Sainthood: work-in-process

We are called to be holy, in other words, we are called to be saints. What is a saint, and how, you may ask, do I become a saint? How does one become holy? The readings for the Solemnity of All Saints (November 1st) point us in the right direction.

Saints are those “who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:14) They come “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongue.” (Revelation 7:9) Saints are “called the children of God” and “shall be like him.” (1 John 3:1-2)

Jesus teaches us how to become saints when he preached the Beatitudes to his followers:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. (Matthew 5:3-12A)

To be happy is to be blessed. This happiness is the joy found in eternal life rather than the temporary and often unsatisfactory happiness of this world.

May the road rise up to meet you

When our daughter was young and memorizing small parts of longer prayers, we learned a portion of St. Patrick’s Breastplate. We start each morning with

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

This has become our family “morning offering”, acknowledging that each and every day comes from our belief in God, who is Strength and provides us with strength and protection.

Celtic Cross - Close-up B&W v2St. Patrick is a family favorite, given our Irish heritage (mixed in with quite a bit of this and that). The fact that my birthday is on St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t hurt his popularity either. Thankfully, I like the color green.

St. Patrick, born in Scotland of Roman-British parents, lived in the 5th century AD. As a teen, he was captured by Irish pirates and spent six years as a slave in Ireland. During that time he grew in his faith. He eventually escaped and made his way back to Britain.

After being ordained a priest and then a bishop, he dreamed that he should return to Ireland as a missionary, preaching the Gospel. He converted a great many Irish to Christianity, and legend says that he used the shamrock to teach the pagan Irish about the Trinity, the Threeness in Oneness that is God. He is the patron saint of Ireland whose feast day is March 17.

Today, when we are all Irish for a day, let us remember the life of this great saint, who lived to spread the Good News. He courageously returned to a land that had enslaved him in order to bring people to Christ.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
(Old Irish Blessing)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Photo: Celtic cross, Cashel, Ireland

The bad side of efficiency

Is efficiency good or bad? Most would say that it’s a good thing. To work efficiently equates to being productive because we are not wasting time or effort on fruitless or unprofitable actions. In our culture, we also have a need to appear busy. On the surface, this seems to be in contrast with efficiency. If we really were efficient with our time, then we wouldn’t be so busy. But the two are tied together. Busy people are perceived as productive and therefore important in a culture that values having things.

But when is efficiency bad? In his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope St. John Paul II said that preoccupation with efficiency is the root of the culture of death. Yes, efficiency means accomplishing a task with the least waste of time or effort. But the sick, elderly, handicapped, poor, or marginalized do not perform tasks “efficiently”. In fact, neither do pregnant women. Or parents for that matter. Their value to society is far less than those that produce things in an efficient manner because they cannot produce as much or as fast as “healthy” people.

The values of being are replaced by those of having. The only goal which counts is the pursuit of one’s own material well-being. The so-called “quality of life” is interpreted primarily or exclusively as economic efficiency, inordinate consumerism, physical beauty and pleasure, to the neglect of the more profound dimensions-interpersonal, spiritual and religious-of existence (Pope St. John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, 23).

We no longer value “being” even in our families. Work, sports, and unreasonable amount of homework even for lower school kids all interfere with being together as a family: talking, visiting, playing games, praying. The family is reduced to an economic entity with units that exist to produce goods for the family. Marriage is a contract that can be broken if one or both parties don’t produce per the contract.

White crosses v3The more we move as a society toward the greater need for productivity and efficiency at the expense of individuals, the more we can expect to see the devaluation of the person. We move away from the recognition and respect of the dignity of the human person.

“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10.

Photo: White Crosses

First Step Forward

Shepherd's Field - altar close up v2How fitting that my first post is on the Solemnity the Epiphany of the Lord! Like the Magi, I’m on a journey seeking the King. The path is sometimes unclear, but as long as I follow my Guide, I can find my way to the Heavenly home.

Like the Magi, we are all asked to go out into the world not only to seek Christ for ourselves, but to bring others to Christ. God has given each of us gifts, and we are meant to use our gifts to adore Him. And by using our time, talents, and treasures to help others, we reflect God’s love to our neighbor.

Normally, January 4th (today) is the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, my confirmation saint. She was the first native-born American to be canonized and is known for her devotion to the education of underprivileged children.

Happy New Year!

Photo: Baby Jesus (Shepherd’s Field, Israel)