Sainthood isn’t just for ‘saints’
John Hunt writes that, despite our human frailty, God calls every person to sainthood . . .
Mercy Sunday — April 27, 2014 — was a day of celebration in the Catholic Church. It was a brisk spring morning in St. Peter’s Square, overcast to a degree that the gathered pilgrims were sheltered from the bright Roman sun.
Officials declared that at least 800,000 faithful had gathered in the Square and as far as the eye could see — certainly to the Tiber River and beyond. It was the largest gathering at the Vatican in history. What exactly drew this multitude? By now most Catholics know that on this Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis elevated his predecessors — Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII — to sainthood. These two men, beloved by generations of Catholics and others of good will, were raised to the honors of the altar. After exhaustive investigation by Vatican officials and medical experts, they were declared to have practiced heroic virtue in fidelity to the Gospel. Miracles occurred through their intercession. (Click here and here for related links.)
These two holy men — and those whom the Church has thus proclaimed over the centuries — have been the source and origin of renewal in some of the most difficult moments in the Church’s history. These two heroic popes saw the Catholic Church through many of the darkest days in the latter part of the 20th century. So the Church decrees and the Holy Father affirms their sanctity.
Were these new saints perfect in their humanity? Of course not, and the Church in no way implies by these declarations that this was the case. These men, like all canonized saints, struggled in their human weaknesses and sought to overcome the contradictions of sin and thus increased in holiness.
John Paul II and John XXIII were human just like you and me. And that is the beauty of this celebration: the fact that weak human beings, vulnerable to our lesser natures, can aspire to holiness, that is to say, sainthood. Yes, the Catholic Church declares outstanding examples of holiness to be saints via canonization, but in fact you and I, weak sinners though we are, can become saints. We may not be canonized, but we are all created to be with God forever in heaven. If we persevere in faith to the end and enjoy eternity with the Lord, we will have merited sainthood.
This is the beauty of what was celebrated on that cloudy Divine Mercy Sunday in Rome: that despite our human failings and our spiritual infirmities, we too can become saints.
JOHN HUNT is Legatus’ executive director. He and his wife Kathie are charter members of Legatus’ Chicago Chapter.