SaintGrowing up Catholic, I was surrounded by saints – images, statues, prayers and probably quite a few living, unclaimed saints. At church we recited long litanies to the saints: St. Joseph, pray for us, St. Catherine, pray for us, St. Rita, pray for us…. Their stories fascinated and inspired me. Churches, towns, and countries invoke their patron saints. I grew up in the town named San Anselmo, and attended school and church at St. Anselm’s.
Saints were invoked for their unique powers. As a child, in our family car a medal of St. Christopher, patron of travelers, was carefully centered in a spot above the windshield. At school the nuns had shed their worldly names to assume the name of a saint. Sister Mary Daniel. Sister Madeleine Mary. Sister Mary Joseph. When we performed well, our prize was a holy card with the image of a saint and a prayer on the back. I still have a much-handled image of St. Jude, patron of Hopeless Cases. Audrey, my friend Karen’s mother, swore by St. Anthony to find her a parking place. In Chile, once a year, fishermen honor their patron, St. Peter, with processions of flower-bedecked boats.
You can only be canonized an official saint after a long process, in which it is proven that you’ve performed at least one miracle. But history teems with multitudes of unsung, unrecognized saints working small miracles every day – those, who through some small act, put another before themselves. Can modern day heroes be considered saints? Or must they pass muster with an ecclesiastical committee?
I’d like to propose that the status of sainthood be opened to the heroes and miracle workers of our era of any creed and origin, who have worked to make this world a better place. St. Paul Farmer? St. Mahatma Gandhi? St. Bill Gates? And perhaps my neighbor across the street who cares for his infirm, aging parents, always with a cheerful attitude.