Tuesday, July 31, 2007

For the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola: What makes a (Great) Saint?

The great (and toothsome) sinners are made out of the very same material as those horrible phenomena the great Saints.
from Screwtape’s Toast from
The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis

There is a new program on TNT called “Saving Grace”. The title character is an extremely unstable person whose way of life is morally objectionable (The show is rated TV-MA). She is told by a drinking, tobacco chewing angel that she is on the freeway to that hot area extremely south of the Pearly Gates. There is some humor as exampled by a black and white marking resembling a portrait of Jesus (leading to one of the characters to remark “Holy Cow”.

This show got me to thinking about Screwtape’s Toast. It is a possible address of a senior demon to lesser devils after a formal dinner. I recommend it to all, especially if you do not have time to read the whole book. (Also, I do not recommend reading the book if you are depressed or have a case of scruples).

It occurs to me that most of us are not great saints (or sinners) because we do not make the effort. We are complacent to be average, to be mediocre. I think a study of the great saints’ lives point out Screwtape’s observation. Although there are exceptions (like Mother Teresa of Calcutta), many of the saints (like Augustine, Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi) had rather dubious lifestyles before they awakened to Christ’s influence in their lives. Even the brash Peter and zealous Paul were not immune of this distinction. It makes one wonder what kind of saints Judas Iscariot, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin would have made if they had converted and used their talents for good?

Of course, the opposite is true as well. Hitler, Count Dracula, and those involved (whether indicted of not, false accusers and guilty religious) with the recent sex scandals, are all examples of gifted people who chose to misuse their God given talents. All talents are gifts of God, but we are free to direct them for God’s Glory or for our own selfish purposes.

What should we do then? First, pray for the Holy Spirit to guide us in our actions. Repent and confess our shortcoming. For those who we think are misguided, pray for their conversion. Do not condemn or judge them, for we do not know what shaped their decisions, and none of us is innocent enough to “cast the first stone”.

Maybe by such actions we will assist in the generation of a new crop of Great Saints (and God knows we need them!)

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