Many of us have heard the story of the young
child who had spent many a Sunday morning gazing at the stained glass windows in
his parish church. When asked what a saint is, he had a ready answer: Saints
are people the light shines through!
We celebrate the saints because they are flesh-and-blood
examples of people who have allowed the light of Christ to shine through them.
When we remember the saints, we celebrate not so much what they did, but what
God did through them. Our focus should always be on the wonderful works of God.
The liturgical calendar celebrates saints from every nation of
the world and every historical period to show us how God is at work in human lives
in every time and place. I remember what a significant event it was for me as a
10-year old child when Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonizedthe first
American-born saint! Suddenly saints became less long ago and far
away for me and my friends. I also remember thinking how great it was that she
had been married and had children. That made her seem all the more real to me.
When we use the title Saint we are usually
referring to men and women of exceptional holiness, but we too are called
to be saints. Every faithful follower of Jesusliving and deadis a
saint. We are all united in the Communion, the community, of Saints.
Saints are people the light shines through. Whatever the
circumstances of our lives, we are called to use them to share Gods love
and to allow Christs light to shine through us.
St. Katharine Drexel (1858-1955) did just that. Her circumstances
were extraordinary, making the choices she made even more so. A Philadelphia heiress
who grew up with a concern for the poor, she started the religious order of the Sisters
of the Blessed Sacrament whose mission is to serve the needs of Native Americans and
Blacks in the U.S. She used her multi-million dollar inheritance to build schools for and to
advance the causes of these populations.
Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans is one of her
greatest achievements. I visited there with my husband just a year after St. Katharine
was canonized in October of 2000. Dr. Norman Francis, President of XU since 1968,
took the time to greet the group of college and university media center personnel
with whom we were meeting. He shared a brief history of XU and talked with great
affection and enthusiasm for St. Katharine. It didnt matter to him that this was
a secular group there to see how the classrooms were equipped for technology. He
needed to share about the incredible ways that God had worked in Katharine
Drexels life. He needed to let Christs light shine through the
circumstances of his life as well.
Click here (RealMedia
| Windows Media
see a video clip from The Gift of Katharine Drexel
. In the clip, she responds to a reporter
who has questioned the use of such fine buildings (Xavier University) for the
education of Blacks. This video, while somewhat dated in its visual representations
of the work of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, offers a poignant reenactment
of the life of Katharine Drexel.
read an article that appeared in St. Anthony Messenger magazine at the time of St. Katharines
canonization. It offers a biography of her life and work.
We all need to be reminded of our own call to sainthood.
All Saints Day is a great time to focus on one member of the Communion of Saints.
Consider sharing the story of Katharine Drexel with your parish community this year.
May she inspire us to continue her work for racial justice in a world still tainted
by prejudice and inequality. May we all learn to let Christs light shine through us.