The Crises of Saints

We don’t have to go very far to recognize that there are abundant crises in our world today. We find crises of various proportions in every corner of the globe and in virtually all sectors of society. Check the news online, read the various blogs, twitter feeds, social media, or turn on the radio or TV, and you are guaranteed to be inundated with crises of every sort: crises in the world, crises in the Church, crises in the culture. We don’t even have to turn to news outlets to discover contemporary crises, we find them in the families around us, and in our own families.

In number 301 of his popular collection of points for meditation, The Way, St. Josemaría Escrivá wrote that, “these world crises are crises of saints.” This is a message that is rarely heard nowadays, but is ever so important to underscore. One most important answer to the crises we find around us, is for us seriously to strive to become a saint. Indeed, this was one of the most important points Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft made when he gave his now famous presentation at Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2011, as part of their Distinguished Speakers Series. Kreeft’s talk was entitled, “How to Win the Culture War,” and although quite a lot has changed since he made that presentation, his words are even more relevant now than when he first spoke them.

We don’t take these words seriously because we don’t really believe that we can become saints. This is understandable, since on our own of course this is impossible. We know we’re not on our own, and yet we don’t seem to be any closer to becoming saints. The fact of the matter is that God has specifically called us to this divine vocation to sanctity, to holiness, to the perfection of charity. We find this not only in the fifth chapter of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, but already in the teachings of Jesus, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Even before the coming of Christ, we read in the Old Testament, God’s command, “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev 19:2).

Reading the lives of the Saints teaches us many things, among them we learn of the immediate affect they had on the lives of those around them. We don’t have to very far in Christian history to see how this worked. All we need to do is look at the life of St. Paul and we can see the affect he had on those around him. Take the case of Priscilla and Aquila whom St. Paul met because they all shared the same trade, tentmakers. We read about them in Acts 18, and by the end, these converts are helping spread the gospel to others. In Philippians 4:22, while St. Paul writes from prison in Rome, he sends greetings to the Christians in Philippi, and writes, “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” Still in chains, St. Paul is evangelizing those around him, so that, members of Caesar’s household have become followers of Christ; their lives have been irrevocably changed.

We underestimate the wide-ranging affects a single soul committed to God can have on the environment around her. Even more tragically, we underestimate, or we don’t really believe, God’s desire and ability to turn us into saints, canonizable saints, regardless of our state or situation in life. Although sin may be an obstacle to sanctity, and there’s a remedy for that, our occupations, celibate or married state in life, geographical location, health (or lack thereof), wealth (or lack thereof), intellectual capabilities, are not obstacles to sanctity but can become the very means of growth in holiness.

Turning back to the initial point from St. Josemaría, he continues, “God wants a handful of men ‘of his own’ in every human activity.” If we would take God’s call seriously to grow in holiness, in the very concrete situations in which we find ourselves on a daily basis—in family life, at work, in our neighborhood and community—we would see a transformation begin to take place around us, beginning with our own relationship with God, with spouse, with children, with friends, with co-workers, with neighbors. Just imagine the effect of Christians in all walks of life—homemakers, mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, lawyers, judges, university professors, police officers, news broadcasters, engineers, physicians, insurance agents, real estate agents, school teachers, cooks, building cleaners, construction workers and other manual laborers, those in the pharmaceutical industry, those who work on Wall Street, internet security workers, people in government agencies, etc.—committing themselves to become saints.

Such individuals do exist, and in all of those fields, and in many more; would that their number would increase. Our Lord said, “pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt 9:38). This Christian revolution has to begin with you and with me. If we take Jesus seriously, then we will see resolutions emerge to some of the crises around us, as God sends new saints to change the world.

Editor’s note: The image above is a detail of “The forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs” painted by Fra Angelico around 1423-24. 

Jeff Morrow


Jeff Morrow, a husband and father of five children, is associate professor and chair of undergraduate theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology at Seton Hall University and is a senior fellow of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. He is the author of Three Skeptics and the Bible (Pickwick, 2016). Initially a Jewish convert to evangelical Protestantism, he entered the Catholic Church in 1999.

  • St JD George

    The act of a Saint? What do you think?

    Archbishop Cupich Getting Comfortable With Pro-Aborts On Immigration Reform

    True to his claim that immigration reform is “God’s agenda,” Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich has been cozying up to pro-abortion Democrats to get his social justice initiatives underway.

    On Sunday, the Archbishop joined Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Il), a dissident Roman Catholic with a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood and NARAL on abortion issues, at the Temple Jeremiah synagogue in Northfield, Illinois, to discuss how people can support the cause of immigration reform. Democrats hope reform will translate into largely Catholic Hispanics voting for pro-abortion/pro-gay marriage Democrats in order to gain citizenship.

    Speaking before an audience of 300 people, Cupich urged everyone to speak with friends and neighbors about the issue, and to stand up to bullies wherever they find them.

    “Look for ways to tell our heritage stories and tell your representatives how you feel,” Cupich said. “Speak out, and don’t let racist comments go by.”

    With his eyes on the 2016 presidential election, Dick Durbin subtly reminded people that the more they organize Hispanic voters, the more likely another pro-abortion, pro-immigration reform Democrat would end up in the White House.

    “If we add 2 million new voters, that would change the debate for president,” he said of the 2016 election. “They will have an impact.”

    Dick Durbin has been one of the key leaders behind the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) for over a decade. The bill, which allows illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship, has passed only in the Senate and has not yet been voted on in the House.

    “If supporters would bring this bill to the floor, there are plenty of votes in Congress to have this passed,” Cupich said. “We should allow people to be able to speak through their representatives. There is consensus, but we need the opportunity to express consensus.”

    Although Cupich and Durbin lamented at the conference that current immigration policies such as deportation “break up families,” neither of the men expressed concern for the impact that the policies they support such as abortion and same-sex marriage​ have on the family. Nor did Cupich express any concern about the problem of trying to assimilate these immigrants into the culture.

    “The longer we delay, the deeper the hopelessness we’re creating in the lives of young people about their future,” Cupich said. “We will lose our center, our identity and our youth.”

    Most audience members expressed generally favorable views towards the conference, saying they were glad to have Archbishop Cupich and Senator Dick Durbin supporting them. One audience member, however, Robert Castagna of Glenview, didn’t feel quite so positive. His comments to reporters illustrate how truly disproportionate the immigration reform debate has become.

    “This is a critical issue affecting the lives of millions of children and families,” Castagna said. “Families are being torn apart through deportation, just like slaves were sold. What have we learned in 150 years?”

    Archbishop Cupich has stated in the past that immigration reform is “God’s agenda” but has made no similar claim about abortion. In fact, he has previously gone on record saying he has no qualms about giving Holy Communion to pro-abortion politicians like Dick Durbin, and when he was Archbishop of Spokane he privately discouraged priests from participating in 40 Days For Life prayer vigils.

    • Dan

      A similiar event was held in South Bend IN last Thursday, April 30th where an all democratic/labor union held a (non-political, yeh right) meeting regarding DAPA. The assistant to Bishop Rhodes sat with the all pro-abort, SSM advocates while representing The Ft WayneSouth Bend Diocese regarding immigration issues. A local parish priest saw fit to include a flyer promoting this meeting with the Sunday bulletin, while ‘name-dropping’ The Bishop as a ‘justification’ to support this. I searched Fr. Z’s blog on immigration and his response(s) were enlightening.
      St. John The Baptist, pray for us!

      • St JD George

        I get it. It speaks more to the cultural roots of Catholicism in America than it does to doctrinal, like wearing an fighting Irish jacket. It was rooted in ethnic, working class neighborhoods that were mostly married to one party because they “were for the poor” supposedly. That brought us the Kennedy’s and Camelot, remember their shining example? Today still many are unable to escape the entrapment and believe the two are one and the same, “C” and “D”, and I don’t mean conservative. The church would do well to stay out the donkeys and elephants show (at the national level the two seem hardly separable anyway) and stick to the message of Jesus Christ, reminding that neither party has a lock on salvation. One might be better at preservation though (ha).

  • Tim Danaher

    On the flip side, we’re rarely warned about being condemned to hell. If our priests preached about becoming saints, they would have to acknowledge the existence of hell, the real possibility that many will be sent there, and the need for sanctifying grace and more confession. This message of salvation just isn’t preached anymore. It’s as if these issues are avoided so as to not upset people in their mortal sin and to keep the donations coming in. The greatest failure in life is not becoming a saint.

    • Vinny

      True. No need for saints if there isn’t any Satan. Just be “good.”

  • Vinny

    We also need leaders to strengthen spirits and exhort.

    After they had proclaimed the good news to that city
    and made a considerable number of disciples,
    they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.
    They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
    and exhorted them to persevere in the faith, saying,
    “It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
    to enter the Kingdom of God.”
    They appointed presbyters for them in each Church and,
    with prayer and fasting, commended them to the Lord
    in whom they had put their faith.
    Then they traveled through Pisidia and reached Pamphylia.
    After proclaiming the word at Perga they went down to Attalia.
    From there they sailed to Antioch,
    where they had been commended to the grace of God
    for the work they had now accomplished.
    And when they arrived, they called the Church together
    and reported what God had done with them
    and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.
    Then they spent no little time with the disciples.

  • Objectivetruth

    Great article, Jeff!

  • Hart Ponder

    Notice what the Catechism says about the final trial of the Church: the “mystery of iniquity” where we trade the “Truth” for solutions…

    The Church’s ultimate trial:

    675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.574 The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth575 will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.576

    676 The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism,577 especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.578

    677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.579 The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven.580 God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.581

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    As Don Bosco would say, “Class dismissed. Go out boys, have fun and do whatever you want, as long as you don’t sin.”

    Have fun and don’t sin. Anyone who can cheerfully accomplish that is far along by my reckoning.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    Great message, Dr. Morrow.

    I think of Mother Teresa who was completely dedicated to doing God’s will before she received her “call within a call” and so was able to respond totally when Jesus told her the new thing he wanted her to do.

  • Some of those professions are a bit harder than others to stay Saintly in.

    • St JD George

      Were you thinking of politics?

      • I’m an equal opportunity offender. Both politics and high finance provide many opportunities to be either a massively humble saint or a horrifically self-absorbed sinner; and it occurs to me that in both the number of later situations far outnumber the former. With great power comes great responsibility, whether that power is money or military based matters not.

        edit after reading your other post. Religion also provides great opportunity to be saint or sinner…..

        • St JD George

          They seem to be inseparable these days, or at least incestuously related.

          • True enough- even with the edit. All three seem to be inseparable, and pushing for things that are not compatible with the common good.

  • Excellent article, Jeff, reminding us that personal sanctity is not only our raison d’etre as human persons but also THE most “powerful” means to transform the culture (and all of creation!).

    It’s much easier, though, to blame this bishop or that politician or the media or everyone else. If 2% of us lived with personal sanctity, this “crisis” would evaporate.

  • Johnny Rango

    Jesus’ message was about transcending the world and “kicking off the dust” of those who don’t accept the gospel. The Church later changed this to an effort to remake the world and enforce an obedience to the gospel. These days, the effort has been reduced to whining about a world that has rejected Catholic culture.