What is a saint? A saint is first of all one who knows he is a sinner. A sint knows all the news all the news, both the bad news of sin and the good news of salvatoin. A saint is a true scientists, a true philosopher; a saint knows the Truth. A saint is a seer, one who sees what is there. A saint is a realist.
A saint is also an idealist. A saint embraces heroic suffering out of heroic love. A saint also embraces heroic joy. (This is one of the criteria for canonization: saints must have joy)
A saint is a slave of Christ, a doormat for Christ, a palm branch for Christ's donkey to march on. A saint is also a conqueror greater than Alexander the great, who conquered only the world. A saint conquers himself. What does it profit a man if he conquers the whole world but does not conquer himself?
A saint is so open that he can day, with Paul, „I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased and I know how to abound“ (Phil 4:11-12). A saint marries God „for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death“. A saint is also so closed-minded, so determined, so stubborn, that he will die before comprom1ising the Truth, and will write credo in the sand with his own blood as he dies. (One saint actually did this)
A saint is a sworn enemy of the world, the flesh, and the devil. He is locked in mortal combat with principalities and powers. A saint is also a friend and lover of the world. He kisses this sin-cancered world with the tender lips of the God of John 3:26. A saint declares God's open war on this world, sinking the Cross into the enemy-occupied earth like a sword, hilt held by heaven. At the same time he stretches his arms out on that very Cross as if to say, „See? This is how wide my love for you is!“
A saint is Christ's bride, totally attached, faithful, dependent on him. A saint is also totally independent and detached from idols, from other husbands. A saint works amond money, power, pleasure as a married woman works with other men, but will not marry them or even flirt with them.
A saint is higher than anyone else in the world. A saint is the real mountain climber. A saint is also lower than anyone else in the world. Like water, he flows to the lowest places, like Calcutta.
A saint's heart is broken by every little sorrow and every little sin. A saint's heart is also so strong that not even death can break it. It is indestructible just because it is so breakable.
A saint takes his hands off the steering wheel of his life and lets God steer. This is scary, for God is invisible. A saint also has the strongest hands, hands that move through the world. He has feet that know just where to go and that move through the world with a sure sweep.
A saint does not let others play God to him, as the rest of us all do (especially in a democracy). A saint takes his orders from the General, not from the army. A saint also does not play God to others, as the rest of us all do in all societies since Eden, often in subtle ways. But saints are not subtle. Saints are simple
A saint is a little Christ. Not only do we see Christ through his saints, as we see a light through a stained glass window, but we also understand the saints only through Christ, as we understand eggs only through chickens.
The saints are our family. We are one body. They are our legs and we are theirs. As Pascal says, „examples of noble deaths of Spartans and others hardly affect us,...but the example of the deaths of martyers affects us, for they are our members...We do not become rich through seeing a rich stranger, but through seeing a father or husband rich.
Finally, the saints are our destiny, our eschatology:
And when the strife is fierce, the warefare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumphant song,
And hearts are brave again, and arms are strong,
I get goose bumps whenever I hear that hymn. The echoes of the song that is the saints come from Eden and from heaven, and all human happiness is an echo of that echo. When we suffer, when we despair, when we cry in rage or helplessness, when we are bewildered, bewitched, bedeviled, betrayed, besmirched, and besotted with the weight of the world, we need to listen to that echo from heaven.
The saints are present, not just past. „We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses“ (Heb 12:1) that we are never alone. We are watched and helped. Death is not so wide a river that heavenly hands cannot reach across it.