After I had chosen, intellectually, to become a Christian, but way before I had embraced Christ in my heart, a priest told me that I was a saint maker. And I was perplexed. He looked at me, thin and frail, all crippled and crumpled and stuck in my wheelchair, and seemed a little surprised that no one had ever told me that. Explaining, he said that people were drawn to be more generous, kinder, and gentler around me. He told me that I was a powerful help to others because of my disability. My vulnerability, my weakness and dependency, inspired people to step up and be better persons – to be more like the saints they were created to be. My response? Well… not being right in the heart yet, I said, “But, what about me?” Yup, that’s right. I wanted to know what was in this whole saint-making business for me.
The problem was that I was thinking solely with my head, in terms of the practical: by merely being needy, and even difficult, those around me would be tested in patience and forgiveness and could become better people. Instead, I should have been (and should be now) thinking with my heart as well, in terms of the holy: by imaging Christ on the Cross, those around me are inspired to reflect God’s love and mercy and to become holy ones of God.
For that’s what a saint is: a person whose soul, whose very essence of being, perpetually reflects divine goodness, truth, compassion, and love into the world. And this is the purpose for which every human being is created. We are created in the image and likeness of God in order to receive the light of God’s love and, by truly receiving, give that love back to God and to others.
How I was created to live …
I hold myself before God Incarnate and, in the stillness of my holy contemplation of Christ, I let Him impress upon me, let Him form my soul, so that I may resemble Him and, in that imaging, shine Him out, shine out the light of the divine love and goodness that I have received. No one of us can either receive or give all of who Christ is at once – rather, each one of us is called to image Christ in the unique way peculiar to our God-given talents and the vocations to which we are called.
For me, it is Christ Crucified who calls, the Sacred Heart that was pierced. (Gulp and Heavy Sigh and “God, help me.”) But – and this is very important – it is not enough for me to be physically weakened and nailed down by limitations, my deformity resembling Christ in his agony – no. I must also be patient in my pathos, generous in my self abasement, and powerfully loving in my weakness: like Christ. This is what the priest meant by calling me a saint maker: that in my gentle suffering others are drawn to me, and, if I truly image Christ – who was crucified out of love for humankind – then, when they are drawn to my side, they are actually being drawn to Christ. They receive the light of His love, which is what I am simply reflecting out to them in my willingness to be like Christ, to be who I am created to be.
As in a Mirror…
To become a saint and to be a saint maker is the purpose for which every human being was created. If we don’t take up the call to holiness then we are not fully living our lives as human beings. We are not fully human. Take this analogy:
A mirror is made of particular materials for the purpose of reflecting the particular material things before it. The only reason that a mirror is made is for this reflection. If it is unable to reflect, then the mirror is not truly a mirror. Similarly, we, human beings, are made in the image and likeness of God for the purpose of reflecting God’s loving omnipresence. The only reason that we are made is for this reflection. If we are unable to reflect thusly, then we are not fully and truly human.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI shares this thought about saints: “In addition to the sun, which is the image of Christ, there is the moon, which has no light of its own but shines with a brightness that comes from the sun.” He goes on to say that the saints are like new heavenly bodies “… in which the richness of God’s goodness is reflected. Their light, coming from God, enables us to know better the interior richness of God’s great light, which we cannot comprehend in the refulgence of its glory.”
In Dante Alighieri’s Paradiso and in The Great Divorce, by CS Lewis, saints in the outer reaches of Heaven are depicted as being clothed in light. They are so brightly resplendent that their distinction is not of form but of being – fulfilled as images of the Divine Love in which they were created. Their unadulterated reception of God’s love shines out in loving brilliance. Meanwhile we, who hem and haw below, who stumble and dither in the dark, need only look up from our self-centeredness, look up with open faces beholding, to be guided by the divine light….
* * *
We are all saints-in-progress, created to help one another delight in the reflection of God’s love. I cannot stop people from calling me a little saint maker. But, I know that God is the real saint maker. If my vulnerability draws out the sweetness in others, it is the sweetness that was already within them, put there by the Maker of human beings. Any goodness, any beauty, any light that we shine is His.
© 2014 Christina Chase
 Benedictus, for the feast of All Saints, November 1
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.