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We Need Saints

September 18th, 2013by Sr. Marla Gipson

The following is a poem which has circulated on Facebook of late. It has been loosely attributed to Pope John Paul II and/or Pope Francis-but I think there is no official authentication of who said it or who inspired it. Regardless, I was struck by its sentiment of lay Eucharistic spirituality as lived out in the world, particularly with young people.

“We need saints without cassocks, without veils-we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints, saints for the 21st century with a spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, to sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink a beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater.  We need saints that are open, sociable, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.”   

This entire passage could be unpacked in many ways.  First we have a Eucharistic spirituality to speak of in our Catholic faith. This is not a new spirituality. This is what Jesus instituted at the Last Supper.  As Catholics, belief in the Eucharist has always presupposed why we do what we do when we gather as Church. How we live out and articulate the meaning of what we do depends on the times in which we live. I think this poem says that a saint who lives now is one who knows that Eucharist is something we become and something we do. Eucharist is a noun and a verb.

Communion of SaintsSecond, we have a tenet of our faith called the Communion of Saints. The Communion of Saints is the spiritual union of the faithful on earth, the souls in purification (purgatory), and the saints in heaven. The poem in this instance is talking about the faithful on earth who are committed to living a Eucharistic spirituality in their every-day lives, the place where we all make a difference in the world.

Recently, I received a gift from a couple of saints in my life. One of the saints is of the earthly variation who ministers in a parish in our Archdiocese. He is a peer of mine along with others-we worked together to plan a regional youth retreat.  The other saint is a mentor Sister in my community who has passed on to heaven. She was my Novice Director who died six years ago- four years after I professed temporary vows, one year before I professed perpetual vows.

Coincidentally, the earthly minister works for the same parish my Novice Director worked for prior to being my Novice Director. In a roundtable sharing exercise with the planning team, we were asked to share about an important person in our lives who had great influence. This earthly minister heard of my love and esteem for her, of my missing an important mentor in my life who died way too young.

A couple of months later, after that sharing was long-forgotten, he came to a subsequent planning meeting and, without saying anything, handed me a Bible she left behind which had been occupying space in his office. Later, he said he didn’t quite know what to do with it until now.

Her prayers, notes and other paperwork from a particular period of her life (when she herself was a parish Pastoral Associate) were still tucked inside. These prayers and notations exposed the struggles of life she was feeling at the time she wrote them. This, in turn, spoke to me about my own current struggles. Through these prayers and notations, she directly answered my own prayer! What a blessing! Thank-you saints (the earthly one and the heavenly one)!

What about you? Have you had any experiences with the saints in your life? Loved ones who have passed? Other saints in your daily life-people who have exemplified the unconditional love of God in one way or another-when you needed it the most? Who are the saints in your life?

Sr. Marla Gipson

Sr. Marla Gipson C.PP.S is a Sister of the Precious Blood. She currently lives in Minster, Ohio with a local community of Sisters where she ministers part-time as a Pastoral Associate at St. Augustine Church. She also ministers part-time as a Religious Education Consultant for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati in the northern area regional Office of Evangelization and Catechesis and serves as one of the many Course Instructors for catechist certification. She holds a B.A. in Sociology from Ohio State University and an M.A. in Theological Studies from the University of Dayton.