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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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Alphonsus Liguori: 
		<p>Moral theology, Vatican II said, should be more thoroughly nourished by Scripture, and show the nobility of the Christian vocation of the faithful and their obligation to bring forth fruit in charity for the life of the world. Alphonsus, declared patron of moral theologians by Pius XII in 1950, would rejoice in that statement.</p>
		<p>In his day, Alphonsus fought for the liberation of moral theology from the rigidity of Jansenism. His moral theology, which went through 60 editions in the century following him, concentrated on the practical and concrete problems of pastors and confessors. If a certain legalism and minimalism crept into moral theology, it should not be attributed to this model of moderation and gentleness.</p>
		<p>At the University of Naples he received, at the age of 16, a doctorate in both canon and civil law by acclamation, but she oon gave up the practice of law for apostolic activity. He was ordained a priest and concentrated his pastoral efforts on popular (parish) missions, hearing confessions, forming Christian groups. </p>
		<p>He founded the Redemptorist congregation in 1732. It was an association of priests and brothers living a common life, dedicated to the imitation of Christ, and working mainly in popular missions for peasants in rural areas. Almost as an omen of what was to come later, he found himself deserted, after a while, by all his original companions except one lay brother. But the congregation managed to survive and was formally approved 17 years later, though its troubles were not over. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus’ great pastoral reforms were in the pulpit and confessional—replacing the pompous oratory of the time with simplicity, and the rigorism of Jansenism with kindness. His great fame as a writer has somewhat eclipsed the fact that for 26 years he traveled up and down the Kingdom of Naples, preaching popular missions. </p>
		<p>He was made bishop (after trying to reject the honor) at 66 and at once instituted a thorough reform of his diocese. </p>
		<p>His greatest sorrow came toward the end of his life. The Redemptorists, precariously continuing after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, had difficulty in getting their Rule approved by the Kingdom of Naples. Alphonsus acceded to the condition that they possess no property in common, but a royal official, with the connivance of a high Redemptorist official, changed the Rule substantially. Alphonsus, old, crippled and with very bad sight, signed the document, unaware that he had been betrayed. The Redemptorists in the Papal States then put themselves under the pope, who withdrew those in Naples from the jurisdiction of Alphonsus. It was only after his death that the branches were united. </p>
		<p>At 71 he was afflicted with rheumatic pains which left incurable bending of his neck; until it was straightened a little, the pressure of his chin caused a raw wound on his chest. He suffered a final 18 months of “dark night” scruples, fears, temptations against every article of faith and every virtue, interspersed with intervals of light and relief, when ecstasies were frequent. </p>
		<p>Alphonsus is best known for his moral theology, but he also wrote well in the field of spiritual and dogmatic theology. His <i>Glories of Mary</i> is one of the great works on that subject, and his book <i>Visits to the Blessed Sacrament</i> went through 40 editions in his lifetime, greatly influencing the practice of this devotion in the Church.</p>
American Catholic Blog Those who want to participate more fully in salvation history are comforted by the fact that Jesus wants to walk with us in our suffering and wants to break bread to give us strength on our way.

 
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