In reading the letters of saints, Debra Black realizes that we must first recognize saintliness in order to be one.
I was reading a letter written in the 1500s by Saint Ignatius of Loyola to Manuel Miona. The saint was imploring upon him to take the Spiritual Exercises (he did and then joined the Society of Jesus, the Jesuits). What struck me though was just a sentence: “Favre will be able to give you any news about me ... you can see it in my letter to him.”
Favre is Pierre Favre, rather SAINT Pierre Favre, in English Saint Peter Faber. I once read that, because of Favre’s scruples, Saint Ignatius personally directed him for four years before Ignatius would allow him to take the Spiritual Exercises (which is a paradigm-shifting, life-changing spiritual formation). Thereafter, the other Jesuits said Favre was the best spiritual director of them all.
It amazes me how the saints were just normal people busy doing what God put in front of them, just like we are. Whatever busywork lay before them, in performing it they were busy saving souls as they saw that to be their task at hand. For us, whether we are managing our home, working in an office, or flipping burgers at a restaurant, our work too can be that of saving souls if we bring God into it. The work of salvation is merely a disposition of heart.
I also thought about this fellow who received this letter. Here are two saints not yet canonized: Ignatius and Favre. But certainly, what initiates any saint’s cause for canonization was the holiness within which their life was led. So, God has two saints interceding in this guy’s life. I wondered: did he see their holiness, and how did he react to them? Of course, that immediately led to me wondering how God puts saints in my life every day. Do I see their holiness? How do I react to them?
This month of November we are to truly put our mind and heart to the reality of living in the communion of saints. We must first recognize saintliness to be one. Then we must practice true virtues so that love flows through us.
Who is a prophet? Not someone who sees the future, so much as someone who sees how things could be, according to God's plan, and asks "why not?" (Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini)
Mercy lives on in each of us, and Christians have the opportunity to be a true force for change in the world. By disposing ourselves to God in prayer and emptying our hearts to be filled with Him, each individual becomes His vessel of Grace. Through Him, we become a collective force for love in the world. The Gifts of the Spirit grow with our willingness to live their virtues. From this, our acts of evangelization can range from the quiet planting of seeds of faith in those around us, to the radical and bold. With the Holy Spirit Gifts of knowledge and understanding, we will have the wisdom to proceed with great fortitude.
For we are like olives, only when we are crushed do we yield what is best in us. (from the Talmud)
Perhaps the best step to moving forward is to first reflect upon the past. In these times of tribulation, political division, and a societal culture that hates God, how have I grown? In love or hate? Peace or anger? Peace will only come when we bring people to Jesus; when we bring Love Himself to people. We are created in our nature to take care of one another; we each have the ability to do good. It is the doing of good things as God’s wills it, however, that makes it Charity.
Jesus asked Our Father that we “may be brought to perfection as one" (John 17:23). As we go forward in this new evangelization, we must look to see how we can build a brethren who, through love and support of one another, are perfected. No one is perfected in isolation of the other; we are perfected together.
Let’s continue to pray for all priests, especially Pope Francis, all clergy and religious, and the worldwide Church.
O Christ Jesus
When all is darkness
And we feel our weakness and helplessness,
Give us the sense of Your Presence,
Your Love and Your Strength.
Help us to have perfect trust
In Your protecting love
And strengthening power,
So that nothing may frighten or worry us,
For, living close to You,
We shall see Your Hand, Your Purpose,
Your Will through all things. Amen (Saint Ignatius of Loyola)
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.
Copyright 2022 Debra Black
About the Author
Debra Black is a spiritual director, perpetual member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, international educator, and businesswoman. Her public service roles have spanned city commissioner, pregnancy clinic board of directors, youth and college ministry, public citizen activism, and homeless street ministry. Her writings can be found at TheFaceOfGraceProject.com, including her latest books, The Life Confession: A Discovery of God’s Mercy and Love and Kick Butt: The Quick Guide to Spiritual Warfare.