June 19, 2024 // Perspective

Inspiration on Our Journey Toward Holiness

Michael Heinlein

The universal call to holiness is one of the most significant aspects of Church teaching throughout the last century. And rightly so, for the very life of the world depends on my holiness and yours. Chicago’s late Cardinal Francis E. George, OMI, once illustrated this reality plainly when he said, “People who are holy, whether or not publicly recognized by the Church as saints, keep the world from turning into hell.”

It is no wonder, then, why the Christian tradition has emphasized and underscored the reality that the saints surround us. Their feasts fill the liturgical life of the Church, and their names are bestowed upon our parishes and schools. Statues and stained-glass windows depicting them often are displayed throughout our churches and even our homes, helping to direct and to focus our prayer and meditation, and giving us an opportunity to venerate the goodness of God that radiates through them. Such holy men and women are truly models to follow on the way of discipleship, sources of inspiration in daily living, and examples of the struggles and cost that comes with following Christ.

Furthermore, we turn to the saints for heavenly help all the time, especially by our prayers and devotions. We erect shrines to house their relics and give us a place to make pilgrimage as we ask for their aid in times of need. And we call on the saints in litanies in private prayer or also at some of the most significant moments in the Christian life, such as at baptisms or at ordinations. The Communion of the Saints is real, alive, and essential to our practice of the faith.

As we profess in the Creed that we believe in the Communion of Saints, we must acknowledge that saints are not produced in a vacuum. The informal saints that Cardinal George referenced surround us in daily living. We should be on the lookout for them. We should be them. Clergy have the important task of providing to the faithful many of the gifts Christ gives to His Church – a ministry oriented to building up the body of Christ. The laity are called to sanctify the world in Christ’s name. Working together, the lay faithful and the clergy can strengthen and support one another in this fundamental baptismal call to holiness in order to advance and inherit the Kingdom of God.

As Pope Benedict XVI put it, those “who change the world for the better are holy; they transform it permanently, instilling in it the energies that only love inspired by the Gospel can elicit. The saints are humanity’s great benefactors!”

Our diocese – the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend – has been blessed with a variety of holy men and women who have made the Gospel real and tangible through their holy witness. Our local Church has been shaped and bequeathed with a lasting, living legacy through the missions of saints such as Katharine Kasper or Theodore Guerin. Some men and women on the path to canonization have called our diocese home, too – such as Blessed Solanus Casey or soon-to-be-canonized Blessed Marie-Leonie Pariadis. Others made their way here, to our diocese, in their efforts to advance God’s Kingdom and left a mark on the hearts of the faithful in myriad ways – such as St. Andre Bessette or St. Teresa of Calcutta. Saints have walked among us in northeast Indiana, and in this series of columns that will be published in Today’s Catholic throughout the next several months, I look forward to the opportunity to share with you a bit about lives and witness of such individuals, hoping and praying each will inspire us as we endeavor to answer God’s call to holiness, too.

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