Called To Be Saints
Dear Fellow Alumni and Friends of Fordham,
Pope Francis continues to capture the imagination of the world, and people are listening. In an insightful opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal last December, columnist Peggy Noonan said the Pope's message to us, in part, is "Be a Saint, Not a Scrooge."
Having read his apostolic exhortation, especially the controversial economics section, she thought of Charles Dickens and put Francis' thoughts this way: "Don't be Scrooge. He cared only for money, had no respect for the poor—he thought they should die and decrease the surplus population—wasn't the least bit interested in treating his employees justly or with compassion, and missed out on all the real joy of life, until he wised up." Full Story.
What will it take for each one of us to wise up? Certainly, for many years of our lives we've heard or read Holy Scripture, we've come to know and love the Church's official saints, made one or more of them perhaps our special patron saints, calling upon them in a particular difficult time of life. But often the thought is there's such a gap between their holy lives and my struggling one; between their many heroic deeds and closeness to God and my occasional good works and on-again, off-again relationship with God.
We tend to focus on the saints' perfections and think that with all our imperfections, foibles, and frailties we can never possibly match up. Such misguided thinking denies the reality that those saints in glory were fully human too; that each saint was also a sinner. How else explain Francis' response, "I am a sinner," to the interviewer's question, "Who is Jorge Bergoglio?" So how do we close the gap in our thinking? How do we wise up?
Perhaps one place to start is prayerful thinking. Find a quiet place; away from the computer, smart phone, Twitter, and Facebook. Count your blessings and be grateful. Consider this: we ignore the really important news because it happens slowly, but we obsess over trivial news because it happens all day long.
- The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51. (Enjoy your golden years—our ancestors didn't get any of them.)
- Almost no homes had a refrigerator in 1900, let alone a car. (Today they sell cars with refrigerators in them.)
- The average American home or apartment is twice as large as the average house or apartment in Japan, and three times larger than the average home or apartment in Russia.
- The average American workweek has declined from 66 hours in 1850, to 51 hours in 1909, to 34.8 hours today. (Enjoy your weekend.)
- And only 4 percent of humans get to live in America (Odds are you're one of them. Be thankful.)
Might I suggest that an ideal way to accomplish this prayerful thinking is to make a spiritual retreat? And it just so happens that two are being offered to you soon—the weekend of March 28-30, and the weekend of April 4-6!
As related by Peggy Noonan, Pope Francis is saying to each one of us: "Be a saint. Be better, kinder, more serious and loving, and help create systems that reflect good, kind, loving people." To me, this sounds like a sure formula for realizing the real joy of life!
Wishing you a holy Lent and a glorious Easter,
Dan Gatti, S.J., JES '65, GSE '66