Who is a saint?
During the celebration of the Holy Mass on September 14, 2023 at San Agustin Church to commemorate the 46th Death Anniversary of Fr. George J. Willmann, S.J., Founder of the Knights of Columbus Fraternal Association of the Philippines Inc. (KCFAPI), Bishop Emeritus Teodoro C. Bacani asked the question “Who is a Saint” and answered it by saying that “a saint is one who has received the love of God and heroically shares this with others.”
What does this mean in today’s world of dysfunctions and deficits: human rights deficit, social justice deficit, democracy deficit, peace deficit, food security deficit environmental deficit, learning deficit, etc.?
The answer to the question involves two inseparable elements, namely, reception of God’s redeeming love through Jesus Christ who suffered a brutal death for the sake of humankind; and, having received this kind of sacrificial and liberating love, the recipient now acts as God’s agent in helping others. St. Benedict and St. Teresa of Avila say it all when the former said that the path to holiness is through other people and the latter stating that the short-cut to heaven is through your neighbor. A modern version will be what the movie “A Man Called Otto” declared in its epilogue that one should act for himself and be there to help others. In brief, be filled with God’s extravagant love and with intentionality be a blessing to others.
In the Philippines and elsewhere in this shrinking global village, to be a saint means to live out the three roles/ministries of a Christian: a prophet, a priest and a king.
To be a prophet, is to be an enabler of a just and humane social order by reading the signs of the times, reflecting and commenting on them and then making a stand. Teachers, lawyers, businesspersons, priests, religious, public servants, artists, etc. creatively using their unique professional platforms (classrooms, courtrooms, pulpits, offices, theaters, etc.) to fulfill this prophetic role, for the sake of the common good.
To be a priest is to drink from the fountain of God’s wisdom found in the Holy Scriptures for nourishment and direction, to pray for both the victims and perpetrators of injustice, to draw strength from the sacraments, and to be led by the Holy Spirit to be an effective minister of what is true, noble and pure.
To be a king is to be a servant leader in a multitude of inspiring forms like food distribution to the hungry, involvement in social medicine, undertaking legal and para-legal education, working for environmental justice, advocating electoral reforms, commencing or joining peace efforts, engaging in disaster-preparedness and disaster-response initiatives, etc.
To be a saint therefore is to be partisan for causes that uplift, inspire empower, console and strengthen others. It is not to be a spectator or fence-sitter. As Nobel Peace Prize Awardee Bishop Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot or the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
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