“St. Teresa of Calcutta” courtesy of pixabay.com
In the Apostles Creed we recite that we believe in the “communion of saints.” As a young Baptist lad, the only time I heard any discussion about saints was in reference to faithful Christians on Earth (see Philippians 1:1). You could say converting to Catholicism has not only deepened my understanding of Christianity, but it has also expanded my vocabulary. Imagine, if you will, some of the holiest people of history cheering you on to the finish line of life. It was this aspect, that of a Heavenly cheer squad of sorts, that was missing from my Christian upbringing, and discovering it was a welcomed surprise.
Last year, the world’s attention was turned to the canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. Now St. Teresa, this emblematic figure of the 20th century, and indeed of all time, has captured the hearts and minds of countless people the world over. How can anyone keep from loving her? Someone so willing to give of herself, enter into the most desperate of situations, and to pour out her life for the world’s forgotten deserves our respect at the very least. Whether or not you’re Catholic, I would venture to say that you could agree with me on this one. St. Teresa of Calcutta was the real deal.
So, now that she has been recognized as a Saint, what relevance does St. Teresa and the rest of the “Saints” have for your life and mine? If you’re anything like me, you’re far from giving up everything to serve the world’s forgotten. And don’t we all make this comment from time to time:
“Well, I’m no Mother Teresa…”
I can only imagine that, if given the chance to address us one last time, that saintly woman would have outright denounced such a statement. In fact, she did as much when she said that
“Jesus will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in his love than in your weakness. Only then, his hand will be free with you”(taken from Franciscan Press).
St. Teresa didn’t accomplish great things because she was predisposed to holiness, or because she was born with a gift that the rest of us do not have. Like St. Teresa, you and I can make an impact for Christ whether we are in Calcutta, New York, or Australia as long as we keep this principle in mind: love for God over our weakness. This is the key ingredient in every saint’s life, and it’s why I think they are so relevant to you and me. We can only be holy if we acknowledge our weaknesses and allow God to use us anyway. With that game plan, which one of us is disqualified from becoming a Saint?
As a Protestant, I would have rejected outright the claim that people in Heaven can hear our prayers. Even if I did grant that they could hear them, I was confident that they would ignore them and treat us as idolaters. What I was missing, however, was the fact that our God, the one described to both Protestants and Catholics in the sacred scripture, is the God of the living and not the dead (Mark 12:27). I was also missing the clear reference to a “cloud of witnesses” which the author of Hebrews mentions (Hebrews 12:1). Like many things, bits and pieces of this Catholic teaching were scattered throughout my Baptist up bringing; it just took time to put all of those pieces together.
One realization which quickly led me to accept the idea of the communion of saints, was that the righteous dead were, in fact, not dead at all! That’s right, the dead are alive and it’s not the zombie apocalypse I’m talking about. Think of it this way, if sin separates us from God, the author of life, imagine how full of life those are who bask in his presence sin free! Those people are the saints. And because they are alive and sinless, they want nothing more than to do God’s will. What’s that? For one, the salvation of His little ones (aka you and me).
So what are you waiting for? You have an entire army of perfect men and women ready and willing to plead your case before almighty God. Make use of them! I am glad I have such a supportive cheer squad behind me, aren’t you?
Peace be with you!