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Bible Reflections View Comments

Ordinary Saints
By Kathleen M. Carroll
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, July 15, 2012
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It’s difficult to imagine the courage of those twelve men who left everything they knew, their families, homes and jobs—often at a moment’s notice—to follow Jesus. How much more courage must they have had, though, to leave him. Today’s Gospel tells the story of Jesus sending his disciples out into the world, to preach the gospel, to heal the sick, to expel demons. He doesn’t send them to his friends and relatives with letters of introduction. He doesn’t map out an itinerary for them, with comfortable lodging and good food. He doesn’t supply them with a suitcase of clothes or even an overnight bag. And he tells them to bring no money. Not a coin. Our reading skips over just how the apostles might have felt about all this. No mention of a vote on the issue. Not a lot of “what-ifs” or “yes-buts.” They just went.

We’ve all heard the slogan WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? And it can be an enjoyable mental exercise to think about how Jesus would handle our nosy neighbor, our thoughtless spouse, or our ill-mannered cat. But then we think, “Yes, but that was Jesus. What would a normal person do?” We should recall, though, that none of the apostles were chosen because of their stellar resumes. A few fishermen, a tax collector, a notorious doubter and some guy he found under a fig tree—these were Jesus’s choices. None of them were saintly when Jesus found them, some had great difficulty grappling with their faith (Peter, most notably), and one never got it right at all. They were all just ordinary men.

Consider, too, that the Israelites didn’t take a vote on who would be their next prophet, and there was not a long line of applicants for the job. One has only to recall the           enthusiasm of Jonah, who promptly took passage on a ship heading westward—in the
opposite direction from the city to which he was sent. Our First Reading brings home this point through the testimony of the prophet Amos. “I was no prophet, nor have I belonged to a company of prophets; I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores. The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, Go, prophesy to my people.”

An old saying has it, “God doesn’t call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” It is easy to understand how that dynamic might work in the life of St. Peter or Mother Teresa, but we still like to imagine ourselves exempt. We are, after all, just ordinary people.

In An Easy Way to Become a Saint, Paul O’Sullivan relates the story of Anthony the Abbot who, in answer to his prayer to learn humility, was instructed to visit two women in a
nearby town. Anthony asked about their spiritual practices; he was certain that they must have some particular devotion or a special way of fasting that was so pleasing to God. His questions and observations yielded nothing unusual, though. His conclusion was that “they performed their duties well and they loved God.”

Christ’s followers became saints in exactly the same way. They did what they were supposed to do as well as they could, and they did it for the love of God. An easy way to become a saint, indeed.


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Robert Bellarmine: When Robert Bellarmine was ordained in 1570, the study of Church history and the fathers of the Church was in a sad state of neglect. A promising scholar from his youth in Tuscany, he devoted his energy to these two subjects, as well as to Scripture, in order to systematize Church doctrine against the attacks of the Protestant Reformers. He was the first Jesuit to become a professor at Louvain. 
<p>His most famous work is his three-volume <i>Disputations on the Controversies </i><em>of the Christian Faith</em>. Particularly noteworthy are the sections on the temporal power of the pope and the role of the laity. He incurred the anger of monarchists in England and France by showing the divine-right-of-kings theory untenable. He developed the theory of the indirect power of the pope in temporal affairs; although he was defending the pope against the Scottish philosopher Barclay, he also incurred the ire of Pope Sixtus V. </p><p>Bellarmine was made a cardinal by Pope Clement VIII on the grounds that "he had not his equal for learning." While he occupied apartments in the Vatican, Bellarmine relaxed none of his former austerities. He limited his household expenses to what was barely essential, eating only the food available to the poor. He was known to have ransomed a soldier who had deserted from the army and he used the hangings of his rooms to clothe poor people, remarking, "The walls won't catch cold." </p><p>Among many activities, he became theologian to Pope Clement VIII, preparing two catechisms which have had great influence in the Church. </p><p>The last major controversy of Bellarmine's life came in 1616 when he had to admonish his friend Galileo, whom he admired. Bellarmine delivered the admonition on behalf of the Holy Office, which had decided that the heliocentric theory of Copernicus (the sun as stationary) was contrary to Scripture. The admonition amounted to a caution against putting forward—other than as a hypothesis—theories not yet fully proved. This shows that saints are not infallible. </p><p>Bellarmine died on September 17, 1621. The process for his canonization was begun in 1627 but was delayed until 1930 for political reasons, stemming from his writings. In 1930, Pope Pius XI canonized him and the next year declared him a doctor of the Church.</p> American Catholic Blog The joy of the Lord is our strength. Therefore, each of us will accept a life of poverty in cheerful trust. We will minister to Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor with cheerful devotion. If our work is done with joy, we will have no reason to be unhappy.

 
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