We grow up learning about the saints of the Church. We learn about our patron saint, the saint of our local Church, and the saints that made history. Unfortunately, we also grow up thinking saints are something from the past, but today is the feast of Saint Raphael of Brooklyn. YES….Brooklyn, NEW YORK. Did you even know there were American saints?
Though we may not consider ourselves as likely candidates for sainthood, Saint Paul refers to us as saints in his letters. The term should be a challenge for us especially during our Great Lenten Journey. If you read the lives of the Saints, you will find men and women who struggled to keep the faith strong in their lives. Not all saints were beheaded or boiled in vats of hot oil, but all offered their lives to Christ and His glory.
Great Lent is the perfect time to practice the sainthood to which we have been called. Over the next several weeks we will have an opportunity, while not risking physical martyrdom, to offer ourselves to Christ and His glory. Saint Paul invites us to present ourselves as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12.1) and there is no better time to practice that by fasting during Great Lent. The Saints of the first centuries may have been beheaded for not rejecting Christ, but our martyrdom will be quite different.
A 21st Century Saint (at least here in America) won’t necessarily suffer physical pain for Christ, but rather the pain and suffering of social shunning or financial ruin. Being brutally honest most of us have become lazy and comfortable in our Christianity. We freely drive to Church each Sunday (or when we feel like it) in our expensive cars. We carefully plan elaborate parish endowment funds and building plans totally millions of dollars. We hardly can comprehend the ancient Church when simply having food on our plate was a blessing from God.
But that doesn’t mean it is no longer possible to become a saint of the Church, even if saints aren’t made every day in America. In a modern luxurious life, becoming a saint will mean the willingness to live with less and give more. We will need to fight the temptation to keep up with the Joneses and be thankful for an honest living with basic food and shelter. It will mean not falling trap to chasing the so-called American dream. It will mean loving God more than anything else America has to offer.
Sound difficult? Of course, it does, but anything worth achieving is difficult, and answering Christ’s invitation to, “Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me,” He is calling us to the difficult but blessed life of sainthood. Great Lent is our practice time before the real challenge comes, and it is coming when just bring a Christian will be a sacrifice. But more on that later this week.