SummaryJohn Clark never met Mother Teresa. But we forget that we may be surrounded by other saints – who haven’t been canonized. They may even be still alive!
In the days surrounding Mother Teresa’s canonization, many people recounted their meetings with her.
Some were present at a speech she delivered, others met her briefly, some shook her hand. I never met Mother Teresa. Would I have liked to meet her—to shake her hand? Absolutely! I would be thrilled to have touched a hand that can now touch God.
But the more I thought about this, the more I thought that I already have.
Let me explain.
In my forty-five years on this earth, I’ve known some pretty amazing people. Good people. Holy people. Priests, grandmothers, theologians, writers, fathers, children. Friends.
Are all of them in Heaven? I like to think so. Are some of them in Heaven? No doubt.
So, my dear reader, here is my not-so-subtle brag: I have touched hands that now touch God in Heaven. And, very likely, so have you.
Who is Your Mother Teresa?
You may have never thought about it this way before. You may have thought: Saint Teresa was canonized, but my departed grandmother was not—so that’s an entirely different thing. But the truth is that Heaven is not populated exclusively by the formally canonized. The canon of saints is the ecclesiastical Hall of Fame, not the full roster.
Not even close. Heaven’s residents contain all those who left this life in the state of grace, and the Church couldn’t possibly canonize them all. The truth is that for every one canonized saint in Heaven, there may be millions who are not canonized.
Some may not agree with that numerical assessment; some may think I’m overstating these numbers. In fact, there are even those who are unhappy with the recent wave of canonizations from Rome. Pope Saint John Paul II canonized 482 people (which was a record number at the time).
Pope Benedict XVI canonized 45 men and women. On one glorious day—one single day, May 12, 2013—Pope Francis canonized 815 saints!
Some object. That’s a boatload of canonizations! What’s with all these canonizations? they ask.
Here’s what’s what.
A wave of canonizations is evidence of the endless ocean of God’s mercy that will never peak or crest.
As Saint Thomas Aquinas reminds us, canonizations are not just rosy opinions; they are infallible pronouncements by the Church. Clearly, the popes have a wide latitude in how many people they canonize; some have canonized few and some have canonized many. But this is a time for many.
Canonizations were once the almost exclusive domain of virgins and martyrs, but the past decades have seen a much more generous selection of men and women raised to the altar.
In the past one hundred years, by canonizing many people who perhaps would not have received serious consideration centuries before, I believe that the Church has been expressing the fact that many are saved.
I believe that we are not only living in a year of mercy, but a century of mercy. I further believe that this is not something to lament; it is something to celebrate.
It’s About Hope and Trust
Admittedly, some of this is guesswork on my part. My field is economics, not the economy of salvation. I don’t know anything you don’t know. But it is an educated guess. It’s a hope-filled guess. It’s a trust-filled guess. But hope and trust are the rational responses of a child of God.
Here’s another guess that I feel pretty confident about. Today, as you go through the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings that today will inevitably bring, you will encounter saints along the way. You will encounter men and women who will, one glorious day, become saints. That should affect and effect your day.
As C.S. Lewis put it:
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
That should influence the way we approach today. That should influence the way we approach each man and woman.
The saint you know might be very close—geographically, if not personally. It might be your wife, your daughter, your father, your confessor, your dentist, some guy at your gym, some lady in the supermarket check-out line. Some you talk to; some you don’t. As Professor Lewis reminds, some of the saints we snub. Many of us wouldn’t cross the street to talk to someone who has a phenomenally good chance to be a saint.
We need to change that.
We need to recognize that even though we may have missed the chance to meet Saint Teresa, today offers another chance. A chance to meet a saint; a chance to befriend a saint; a chance to love a saint.