Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

How to be a Beacon

A great article for Americans about a few things we need to change if we really want to be genuine beacons of liberty to the world.

Come and See

Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle (Nov 30)

In St. John's Gospel, Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist heard the Baptist point out Jesus as "the Lamb of God." With that, they started following after Jesus. When he notices them, Jesus asks him what he wants. Andrew enigmatically asks, "Teacher, where are you staying?" The followed John because he prophesied about Jesus, and now having seen the prophesied one they begin to follow him. It is as if Andrew and the other disciple of the Baptist want to follow Jesus to the source. It is possible that the disciples were wondering if Jesus had a place to stay - but that seems unlikely. More likely, they themselves were looking for a spiritual place to stay, for something upon which they could hang their hats, for a central organizing theme for their lives. Jesus does not give some sort of pat answer, "Oh, I'm staying on Maple Street," or "Me and my gang are at the Holiday Inn." Rather, he invites them to a new experience: "Come and see."

Christianity, ultimately, is not meant to and cannot be a pat answer to life's questions. A young man in my parish died last Saturday night while asleep in his bed. He was a good kid. Toxicology revealed nothing foreign in his system. He had just run the Marine Corps Marathon. There was no indicator that the 15-year old boy had an undetected heart defect. He simply died unexpectedly. And in response to his family's anguish, Christianity should not attempt to say, "Now there, there. It's alright. See, Carl's in heaven now. It's OK." Such an "answer" (though perhaps factually accurate) is a dull platitude that rightly angers people. If God is in his heaven and the world is good and easy to understand, then why did Carl die.

Christianity's answer is different. Christ didn't die so that we won't have to. Christ died with us. Christ said, "Come and see," (Jn 1:39). If we have the faith to go with Him into whatever darken paths He leads, we will see and encounter the goodness of God, a goodness that transcends silly pat answers given by people who feel awkward amidst suffering.

Having encountered this Man who could be the center of their lives, the disciples of the Baptist begin to feel a difference immediately. We too, as we follow Christ, begin to experience a difference in our life. Things change. Firstly, we change - our sins alarm us more, then peace wells up as we see the sins begin to fall away, brushed off us by the hand of a gentle and loving Older Brother. Slowly, he prepares us to meet His Father, and to make His Father our own. As this encounter with Christ progresses, we become like Andrew who, "found his brother Simon and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah,'... He brought him to Jesus," (Jn 1:41-42). The Christ-likening change in us draws others to us, and thence to Christ himself. In word and deed our witness becomes credible, and like St. Andrew, we can bring our brothers and sisters to know the same loving God.

Christian Work

Recently Fr. Julian Carrón, current leader of Communion and Liberation, was interviewed at an international assembly for leaders of the movement. The assembly was entitled, “Friends, That is, Witnesses” and was held at La Thuille, Italy. I have cruelly stripped them from their context because a lot of the dialogue is jargon-laden.

"[Jesus] did not try to respond only to the [people’s] hunger, but He tried to
respond to another [deeper] hunger, because “man does not live by bread
alone.” So, after responding to the initial need of material hunger, He
spoke of the Eucharist. He knew what the true human need was…

doing a work, an “I” must not reduce the need or the answer to the need… If I
realize what my own need is, I will not be so naïve as to think that by
responding only partially to the need of the other, I am
to him

We have to be very careful; because now we can be very
good at creating projects, we have learned the job well... It can happen, for
example, that we manage to get the resources for carrying out projects, but then
we don’t have the personnel. So, when the project is in place, we ourselves are
not there, the [worker] that has that view of the need that we spoke of is not
there. So we are left with an NGO like the others. Is this what we want? It is
of no interest to me. If we want to keep [our distinctive] difference, we have
to obey the Mystery, and if we can do only five projects because we only have
five subjects that can do a work as we mean it, then we have to obey this. If
the Mystery wants to give us a hundred thousand subjects so as to do a hundred
thousand projects, we will do a hundred thousand, but as long as we have only
five, we will do five; otherwise, we are presumptuous, expecting to answer a
need just because we do bigger and bigger projects…

Jesus did not
heal all the sick of His time. Those whom He healed, He healed as an example, so
that through that people could learn that there was Someone interested in their
life, who answered the whole of their need. If the Mystery wants us to respond
to more needs, He will give us more people. But first we have to generate a
[worker] capable of doing a work…

For us, works are an example. I
got this perception visiting our communities, seeing our works. I would have
liked you to see what I saw at Rose’s Meeting Point, in Uganda. There I saw the
kind of work I would like, that gives me enthusiasm. As you can imagine, Rose
cannot respond to the problem of AIDS in Uganda (it is everywhere, so it is
impossible to respond completely), but she can bring the hope of meaning to all
the women she relates to and takes care of… For something like this to happen,
any NGO is not enough; it needs a [worker] who–responding to the human need
generated by AIDS–can communicate the existence of an answer to the need as a
whole and reawaken hope. This is [an apostolic] work. So we must not succumb to
the temptation of wanting to respond to everything."

Last night, our large School of Community in the DC area hosted a member of the movement who is in the area speaking on behalf of her work. Her name is Rose Businge, the Rose mentioned by Fr. Carrón. She and her coworkers provide the material sustenance, living quarters, education, and self-respect for tens of thousands of AIDS patients and their orphans. Here are some quotes from Ms. Businge:

"Man, who apparently seems to be nothing in the face of sickness and death,
instead is great, because of his relationship with Infinity."

"You become the lord of the reality - not because you possess it, but when
you discover to Whom it truly belongs. We become the protagonist in our
situation when we discover to Whom we belong."

"What defines a man? What defines a man is not his problems, but Who is
discovered in him."

"Man is a cry for happiness."

"Anger [at injustice] is overcome by belonging. As we become more aware
of belonging to Christ, we begin to look at wrongdoers in a new way."

"If you change, the world will change with you. As you grow closer to
Christ, you will bring the world with you."

Your Path - pt 2

Your Path

"There are many people - holy people - who do not understand your path. Do not get bent on making them understand: you will waste time and make room for indiscretions," (The Way #650).

Separation of Morals from Politics

Jacques Berlinerblau is a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, holding the chair in Jewish Civilization there. He is also a regular columnist on the Post's collection of blogs. He has a recent posting advocating the separation not only of religion from politics, but also of morals from politics.

To which I responded:

"I am always amazed by a couple common contentions in modern American culture.

1) What a person believes has no bearing on what he does.
2) What a
person does when he thinks nobody is looking has no relevance to what he does
when he is being watched.

Of course, spelled out, both statements are
patently false. We never act EXCEPT based upon what we believe to be true, and
very clearly the same person acts privately and in public, and if his conduct
when unsupervised is reprehensible, we have no reason to trust him except that
he is being supervised, which means we cannot trust him unsupervised.

need to be very clear on the full range of beliefs of candidates, from practical
(it is important to balance my checkbook) to esoteric (the nature of God). We
have nothing else with which to estimate how he will act in circumstances we
cannot foresee. If I believe that the bridge ahead is out, I stop the car. If I
believe the bridge to be intact, I continue driving. If I believe another person
to be making threats he can carry out, I prepare to defend myself. If I believe
the person "threatening" me is a six year old having a tantrum, I chuckle and go
on my way. If I believe humans have an innate dignity (from whatever source)
that transcends any other consideration, I treat people with the utmost respect.
If I think people are *just* very complex arrangements of matter, then I've no
reason to treat them differently than other complex arrangements of matter (like
sheep, trees, computers, etc).

We need to know that the candidate we are
electing is not just skilled, but good, and not only good when we are watching,
but good through-and-through, because there will be many times when the
president must act while very few are watching. If we are not convinced of the
president's personal goodness, how can we trust him to act well? Witness the
situation with our current administration.

Lastly, supposedly "private"
affairs are often more public than we suppose, if for no other reason than that
private actions are acts, and as such reveal to us the inner life of the actor -
in fact, nothing BUT his actions tell us about who he is. If M. Mitterand saw
fit to break his vows to his wife on a regular basis, why should the people of
France presume that he would keep his vows to them? I will not vote for a man
known to be an adulterer for exactly that reason: if he will not keep his
promise to his wife, then he is not a promise-keeping sort of person, except
perhaps when it suits him. In which case, I do not want to hear him babble in
front of the Supreme Court all sorts of silly promises he might not keep when
the time comes, depending on how it suits him.

Without any intention of
advocating some of the models rejected by Prof. Berlinerblau, I only observe
that while the French Model might work for them (although, Prof. Berlinerblau
neglects to mention the foment in France that partly involves the French Model),
I see no reason for us to adopt it."

As usual, my (I think) very logical and thoughtful post went completely ignored by the subsequent 50+ respondants, who prefered only to scream and wail about Conservative Christians or how gays and divorce are wrecking the nation. In my mind, the first thing wrecking our nation, built on a shared discourse about important questions, is an inability to conduct a respectful public discourse.

Miguel Pro and Christ the King

This past Sunday was designated as Solemnity of Christ the King. Originally promulgated in the 1925 document Quas Primas by Pope Pius XI to occur on the last Sunday of October, the feast is now celebrated each year on the last Sunday of the liturgical year - the Sunday before the beginning of Advent.

Culturally, the feast is meant to fly in the face of all that we hold dear in democratic countries: self-determination, representation, policy by consensus. Pope Pius XI read the signs of the times and could smell the growing determination by world leaders not to be bound by traditional morality. While Communists overthrew Russia and the revolutionary government in Mexico became violently anti-Christian, even Christian Europe witnessed new trends and social programs opposed to good morals. It was clearer and clearer to the Holy Father that an assault against Jesus Christ himself was underway. Placing the feast at the end of the year is perfect. The readings taken from the Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours (especially those from the books of the Maccabees) for the end year all draw our attention to the Lordship of God. The readings do so in a stark way: example after example is given of worldly rulers claiming absolute dominion - even insisting that people violate the laws of God to prove their loyalty. In these cases, the readings dramatically highlight the necessity of martyrdom by those who love God.

One modern example given to the Church on November 23 is that of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. The young Jesuit found his studies for the priesthood interrupted by the Mexican Revolution. His seminary was moved to Texas, and after a time there, he finished his studies in Belgium. By then, the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico was in full swing. Where the laws were enforced, priests were forbidden to wear special attire, renounce allegiance to the Church, cease performing sacraments, required to marry, and executed for refusal to any of those things. Priests were literally being shot in the street wherever they were found. Bl. Miguel volunteered to return to this environment because he suffered to see his countrymen go without the sacraments, with nobody to preach the Gospel to them, with nobody to remind them that God heard their cries and would not leave them alone forever.

After sneaking back into Mexico, Bl. Miguel evaded the authorities for a few years. Frequently he would slip right under their noses using the same sort of clever disguises that he and his siblings had used in their amateur theatre performaces as children. He even made so bold as to evangelize soldiers and police officers in places where "wanted posters" displayed his picture! By the time the young priest was apprehended in Mexico City, he was personally arranging the food and rent money for hundreds of families dispossessed for adhering to Holy Church, as well as offering Mass illegally numerous times weekly to crowds of people numbering into the hundreds. At last he was betrayed, like Christ, by one of those who benefited from his labors. Arrested with two of his younger brothers on the pretext of an assassination attempt, he refused the opportunity to disavow his priesthood, and was ordered to be shot by a firing squad in front of ambassadors and the press corps of the world's socialist and communist countries and organizations. So it was that, refusing a blindfold, Bl. Miguel stood before his murderers, facing them calmly, and forgave them aloud. Then, as the command to raise rifles was given, he threw wide his arms and shouted out "Viva Cristo Rey!"

Long Live Christ the King!

This pose is the one captured by photographers. Some of them, though socialists, were awed by his bravery, and within days holy cards had been made from the photographs and were circulating illegally. He was forbidden a public funeral, but the government was unable to act against the tens of thousands who showed up to escort the body to its burial site.

The question we have to ask ourselves, whatever our state in life, is whether Christ is king over us.

Do I avoid sin for fear of offending Him? Or do I make excuses?

Do I engage in thankless service in order to please Him? Do I only do the good things I like?

Do I rearrange my affairs to accord more completely with His desires?

Do I fear the opinion of other people, even strangers, more than I fear provoking God?

Am I willing to part with anything - ANYTHING - material possessions, habits, relationships - the moment it begans to interfere with my relationship with Jesus Christ?

In calling myself a Christian, "One of Christ's" I am implicitly answering the above questions. Do I answer them the same way in acting like Christ?

If Jesus Christ is not the Lord of my Life, the King of my Heart, then He is just a nice prop in my life that I take out sometimes, maybe once a week or so, to make me feel better about myself. We have cause to concern about this situation because Our Lord, the King of the Universe, himself said, Not every one who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then will I declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers,' (Mt 7:21-23).

Again, it is fitting that the feast of Christ the King comes at the end of the year, because when all is said and done, Jesus Christ is Lord. On the Last Day, He will have the last word.

Stressing Over Stress

"Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith; but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ," C. S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, ch. 8.

The Charity of Pennies

"You are too naive. How few are those that practice charity! To have charity is not to give old clothes or pennies... You tell me your situation and your disappointment. Only this occurs to me: let's you and I go and give, and give ourselves without any reserve, and we will avoid that those with whom we deal should have your same sad experience," The Way #469.

Persevere in Prayer

"To persevere. A child that calls at a door calls once... twice... many times - loud and at length - and without shame! And someone who goes to open the door in a huff is disarmed before the simplicity of the inconvenient little creature. So it is for you with God," The Way #893

Waiting in Prayer

"20. We are told that St. Ignatius could find God in contemplative prayer as he wished, when he wised, and wherever he wished. You undoubtedly are far from enjoying such facility, but do not go and say that this grace is not for you: it will surely be given to you if you persever in prayer. It is also said that after he had seen the Blessed Virgin, Ignatius ceased to be tormented in his flesh. Know that this grace can also be given to you as experience has proved to me.

21. Until such time, prepare your heart to receive this gift and wait for it patiently in a prolonged yearning like the elderly Simeon who, prompted by the SPirit, came back every day to the Temple of Jerusalem to wait for the Savior. Like him, you will someday receive the Child in your arms and you will be rewarded for this long wait.

22. And to pass away this time of waiting, do what you can. Say the Jesus Prayer or the rosary, read the Word of God. In last resort, do nothing but wait knowing that, at any moment, prayer may well up in your heart."

Give Me a Living Word: Maxims on Prayer (1.20-1.22), Jean LaFrance

The Cloak Cutter

St. Martin of Tours, Bishop (11 November)
Called the Holy Man of Tours (317-397), Martin wasn't actually from Tours. He was from Hungary. It was there that he encountered Christians, and through them Christ, and by that encounter became a Christian himself. His parents weren't thrilled, but weren't especially upset either. As long as Martin followed the "right" course in life, he could be whatever religion he wished, for all his father cared. The son of a Roman legion officer, Martin was by law automatically conscripted into the Roman Army and travelled with it throughout Germany and France. That was, as far as Martin's father was concerned, exactly the right path - with Caesar's legions to wherever they led.

Not so with Martin. He wanted nothing more than to follow Christ wherever he lead. As a point of family honor and obedience, he would not abandon his post as a soldier though he had a strong dislike for soldiering. He was big and strong, and a good soldier, and though he made no secret of disliking his trade, he won the respect of his brothers-in-arms. He won their respect so much so that they tolerated his eccentricities: how he cared for and served his slave, how he constantly gave to the poor, refrained from indulging in rape and looting, how he even cut his own warm officer's cloak in half to clothe a freezing old beggar. After a number of years, when his service was complete, he settled down in France for what he hoped would be a life of quiet contemplation.

No such luck for Martin, though. His wisdom and gentleness won him a reputation in the countryside around Tours, France, and people began to seek him out, and eventually to take up residences near his once-quiet hermitage. His reputation spread even to the Bishop of Tours, who asked him to accept ordination as a priest. Martin obeyed only when the bishop insisted. When the bishop died, by popular acclaim the Christian faithful of Tours chose him to be the next bishop. The clergy of the area were amazed, but felt they had no choice other than to accept their demand.

As Bishop of Tours, Martin expanded the sort of work he has undertaken as a priest. He mobilized the faithful to care for the poor in very effective ways. The countryside around Tours was still very poorly evangelized and catechized, and when Martin could find no priests in Tours willing to go out to the styx to teach the people, he shamed into it them by going himself. He was rumored to sleep little and eat less, so determined was he to reach every soul and to share so completely with the poor. Rumors spread that not only was there a holy bishop in Tours, but a miracleworker as well. Dozens of people reported healings at his touch or by his prayer, and even the resurrection of some deceased people was reported.

St. Martin of Tours was completely devoted to doing God's will and nothing else. When he was elderly yet busy as ever, our Lord appeared to him and told him to prepare himself to pass into the next life. Martin immediately stopped all his activities and told Jesus that he was ready to go that instant.

I Must Stay At Your House

The readings at Mass for last Sunday (XXXI Sunday in Ordinary Time; Wis 11:22-12:2; Ps 145; 2 Thes 1:11-2:2; Lk 19:1-10) were very happy ones to read. The visiting priest did a very good job providing them with a spiritual interpretation. I will recount (and slightly embellish upon) it here.

By the time Jesus arrived at Jericho, he had massive crowds following Him because of the miracles they'd heard of. They wanted Him to do something for them: heal a sick child, settle cases of law, give them bread that he could make reportedly from thin air. They all wanted something from Him.

Zacchaeus was a tax collector. Now, nobody really likes the IRS. But lest anyone confuse a Roman publican with an American federal employee, let's take a minute to explore what Roman publicans, i.e., tax collectors, did and were. First of all, they weren't Roman. They were locals. So Zacchaeus was a Jew. Second of all, they paid for the right to collect a given kind of tax, or taxes in general, in a given region. The Romans ran their tax organization like a franchise. There was a custom by which the publican was permitted to take a little extra from his taxees for his "service" and it was quite common for the publicans to refuse receipts to those who wouldn't pay even more. That's how the publicans made back the money they paid the Romans for the right to collect taxes from their countrymen: by extorting those same countrymen. To ensure the process went smoothly, the Romans would provide rough soldiers as escorts and enforcers.

A few decades after Jesus, a Jewish historian named Josephus reports that the Romans were crucifying so many people for rebellion, rioting, and resisting their authority that the Romans actually ran out of wood for the crucifixes. Even if he exaggerates, that is a LOT of crucifixions! Even by the time of Jesus and Zacchaeus, the Roman rule in Palestine was becoming increasingly brutal: destroying an entire village, or massacring all of its children, was a common enough affair. Maybe some of the people crowding in to see Jesus wanted him to heal injuries caused by Roman soldiers. It is in this context that Jesus called out to Zacchaeus, a Roman collaborator and traitor who had probably extorted many people in the same crowd, thereby making himself rich at their expense.

There was a difference between Zacchaeus and the crowd, though. They mostly wanted Jesus to do something for them. Zacchaeus merely wanted to see the one who everyone said was strict and held a high standard, yet was kind and gentle even to prostitutes and tax collectors. Without knowing it, or maybe even without knowing why, he wanted to see the Face of God. We all do. It's what we were made for. Only Zacchaeus wasn't going to let natural or social difficulties stand in his way. He was literally willing to go out on a limb to see the Living God.

Jesus had mercy on Him and invited himself over to Zacchaeus' house - a house probably long filled only with other tax collectors and their rented prostitutes, since no respectable or good citizen would be caught dead there. The joy on his face probably said much the same thing as the Roman Centurion who said, "Lord I am not worthy that Thou should enter under my roof," (Mt 8:8). His response was as gracious as our Lord's mercy: he would give half of his posessions to the poor, and four times repayment to whomever he had extorted, when the Law only required double repayment. Jesus' choice of words is striking as well: "I must stay in your house today," (Lk 19:5). Must is a big word. There is very little that God must do. But to visit salvation upon Zaccheus, Jesus had to visit him in his home.

Lots of other people only want God to do stuff for them. That's not what chiefly interests Him, though. WE are what He is chiefly interested in. And He wants us to be chiefly interested in Him. He wants to make His dwelling with us. And He will, if only we are willing to stop treating Him as if He were our step-and-fetch boy and go out on a limb to see Him for who He really is. Then He will offer to come into our heart and home, and if we receive Him, we will welcome salvation and grace beyond imagining.

The reading from the Book of Wisdom draws attention to God's methodology of salvation. Gently, gradually, He draws us each back to Himself at the right pace. We might say, "Oh, why does so-and-so have it so easy?" or "Poor so-and-so, life is really rough for him." In reality we'd best just recognize that God is working patiently and inexorably for the salvation of each person, using whatever life circumstances suit each of us best, to draw us to Himself, to get us to welcome Him into our hearts without compromising our freedom to slam the door in His face. As with Zaccheus, if Jesus is to bring us salvation, He must visit us in our home, dwell with us there, and by coming into our home, come into our heart, and bring grace with Him.

Pray for the Dead and the Dead Will Pray for You

Feast of All Souls (Nov 2)

On the Feast of All Souls we commemorate and pray with special fervor for the souls of the all the Faithful Departed in Christ. We still hope for those whose whose life and death were not clearly marked by the sanctity of Christ because of the fact that they lived and died in Him. This union with Him continues to progress even after life on earth does not, precisely because their soul is immortal and because in Christ there is no death, no end - but only eternal life. The spiritual (and to us, unknown) process by which their sanctification and purification continues is commonly referred to as Purgatory.

Purgatory is necessary not because they must earn forgiveness for their sins. That can't be done. It is necessary because sinning isn't just breaking rules. Sinning harms things, which is why it is "against the rules". First and foremost, sin damages us, our ability to relate and love others, to share communion with them, to enter the Communion of Saints with God and all the Elect in Heaven. This damage must be undone.

Sin blinds us to its own nature, to our nature, and to our enmeshedness with it. Sin hardens the heart of the sinner against truth, beauty, and goodness - to reality itself, to transcendence, and to God. Sin makes us more prone to further sin. All these effects are added to the visible, material damage done by the sinful deed itself (the stolen money, the broken heart, etc.). People enmeshed in sin wouldn't enjoy heaven even if they somehow got there, any more than a rough street gangster would enjoy the opera or a museum of fine art. Preparation is needed.

For those of us unlikely to die completely transformed in Christ, completely united to Him, completely reconfigured to Him, the thought that the process can continue as long as necessary is a comforting one. There is comfort in the thought that, as our prayers on earth can assist in the conversion of our brothers and sisters on earth, so can our prayers can assist in this final purification of our brothers and sisters gone ahead of us. If we would like our brethren to assist our preparation to enter Eternal Paradise, we might begin by assisting in theirs.

Communion of Saints

Feast of All Saints (1 Nov)

The term Communion of Saints can give misleading impressions, or even leave the reader drawing a blank. It's really not meant to be that complicated or obscure though. Today is the Feast of All Saints, those recognized and canonized (the ones with "St." in front of their name), and those unknown and unhailed (maybe like your grandma). Today seems like an according good day to reflect on what it is that we Christians are all called to be.

Communion is an intimate sharing, to the point of oneness (unio, in Latin). What is shared? Lots of things: your stuff, your time, your hopes and fears, maybe your time and place, even yourself, your heart, your life. What kind of sharing is it? It isn't contractual sharing, where one party gives such-and-such in return for a return from the other. That's business, not communion. In communion, each party gives of himself without waiting to see whether the other makes an adequate return. In communion, each party has to make a sort of leap of faith - giving even his own self, without knowing if the other will even care. The communion happens when the return is made, and both parties are sharing - but if each party waits for the other, it never happens, and if either party only makes the gift looking for something in return, then it's only business. There might be bumps in the road. Bumps occur when one party forgets to keep giving, or starts looking for something more in return. The miracle is that as long as the one who begins to falter turns back to the right way of sharing, the communion can actually become stronger because of such trials. More sharing of more important things with less demanded in return means more communion.

Communion is the sort of life that God has. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each sharing their whole self with the others, without waiting or wanting anything in return. This sort of love is what fills in the communion shared by the saints, but it doesn't come from them. In fact, when the saints start loving each other, they are usually very bad at it. Mother Teresa wasn't born with that name, nor with that degree of holiness, of godliness. She was born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu in a backwoods area of Albania, and was probably pretty much like all the other girls in her town.

God makes each of us an offer, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me... Enter into the joy of your master," (Mt 19:21, and 25:21). Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu took God up on the offer. She got rid of whatever was going to hinder her acquisition of that communion. She gave and gave of herself to all around her. She grew in sanctity until she shined like a star.

Sanctity isn't anything ethereal or fluffy, and it's not anything in a pious picture. There aren't halos around the heads of saints as they walk among us. More often than not, there's dirt or pooh on their hands. At least, that's what was usually on Mother Teresa's. That's because sanctity is holiness, intimacy with the heart and mind and ways of God, sharing in His Life of Self-sacrificing Love.

God offers us each a share in His communion of sanctity. He does not want it to be just Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; rather, He wants it to be Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and Joe; Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and you! As we take God up on His offer, leaving behind our sins and anything else that encumbers us, we are drawn closer and closer into communion with God. As we enter into that communion, we share in the same communion as the others drawn by the same God. We enter into the Communion of Saints. That Communion is made of a love so strong that, in Christ, it conquered death, fulfilling the prophecy found in the Song of Songs. "Love is strong as death," (Song 8:6) and in us, as we allow God's love to grow, our hope of conquering death also grows. It allows us to trust Him more, and to leave behind everything else of lesser value, which is everything else. This love is so powerful, this Communion so deep, that we have reason to hope, joining into it, we too will conquer death on the Last Day. Even in the meantime, we are bound by it to the Saints in heaven, and share in their communion.

But we don't start out that way. We start out as a ragtag group of disciples each looking to Jesus and Holy Church for different reasons: some for bread, others for work. Some hope for help cleaning up an addiction. Some come because their parents make them. Some are looking to get help for their kids, new friends, or a fresh start in life. For whatever reason we come, Jesus trains and disciplines us to start looking, not for what we can get, but for what we can give. He teaches us to have constant recourse to Him for all that we need - wisdom, strength, support, love. He helps to keep us focused on Him and on His Will and on His Kingdom. That's how we start: each of us a little Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. The question is where we will end. Will you be the next saint in Holy Church, even if you never get your "St."?