Where shall we find a holy person? Where shall we find a saint? It is difficult because the real saint is hidden and humble and holy. Instead of looking for the hidden holy ones we fall for the celebrity ‘saint’. We want the big dramatic conversion story. We want the dynamic, uncompromising speaker. We like the one who speaks out on sin and rails against the devil.
Have you ever noticed how the popular speakers do this? They score points every time they get down on homosexuals or speak up against the sexual immorality of the day. They get the applause when they take down the socialists or the feminists or the sinners of some sort, and then the faithful feel all good about themselves and that makes them love their big time speaker all the more. I listen to the faithful enthuse about their favorite priest and the ones they seem to like best are the ones who inveigh against sin. Preaching against sin is all well and good, but not when it’s all about “Look at those terrible sinners out there! Isn’t it awful out there? Isn’t it a terrible world we live in??!!” Then the faithful all huddle together and get cozy and self righteous together in their little fortress of faith.
It’s nauseating. Stop and consider that the real saints are hidden. They follow the little way. If you were to tell them they were a saint they would laugh and tell you to keep searching. If you even had the sense and discernment to see the saint next to you–the ordinary person who perseveres–the little person who serves others–the plain Jane who takes life easily and simply loves people, then you would learn again what true holiness really is. If we only had eyes to see the simplicity of the saints, the extraordinary ordinariness of holiness, the practical good humor and humility of the truly grace filled ones.
The confessional is where I am reminded about true holiness. I love sitting in the confessional and listening to the distress of ordinary people about their sins because their sins are so few and less serious than my own. When I listen to confessions I am more often impressed and humbled by the holiness of the penitent and not his sinfulness, and with each act of contrition I hear, my heart repeats it over with them for their penitence has softened my own heart and revealed my own lack.
Then my mind turns to the little saints I have known: an old woman who lived in a cabin in the woods and with gentle good humor and love turned my poisoned wayward heart back to God. A Poor Clare nun who lived as a hermit for years and endured great pain and hardship and yet never once complained. She always thought the best of everyone and believed not in my image, but in who I could really be. A Missionary of Charity I meet in El Salvador who serves mentally handicapped adults all day every day. A priest who serves the poor and suffers intense and chronic pain and never complains. A Eucharistic minister who visits the housebound and spends time with them and loves doing it.
It is the little way that leads to salvation. Not the way of pride and pleasure and power. Not the way of wealth and the world. Not the way of ego and ambition.
Only the way of the cross.
When are we going to learn this?