As I was reading a daily reflection recently, what jumped out at me was the notion of “entertaining saints and angels.” I started to question if I live as if I’m surrounded by saints?
A saint is someone whose soul is now in heaven. During the course of their life, they either had an exemplary faith-filled life or some conversion to the faith prior to death. Most people think of saints that have been named by the Church: St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Katherine, St. Dominic, and all those that are celebrated by the Church during weekday Masses each year. Enter “how many catholic saints are there?” in Google and the response returned is, “There are more than 10,000 saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, though the names and histories of some of these holy men and women have been lost to history.” We have no idea how many souls, or saints, are in heaven with God. All of them were human, just like you and me. None of them, with the exception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, was without sin. Despite their faults and weaknesses, they persevered in faith to the end and interacted with countless people during their lifetime. Some have identified previous saints as inspirations, while others may have been influenced by various people they encountered.
I assist with teaching for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), and I alway wonder if anyone that I’m sharing my faith with will someday be a saint. I should correct my thought process, and hope that ALL of them will be saints! Yet the thought of journeying with someone in their relationship with Christ and to be recognized by the Church as a saint after their death somehow seems … cool. While the Church does not have celebrities, perhaps the saints fill our need to have a person that we admire. We look to St. Thérèse of Lisieux and her “little way” to encourage us on our journey. We look to St. Vincent de Paul and the organizations set up in his name to help those less fortunate than ourselves. We look to St. Thomas Aquanias to help us plumb the depths of the mysteries of God. Perhaps we wonder what it would have been like to meet them while they lived; or what will it be like to meet them in heaven?
It will be wonderful to meet the saints, but what about all the individuals we meet today? Could we be walking right past future saints and not even notice them? It may be impossible, especially in a city setting, to see and acknowledge every single person that you come upon, it may be worth reflecting on our response to those with whom we interact. Whether they become a named saint or not, doesn’t matter as it most likely won’t be in our lifetime, but our response to them does matter. The people in our everyday life — family, friends, coworkers, service workers, etc. — could be saints in heaven someday. Do we encourage their faith in God, support them in their challenges, and pray for God’s blessing upon them? What would the world look like if we treated all people as if they are future saints?
Living in a culture that is all about what’s in it for me, the thought of living as if we’re among saints may sound unrealistic. Yet people of previous generations also entertained saints unbeknownst to them. To change one’s mindset, perhaps the next time we hear a saint’s name, pray for their intercession for all those on earth to become saints.