get enthralled by the television series Battlestar Galactica ( is there a bit of that troubled, female flyer Starbuck within me?)..just as I get involved in these characters, their language, their thoughts, so too I can get to know the saints, their writings, their thoughts, their struggles, their admonishments, their friendship.
Someone says something, and I think “Oh, like St Bonaventure.” I feel like I know the saint, just a little, but a knowing nonetheless, from his writings.
So, I feel the friendship of the saints. They do not just serve a function in my life (St Jude , pray for me, St Anthony help me find that book)…they are people I come to know. The more one gets to know the saints, the more one feels that these men and women who are enjoying life with God are there for us, praying for us, wanting us to be sanctified, to live out our vocations.
However, as with any friend, one does not view the a saint from purely utilitarian viewpoint. In other words, we shouldn’t see the saints just as intercessors, only as models and examples, just as someone who exists solely to encourage us as Christians.
By reading about the saints, by reading what the saints wrote and said, by praying to the saints, we can come to celebrate their lives. Celebrate their stories of their life on earth, their gift to God and to the Church. We can celebrate their diversity and the variety of gifts and lives they reveal in the kingdom of God.
That cloud of witnesses described by St Paul in Hebrews.
This has come to me gradually, this realization of the friendship of the saints, of the celebration of their lives, of how the saints were people like me, striving for holiness and being who they were.
Families, be who you are. Pope John Paul II.
I tend to think that I have to be someone else, that sainthood means being a certain kind of person. Well, it does…but it is a certain kind of person loving God and thus others and living this out in my own life and where God has put me in this world. Today. And tomorrow.
Holiness is not the luxury of a few. It is everyone’s duty: yours and mine. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa.
When the alarm on my mobile phone goes off in the early morning (beep..beep, shut up!), I often start the day weary. I love my life (am I addicted to doing too much?) but I am sometimes just weary. Weary of the to do list, of trying to be a better wife and mother and friend and always failing miserably, weary of me.
I have two choices. I can continue to be weary and discouraged and realize that I will never be Mother Teresa. Or I can turn to Our Lord, in the Morning Prayer, in Mass, in my every day life. I can experience the presence of God in the Holy Eucharist, and in my life… Sometimes this might mean doing those big things in my life with love…. raising teenagers, serving my husband however bad at that I may be, being patient at home, in my vocation, for example. Sometimes, this might mean doing little things with love….biting my tongue, doing my jobs with a smile.
I am called to emulate those friends of mine, the saints. I am called to emulate Our Lord . I can discover paths to holiness, with the sacraments and on my journey to sanctity. But I have to do these things within my own unique vocation (Ouch!).
That is what the lives of the saints have taught me.
How gloriously different are the saints! C. S. Lewis.
How gloriously different. And, in my case, how weak. But it is in my weakness (do I have to finish that hill walk today?) that, with the power of Christ, I can be strong. I can look at the saints and their weaknesses, too, and like St Paul say that I am content, for whenever I am weak on my own, in human terms, then with Christ I am strong.
During this Christmas season, I have been doing fun workouts…dance, hi-low aerobics, singing my heart out while
working out ( Rio, Like A Virgin, Pump It). The music is like a grace that helps me to keep on working out, makes working out fun.
During Christmas, too, I have pondered the lives of the saints and particularly of Mary, Our Blessed Mother. A perfect example for a Catholic unschooling mother. She has become a friend, if you like, a mother. Knowing she is there, having a relationship with Our Mother, does make the daily life, well , I hesitate to say fun as in workout fun but more grace-filled. I see how Our Lady responded to God’s invitation. I see how she lived in faith, how she persevered, how she loved.
How she loves.
How she helps us on our paths to sanctity, in our vocations.
Life with the saints. Never quitting.