Saturday, December 12, 2009
Francis, Ignatius, Therese, John Paul and Mother Teresa were able to show the humanity of the Church through their relationship with family, friends, and the society. When they felt the calling to serve God through their service to the poor, most of them became in conflict with their human relations. For example, Francis’ family ties sagged when his parents thought that he was not only wasting his time but also throwing away the money for which they labored hard in order to amass. He also became in conflict with his friends who stoned and threw mud at him for doing charity works and for reducing himself to being a beggar. Francis seemed a disappointment to his parents and friends since they expected him to do anything other than distribute clothes, goods and money to the poor. Meanwhile, Ignatius suffered persecution for converting young people into the Christian fold. He courageously took up his jail term when he was accused of harboring beliefs that were not of the Church. On the other hand, Therese had a mild human conflict when she was not allowed to become a novitiate because she was still underage. She already felt the calling at a tender age, but was not permitted to join her sisters in the convent until the pope interceded in her behalf. Meanwhile, John Paul had a contradiction with his Polish society since his Christian beliefs were not necessarily compatible with his country’s Communist stance. Besides that, his threatened deportation to Germany during the war could have spoiled his chance of becoming a priest. Even when he became a pope, some nonbelievers attempted to assassinate him, a proof that no matter what good Christian relationship he wanted to build with the society, some did not share the same advocacy. The same was true with Mother Teresa, whose country of destination, India, is a study in contrast. While she helped many poor and sick Indians, the social neglect continued. Even her venture into the outside world took time, since she was bound within the four walls of the convent and she had to face the Church’s refusal to establish new religious communities. It was a difficult process for her to gain approval to leave the cloistered community to join the poorest of the poor in the streets and trade her habits into the less inconvenient sari and sandals she wore while ministering in Calcutta.
On the other hand, all five showed the divinity of the Church by enduring the mockery, rebukes, the discomforts and all sorts of contradictions made by the people they loved since they had the noble tasks of following the ways of Christ and doing charitable acts to the poor. Francis departed from his free-wheeling ways in order to renew himself and to adapt more to the Christian way of being a man for the poor and the needy. By being spiritually inspired to be resilient, he sanctified himself with all the meditations and fasting he had undergone to suit the sacrifice that entails becoming one with the poor, the sick and the hungry. The same was true with Ignatius, who turned away from a life of privileges and turning to extreme poverty and fasting in order to become one with the social outcasts. He renewed himself by embarking on pilgrimages that will proclaim the gospel. He bounced back despite being persecuted for his missions because he believed that bearing the anguish that resembled that of the persecuted Christ was part of the spiritual heritage. Meanwhile, Therese had a renewal each time she produced her testimonies of God’s goodness despite suffering from a terrible illness. While bedridden, she went on and on about writing the miraculous ways through which her life was being blessed by the Lord. On the other hand, John Paul did not waver in his papal duties although the world becomes increasingly negligent of its Christian duties. Instead, he continued to fulfill his duties by always turning his country visits, his book publications and issuance of holy documents as opportunities for Church renewal. Finally, Mother Teresa found spiritual renewal in the company of the poor, the ill and the starving whom she served in her parallel service to God. She became increasingly selfless in her mission of helping the neglected people.
All these saints have influenced the history and life of the faithful by showing that their lives can pursue Christian perfection despite hardships, trials and sufferings. Francis, Ignatius, Therese, John Paul and Teresa had varying degrees of setbacks throughout their respective missions but these did not stop them from fulfilling their duties however daunting these problems may appear. They endured through them all and did not surrender even in the face of the devil’s temptation or of social persecution. They transformed the problems into opportunities to grow more as Christians. They produced permanent legacies in the forms of books, meditations, movements and foundations which can attest an undying Christian devotion despite their brief, earthly lives. These, along with their very lives, leave an impression of the infinite possibilities of serving Christ and humanity in the face of persecutions or other such obstacles. For the faithful who are aware of how fellow humans before them had achieved saintly status through sheer faith in God and courage of spirit, the impact of these saints’ lives will inspire them into taking up their own crosses and into becoming active participants in the quest for salvation. The saints had made it possible, so the faithful can also create history by drawing the Christ-like out of their very lives with the greater consciousness for emulating God’s humility, compassion and love for the community, and helping the Christian brethren.
All five saints reflect the identity and mission of Jesus Christ by turning their lives into replicas of Christ for others. Dismissing human and circumstantial limitations, Francis took Christ’s humility, became one with the poor, and taught and shared with them the blessings coming from God. It did not matter that his own close relations shunned him for Francis pursued his love for the brethren and other living things the way God loves all. Ignatius imitated Christ’s endurance during trying times for he did not surrender his faith even though authorities have imprisoned him for supposedly corrupting his newly-converted Christian brothers. He bore his persecution with the dignity of Christ, believing this was insignificant next to the greatness of spreading God’s love. Meanwhile, Therese had to die young and had to endure bodily suffering but these did not matter in terms of her mission of living a life in the approval of God. Her disease did not stop her from continuing her call to God’s service, up to the day she died. On the other hand, John Paul had a relatively long life replete with the mission of sustaining the flock of God. Like Christ, he served as a shepherd of this Church community so that the latter continued to mature despite the challenges of the modern times. Even in sickness and old age, he went on to spread the Word of God so that his duty can fulfill the objective of providing humanity with salvation. Finally, Mother Teresa took on the mission of helping the poor and the needy because Christ Himself cares for them more than the privileged ones. She mimicked Christ’s humanitarian ways in fulfillment of His second greatest commandment that’s love for others. She could have chosen to stay within the convent but she ventured out into the world to suffer other’s suffering, and to save the neglected. All these saints lived their lives the way real Christians ought to be: compassionate, enduring, redeeming.