WELL I’LL BE DARNED
We all ought to do everything in our power to guarantee that upon our death, no one will even think of proposing us for sainthood. While it is not even a remote possibility for someone like myself, two recent things that have happened to two people who ought to be saints (declared that is, by the Church to most certainly be in heaven) make me wonder. There are similarities in both cases. In the old “saint-making days” prior to Pope John Paul II, the Church appointed a “devil’s advocate” whose task it essentially was to “dig up dirt” on the candidate which might cast doubts or suspicions about the persons worthiness. Generally this involved pouring through the deceased’s writing, interviewing people that knew him or her in life (if that was still possible) and hunting for the unusual. I am not sure that the Devil’s Advocate in these cases really worked hard at his task but at least someone was there to see if there was another side to the proposed person’s life.
In the last several years, things have percolated to the top concerning Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II. In the first case, there was a book which included passages from her diary which indicated that she had occasions of deep and profound doubts in God. In the second case, there is now a growing controversy about one of John Paul’s women friends, sometimes seemingly leading to the conclusion that he should not have had any. Well, I’ll be darned! Both Mother Theresa and John Paul were truly human. Who of us has not at times when under stress or seeing things going very badly wondered where God is in our life? Who of us has not at times had the gift of friendship of others who supported us in our vocation (to marriage, the single life, or religious/priesthood)? What’s wrong with an occasional doubt? What’s wrong with a good friend?
The answer I suspect is that these questions coming precisely at this moment may delay the ultimate beatification of Pope John Paul II and the canonization of Mother Theresa. For ninety nine and forty four one hundreth percent of Catholics in the world, these revelations make us think even higher of these two people especially, because they reveal a humanity which we all experience in our lives. It is not that we have fundamental doubts from time to time or close and intimate friendships, it is what we do with them and how we respond to them. In both cases, nothing untoward has been suggested beyond the revelation that one was occasionally tormented and the other occasionally visited. Saints, it seems to me are people who have secured their eternal salvation through a lifetime of dedicated service to the Lord and to His brothers and sisters on earth and who lived each day in love with God, even if he was enveloped occasionally with doubt, and shared their vocation with others for the betterment of all.
With the help of God most of us will live and love as did the saints, just maybe not as totally as they have.