The Study of Saints and Why Its Important

Sainthood?that title given by the Catholic Church that seems to draw so much criticism from so many denominations. The mere mention of it angers some people. It's not so much the title itself that draws attention but the dogma that prayer to those saints is helpful to the living. And while opponents of such an idea try to distance themselves from Catholic theology, they miss out on a big benefit of this 'disagreeable' doctrine.

As they venture further from Catholicism (like the Church is an embarrassing ancestor that people try to keep in the closet) they stop any real honor of holy men in Church history. The mere study of their devout becomes a sin, and the only ones mentioned in their washed-out history books are the ones who's only accomplishment was extreme opposition to Catholicism. And ignoring the lives of the saints only leaves them with a terrible void?one that should've been filled by an incredible gift from God.

That gift isn't so much the greatness of men and women who have dedicated their lives to the greater glory of God (and the beneficial fruits that come from this) but the display of diversity within the God's Church. As we study the life of Jesus (and try to imitate it) there's always the alluring temptation to give up, because he was God, and not being God, how could we hope to replicate such holiness.

But in the study of saints, we don't always focus on the man...but on specific characteristics of a man. Pope John Paul II, for example (who'll no doubt receive the title some day), brought us an attitude of peace and the promotion of a "culture of life". Yes, he was smart, prayerful, holy, and had all the other markings of a saint. But history (while it might mention these other things) will always point to his accomplishments in the promotion of peace and unity. The Church will always see him as a shining example of what a peaceful man should be. Someone with a weakness for anger will always see his life as source of inspiration.

A quick look through the lives of the saints reveals thousands of such characteristics. St. Thomas Aquinas was the intellectual giant. St. Francis of Assisi showed us how to live a life of poverty. St. Catherine of Sienna reflects a deep love for Christ. St. Bernadette's simplicity (and obedience) gives us a powerful example of what God can accomplish through unlikely channels.

As each of these saints had prominent virtues in their lives, each of these virtues have a contrasting weakness or tendency that we're forced to fight throughout our own existence. And that's why we contemplate on their lives. Not just for example and inspiration, but because they signify that such perfections in virtue are possible?even for someone without a divine nature.

Written by Eric Engel at Copy For Sale

In The News:

How Does Religion Affect Happiness Around the World?  Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley
The Coming "Religion Recession"  Religion & Politics
Reforming religious institutions  The Kathmandu Post

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