Terence Sweeney writes for Plough magazine about how the saints have lost relevance in our lives as he remembers the book of saints he had as a child.

That is, alas, where we put saints’ lives when we become adults. The saints are irrelevant, eccentric, and imprudent. They are seemingly impossible guides for living in what W. H. Auden calls “the moderate Aristotelian city.” Francis of Assisi stripping bare in the streets, Augustine rejecting Roman wealth and power, Rose of Lima living a life of penance, Damien of Molokai living among the lepers, and Dorothy Day residing with Bowery bums and advocating for a society that won’t need soup kitchens. As the not-yet-canonized Dorothy Day put it, “Don’t call me a saint, I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.” What Day put her finger on is a deep scandal in the life of the church. To be declared a saint is to be relegated to children’s books, to be petrified on a pedestal, to be treated as irrelevant to our actual lives.

Sweeney advocates for us becoming more like the saints, radical in leaving our footprint and that of the Spirit in the world. “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words,” is attributed to St. Francis of Assisi.1 What does that look like, though, for each one of us?

Irrelevant Saints | Plough

  1. Though it is not found among his writings. ↩︎

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