Fr.John Cioppa in Hong Kong. In His Own Words.
One nice thing about vacations is that one has more time to read, reflect, rest and write. Just recently I finished a book entitled, "Why be Catholic". The last chapter is on saints. The author a Franciscan Priest, placed it last since he says this is the ultimate aim of Christians- not to know about the saints, but to become saints. Saints are our heroes; they are the ones who did ordinary things with deep faith. They would say that they did not accomplish anything great, but they allowed God to accomplish great things through them.
God's grace is always mediated through human experience, most often through people. We encounter God not through the head, but through the heart. Reflect for a moment about the times that you studied doctrine or attended Sunday School or even heard a priest preach. Which do you remember more: the "person" or what they said?" Think back on the events that have formed you, the things that have affected your life most. Aren't they usually associated with people: your parents, your husband or wife, a friend, a teacher or perhaps a priest or Sister? Catholics have followed the examples of their saints more than they have the ideas in their doctrines . Ideas are abstract but lives are real. People are often bored by theology, but they are always fascinated by saints. Saints fire our imagination: stir up our hearts; awaken our dreams.
In the lives of others, especially in the lives of the saints, we discern how God works in human life. We all want to see God. But in this life we encounter the invisible God in and through the visible world. We experience the love of God through the love of other people. We experience the care and forgiveness of God through the care and forgiveness of others. We all want to know how to live? The saints are our teachers and models. And there is not just one model. There are saints who are martyrs, ascetics, mystics, activists, priest, Sisters and lay people. Some were very simple, others very learned: men, women, single and married. ( I am writing this on July 23, the feast day of Saint Bridget. She was married and had 8 children.) Some saints were even considered eccentric.
As we look at the lives of the saints we find one thing in common.They became free, loving, happy and fulfilled people only through years of struggle, both within themselves and with the world. As Catholics we are not called to admire the saints, we are called to be saints. Catholicism is not something to know, it is a vision . It is a way of life. And the Saints are our models.