This week on November 1 we celebrate the feast of All Saints. This seems a fitting occasion to say a few words about the saints. In this posting, I’d like to reflect on one aspect of the saints: their suffering. No, I’m not going to describe the gruesome things some of them endured—like being eaten by lions or being burned at the stake. Rather, I’d like to list some of the saints who endured sufferings that are perhaps more akin to our own.
St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380): She didn’t get along with her mother her entire life. (What a consolation for those of us who have a hard time relating to certain family members.)
St. Marcella (325-404): When she was 85, robbers broke into her house and beat her. (This tragic happening seems like a headline from our own day when the elderly are often victims of crime.)
St. Mary Queen of Scotland (1046-1093): Both her husband and her son were killed in war. (Whenever I see a flag draped casket being carried from a plane, I can’t imagine the pain of that person’s family and friends.)
St. Malchus (4th century): He suffered from depression and even contemplated suicide. (Depression is one of the most misunderstood of all illnesses—even in our present day.)
St. Francis of Assisi: (1182-1226): He was a POW for over a year. (Perhaps his own war experiences turned him into an advocate for peace. Remember, his famous prayer begins with these words: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…”)
St. John of the Cross (1542-1591): He was betrayed by his friends. (So too was Jesus betrayed by his friends.)
St. Julie Billiart (1751-1816): She was paralyzed for 22 years yet she was known as “the smiling saint.” (Eventually she went on to found the Sisters of Notre Dame which now has thousands of sisters all over the world.)
St. Celestine V (1209-1296): This pope abdicated the papacy because he felt his gifts were not a good match for the job; the next pope, out of jealousy, threw him in prison where he died. (The history of the church is far from pure and holy. Sadly, we have seen this fact demonstrated in our own day.)
St. Kateri Tekawitha (1656-1680—just canonized on October 21): Her eyesight was impaired and her face was very disfigured from the small pox she had as a child. (Sanctity often co-exists with human weaknesses.)
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (1910-1997): For decades she felt deserted by God yet she continued to pour herself out in love for the poorest of the poor. (Sometimes we too feel as if God is far away yet can we continue to love those individuals God puts into our lives?)
All the saints suffered, yet they persevered in trusting God amid their sufferings. Their example helps us to trust in God amid both our minor and major sufferings.
Do any of these saints speak to you today?
Do you have a favorite saint?