These late September early October days are filled with significant feasts: Jerome 340-420AD (Sept. 30), Therese of the Child Jesus 1873-1897 (1 Oct), the Guardian Angels (2nd) and Francis of Assisi 1181-1226 (4th). Whenever we celebrate a saint’s feast day we give thanks for the light they provide for our darkness and seek their help from their ultimate vantage point in the intimate company of God.
Francis is perhaps the best known of the bunch. The Franciscan era and influence has been given a boost with Pope Francis choosing the name of this great saint.
As a young man, Francis of Assisi realised that a human life could only reach its potential when lived in intimacy with God.
A few hundred years later a young French woman, Therese Martin (St Therese of Lisieux), knew the same reality.
Fifteen hundred years earlier Jerome also had this knowledge. Jerome translated the scriptures into Latin (the language of the people), so that all could be fed by the Word of God.
Each of these heroes of faith, in their own unique way, with their own gifts and within their limitations, sought to live life fully. The power of God then carried their witness over the oceans and across the centuries.
These saints knew that human life was precious. They accepted the fact that human life always belongs to God. They knew this in their interaction with others. But most of all they each knew that they themselves were precious to God.
Their success in communicating God’s love to others could never have been accomplished using human ideas and methods. It was the fact that their own “souls were at rights” with God, that spilled over into words and actions to communicate divine life to those they met each day.
This week’s reminder of the all-too-often-forgotten Guardian Angels, presents something of the reality that sustained the saints. God does not call us to simply follow a code of conduct (commandments and Beatitudes, with Catechism and precepts). The primary call of God is to live in intimate personal relationship with Jesus. In our faltering attempts to hear His voice and follow His lead, we taste the relationship for which we were created.
Children who were taught that God has appointed an angel as their personal companion and guide, may have had a more lively sense of a personal God who accompanied and carried them in every moment?
Saints understood and understand that life with Christ is not an optional add-on to human life. Instead, human life becomes possible only when lived in intimate communion with God. Without Christ we may be able to cope or exist, to survive or endure, but this is not really ‘life’.
To live without Christ is a constant effort of escapism. We are running from the relationship that is our default setting. As Augustine reminded us, we are created by God and for God. We can therefore find the peace we seek only in God. We flag when our souls are not at peace with God.
While we find this reality presented in the scriptures and the teachings of the Church, there is another way to hear the voice of God. If we acknowledge that our hearts are hardened by fear and compulsion, by suffering and sin, then we have reached a moment of great potential. Since we are only the servants of God our creator, we are powerless to provide for ourselves the hope our hearts seek. In the midst of the noises that surround us we struggle to hear His voice.
And so we wait.
We do not wait as travellers for the bus that may never arrive, but as the baby for the birth that is unavoidable and immanent. Much more than we desire to be found and rescued, God in Christ is actively seeking to satisfy all our longings.
We return to the great saints and the example they provide. It was not their own vision and energy that resulted in such remarkable lives. At the heart of each of their lives was stillness and silence, at times sitting in prayer, and in every moment a disposition of heart that consciously hungered for the divine.
In the week ahead you might like to set some moments each day to listen for His voice.