The Saints Next Door

I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people, in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance. I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness”. Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exsultate,on the call to holiness in the world of today.

We are all invited to go along the road to holiness and we know witnesses around us who guide and accompany us along the way. Those humble and discreet people who lovingly act in the name of their faith.

Saint Vincent said:

“I must not judge a poor peasant man or woman by their appearance or their apparent intelligence, especially since very often they scarcely have the expression or the mind of rational persons, so crude and vulgar they are. But turn the medal, and you will see by the light of faith that the Son of God, who willed to be poor, is represented to us by these poor people.” 

Let us turn the medal of bad news, information that only reveals tragedies and think of all those small everyday gestures that are little flames of justice, peace, sharing, benevolence, that fuel the fire of our human dignity.

Here is a story among many others which brings forth the little things which give life..

Look at the little bird, all alone on  the big beach…It is so fragile in such immensity!

As a chaplain, I knew a lady in a retirement home who was so little and unassuming that she could have done unnoticed.  She was taken to the hospital  in an emergency and she felt lost, between the examinations, the care, the coming and going of the care-givers and the patients. She lost her bearing in such turbulence, was it day or night?  She closed her eyes and thought she was going to die.

When I learned she was taken to the hospital I went to visit her.  The first day she looked and sounded incoherent. She was very tired and sick. The second day she smiled and tried to talk but with difficulty.  She spoke of her fears, her desire to go back home to the retirement home.  She felt good in “her house where the people around her appreciated her.” The third day, she was waiting for me sitting up straight in her bed and we had a long talk. She was happy to have me there and didn’t want me to leave. “You can stay for a few more minutes.”

Someone knocked on the door of her room.  The door opened and the doctor from the retirement home came to tell her that everyone was waiting for her! I was amazed. That woman doctor always had such a severe appearance. She passed me in the corridor without responding when I said hello. In this room a miracle happened. Without saying anything, we both smiled and we knew that our presence had given new life to this woman.

In her bed, this frail person didn’t know where to look, she was so moved, she was on the verge of tears. “They are waiting for me?” She was no longer alone on that immense beach, she was brought back to life, brought back to life by the love of her neighbors.  

Holiness is never far when Christ raises up someone who is ill. Each one of us in that room were actor and witness of the moment of holiness that was shared.

Do not be afraid of holiness. It will take away none of your energy, vitality or joy. On the contrary, you will become what the Father had in mind when he created you, and you will be faithful to your deepest self. Pope Francis, Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate,On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World.

Sr Valérie