By Laura Ann Phillips
The headline is stolen.
Straight from Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation: “Rejoice and Be Glad”, released April 9 on “The Call To Holiness In Today’s World”.
Like the people who came immediately to mind as I read it, who inspired, annoyed, encouraged me to do better, to be better in my everyday life.
Velda – a sturdy, dignified Barbadian pensioner, neat white plaits protruding from her cream and beige straw hat, as she entered Mass or prayer meeting. More commonly, as she trudged along the cockled tangle of Bridgetown’s straitened back alleys, on the way to or from helping someone with cleaning or groceries or their son still in prison.
When she died, I inherited her Daily Missal. Her name was inscribed, in her own writing, across the edge of the pages forming the book’s face, so that her name dissipated when you opened the missal, and reappeared when you closed it.
My prayer always seemed richer whenever I used that missal and, years later, Velda’s very life seemed to give credence to the ministry when her missal was used in street and private preaching. Because I had known someone, in the flesh, whose every activity, every breath of prayer was wrought to achieve intimacy with Christ.
And, that, is always a worthwhile thing.
Middle-class saints. Though, by this world’s assessment, not always.
Vivienne – a mixed-ethnicity, illegal Grenadian immigrant, brought to Trinidad as a babe on her blind mother’s bosom in the 1920s. Seven children by three men; eventually marrying the third and becoming naturalised just before the birth of their fourth child.
A cradle Anglican, Vivienne had all the children received into the Catholic Church to ensure a good education. She was the neighbourhood ‘la blanchisseuse’, who looked after her children and others from pre-dawn ‘til well into the night. She sent food and clothes to those poorer than they, and gave sanctuary to women beaten by their husbands and boyfriends.
Vivienne was seldom seen in a church, but her children always were. She was, however, seen constantly at prayer.
Determined that none of her children would emulate her sinful life choices, in the end, all but one was married straight from their home, all her grand-children produced by those marriages. And, this immigrant’s progeny included bankers, preachers, soldiers, teachers who continued her legacy of helping others.
The saint next door.
You might know one. Or more.
Those who anonymously, and regularly, donate toiletries and feminine supplies to women refugees, understanding that helping the down-trodden sometimes means more than sending canned fish.
The teams that continue to invest their own time, money and labour in Dominica rebuilding schools and homes. The people who offer rides to others in their own cars, regardless of the uninspiring conversation or the passenger’s smell.
Those who make time to pray every day and strive to master their sin.
For, however corrupt we may consider this world to be, Pope Francis reminds us that living saints are closer, and more common, than we think.
For Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete Et Exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad)”, just click: