This Wealth of Saints
Published on May 28-29, 2011 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
Aunty Entity got it wrong when she sang “We don’t need another hero” in the 1985 post-apocalyptic film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Every generation needs a hero, someone whose selfless life and self-giving death remind us that hope is never lost, that somehow the world continues to be a wilderness of sweets.
But our age is full of Aunty Entitys who dismiss heroes and saints. They question the motivations of the meritorious and unravel the hidden vices of the virtuous. They scorn the Faith of the saints as fanaticism and regard some of the greatest thinkers of yesterday to be no more than the dead theologians of today. Even the best seem mediocre to them; they claim that no one could be that good or holy, that canonizations are but the charades of the Pope and his cardinals. They don’t realize that their cynicism leaves us with a poverty of heroes, a space where nothing can ever be sacred, where no one can ever dare to be special.
Such a culture of cynicism leaves our children uninspired, robbed of any real role models to revere, doomed to idolize stars that have glitter and glamour but no soul or substance. This poverty of heroes eventually leads them to be disillusioned by false hopes of fame and empty promises of meaning. Eventually they beget the same cynicism that they were born into and end up looking down at everyone because there is no one left for them to look up to.
But in every age and to every generation, the Church insists that humanity is not so much damned as it is blessed, that the cloud of witnesses spoken of in the letter to the Hebrews (12:1) still surrounds and stirs us, that by God’s grace this world of sin still begets saints of Heaven. Aunty Entity might not think that we need another hero, but Mother Church believes that we do. The heroic holiness of the saints proves to us that what we believe can and must be lived, and when it is, it should be admired and followed.
A previous generation of cynics once crucified a man who turned out to be God; their builders rejected the stone that became the cornerstone (cf. Acts 4:11). The saints still are dismissed by the world as dead yet they are very much “alive for God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11). To this day, the witness of their words and their works have the power to inspire our children, instill in them a reverence for the Holy, and impel them to search their souls and seek Him who alone can give rest to their restlessness.
Aunty Entity still sings, “We don’t need another hero. We don’t need to know the way home.” And she and her followers continue to wander aimlessly in the ruins of a wilderness. But we who have this wealth of saints know that we can use the example of our holy heroes as a compass that will help us find our way home to the Paradise once lost that with Christ is now regained.