After the many sufferings of the twentieth century, the new millennium offered so much promise and hope for the Church. Though she no longer held sway over society, the Church, stirred by the person and thought of Pope John Paul II, began the twenty-first century with real, pregnant enthusiasm. Two years later, however, this enthusiasm gave way to despair, as news from Boston shook the Church and the world. What Pope Innocent III had seen from his bed in a dream—a Church that was tottering—Pope John Paul II lived for the remainder of his days. With no Francis or Dominic to hold the Church aright, she has swayed in these turbulent years since the crisis first began, awaiting someone to support and sustain her. When the whole world has seemingly cast off the Church and her priesthood, it befits the providence of God to raise up saints who can provide the antidote necessary to heal her wounds. Men and women, young and old, will respond to these saints as they did with St. Dominic before: they will lead the Church out of winter and into spring, preparing the ground for a new epoch of human history.
Similar to the thirteenth century, the great universities—many of which the Dominicans serve today—must produce students willing to undertake this divine enterprise. Though Bl. Jordan of Saxony, the second Master of the Dominican Order, gave the habit to more than a thousand men whom, by his magnanimous spirit, he had won for the preaching band, the current process of vocational discernment precludes the modern saint from simply throwing the white scapular over the head of some unassuming convert. It bears repeating that the early brethren commenced their project with only sixteen members, eight Frenchmen, seven Spaniards, and one Englishman, but in the span of five years, had founded convents throughout all of Europe. Such modest numbers, in what has become the glorious Order of St. Dominic, attests to the pattern of divine providence; Our Lord needed but twelve men to first set the world ablaze.
All of our early brethren, like Holy Father Dominic, desired truth at a time when the Church was besieged by heresy. All of them, like him, at a time when the Church was fraught with scandal and confusion, desired nothing but the First Truth, even to the point of death. Modern saints will, no less, desire truth; they will be, in the words of Pope Honorius III, champions of the faith and true lights of the world. St. Peter of Verona will be their kindred spirit, for the Lord will engrave the words, Credo in Deum, upon their hearts, just as St. Peter scrawled those words on the ground in his own blood as he lay dying. Here, then, is the means for restoring the world to sanity: to exaggerate what the world has come to neglect or ignore. The Dominicans of old—and by grace, the Dominicans of today—preached Jesus Christ Crucified with such zeal for souls that thousands upon thousands converted to the Faith, wounded by the sword of Veritas. I believe that modern saints, the saints of this generation, will be perceived as a threat to the world; they will be mistaken for a poison, because their lives are incongruous and incompatible with the contemporary imagination.
The modern saint, the one who will usher the world into a new springtime, will not be what the people want, but what the people need. It seems to me that we want and expect a saint—and understandably so—who operates in the public domain, who speaks truth and condemns error, who carries the banner of orthodoxy into battle. Perhaps God will send us such saints. I, however, think that it is far more likely that God will send saints, if he has not already done so, who come not from the world, but from the cloister. These holy men and women, these cloistered contemplatives, will be marked by apostolic zeal, but they may never leave the monastery. They will labor by prayer and penance for the salvation of souls, but they may never preach to the masses. They will have a keen sense of humor, and possess bright, happy spirits, but they may never appear in the public square. They will win many souls for Christ, but they may never see the fruits of their toil.
In a word, I believe that the springtime we long for, of which Pope John Paul II wrote, will be prepared by our brothers and sisters in the convent. They will pray for priests and religious; they will offer sacrifices for the good of the Church; they will plow the earth with divine instruments. They will exaggerate what we have forgotten: God alone suffices. Whether it is one or several hundred, I believe that the Church will be held aright by those hidden lives known only to God.
With love for the Church, we beseech our Lord, in his infinite mercy, to raise up many saints to steady his Church, sanctifying his bride, and bringing salvation to the world.
Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. (used with permission)