Lately I’ve wondered if we love the saints for what they truly are. Beyond an old lady with babies in her arms; symbolic of poverty and foreign need, and a quotable Franciscan; attached to words of peace, lies their true purpose. A symbolic life pointing to God himself, perhaps through charity and good will, but primarily through the Eucharist.
How many times I have read secular literature, boasting a Mother Teresa or St. Francis quote, calling for peace and love of the poor. Yet, there is a noticable absence of source to the saints’ motivation and driving force.
Indeed a reduction of their sacrificial life in Christ when they are merely depicted as systematically flawed do-gooders. We as society desire their symbolic goodness, without their accompanying instruction or discipleship.
But was it not Mother Teresa, when asked what would convert America and save the whole world, who answered, “What we need is for every parish to come before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament in holy hours of prayer.” In fact, Mother Teresa affirmed she and her sisters could do no good without first receiving the Blessed Sacrament. Serving the sick and needy was never above Jesus in the Eucharist.
And when that small frail saint mounted the stage to receive her Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, the crowd longed for manufactured standard ramblings of peace, which they could both support and politically promote. Yet, when she spoke of things that break peace, saying “the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion,” there was a disgusted silence. As she went on to describe abortion as “a direct war, a direct killing – direct murder by the mother herself,” many adoring fans suddenly compartmentalized and discredited these words as rehearsed symptoms of a Catholic upbringing.
St. Francis of Assisi also gets a bad wrap as a new age hippie, with canticles to Brother Sun and Sister Moon. Yet beyond his radical life of poverty and prayer, Francis knew Jesus radically in the Eucharist! In his Letter to All Friars, Francis wrote, “Let the entire man be seized with fear; let the whole world tremble; let heaven exult when Christ, the Son of the Living God, is on the altar in the hands of the priest. O admirable height and stupendous condescension! O humble sublimity! O sublime humility! that the Lord of the universe, God and the Son of God, so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under a morsel of bread.”
It is impossible to know or follow Mother Teresa or St. Francis, certainly not to Christ, without understanding the source driving their charity. Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life,” and of all that is good. It is precisely because Jesus himself is contained in the Eucharist, that there and only there, lies all spiritual good in the Church.
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