Monday, February 23, 2009

Those Brilliant Saints

Educators have talked about the theory of multiple intelligences since 1983 when Howard Gardner first proposed the idea. In a nutshell, Gardner believed that human intelligence manifests itself in many ways. Sometimes, a student will demonstrate great aptitude in the core subjects, and sometimes a student will seem average in traditional subjects, but display incredible talent in other areas, like sports, art or music. Some young people are so mechanically gifted they can take apart almost any household appliance and put it back together again – correctly. Others are born leaders who can prompt a group of peers to do the most wonderful things imaginable or the most ridiculous. Educators realize that there are multiple intelligences, and the unique gifts of these students can sometimes go undetected for a very long time, especially when their gifts are not in the traditional subjects.

I see something like this theory of intelligence when I study the lives of the saints. If we listen closely to their stories, we hear the strains of spiritual greatness. It isn’t an intelligence the world is likely to recognize. In fact, the world may even call them idealistic or foolish or even a little insane. As a people of faith, we see their lives as a call to holiness. We know they have joined the Great Cloud of Witnesses. Like St. Paul, we know these men and women were so holy that the world was not worthy of them. We also know that we would do well to pause and learn from them. Here’s the good news. Unlike other forms of brilliance, this is one gift we can all receive. We all have the aptitude for being great saints, if we let them become the maestro and we the eager prodigy.

Their words are powerful, bringing hope and insight and change just when we need it the most.

Consider their words:

“Live simply that all may simply live.” – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

“All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” - St. Julian of Norwich

“What does it profit you to give God one thing if He asks of you another? Consider what it is God wants, and then do it." - St. John of the Cross

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, his religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” –St. James (James 1:26-28)

Practice “self control with endurance . . . let these increase in abundance . . .” – St. Peter (2 Peter 1: 6,8)

"I knew nothing; I was nothing. For this reason God picked me out." - St. Catherine Laboure.

This is a collection of quotes that challenged me this last year. You won’t find this particular collection in a book or on a website. It is my own personal training manual. Each quote came along at the right moment, a light in the journey, a one-liner that pierced the soul. I recognized brilliance in the words, and I knew it was the wisdom of God.

Look back over the list of quotes. Notice that they cover many facets of this spiritual journey. Some have to do with holiness. Some with encouragement. Some with social justice.

In what way are you growing right now? Who is your spiritual maestro? What is God saying to you through this Saint’s life? Remember, as baptized Christians, we have an aptitude for spiritual greatness. Whose prodigy are you?

What more shall I say? The world was not worthy of them. Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” – St. Paul (Hebrews 11:32, 38; 12:1-2)


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