I have thoroughly enjoyed the conversations with Brandon so far about the Saints, and am very much looking forward to talking about a few more. When I think back to the conversations so far about saints, though, I think there is one key piece that we’ve taken for granted. It isn’t that we missed it or anything, though. It’s actually probably a case that it was so obvious that we failed to really think about it. The truth is, there are lots of reasons to talk about Saints, but ultimately they are all just one reason. We talk about them, we look to them, we pray with them because we want to be like them.
Like I said, this isn’t some deep, mystical revelation or knowledge bomb being dropped. Saints are saints because they are in heaven. We desire, at the end of our lives, to be in heaven. Hence, we follow the example of saints. It’s straightforward logic and a natural result of using our brains. We try to emulate people for the very simple reason that we want what they have. If you want to be a mechanic, for example, you don’t talk to a clown like me who is lost at anything more complicated than an oil change. Instead, you look for a master mechanic to learn from. In ages past, this mentor system was a given. Rather than general schooling, children could be paired with a craftsmen or merchant so that they could work for them and learn from them. On an even more basic, biological level, we seem the same thing when a child faithfully mimics the behaviors of their parent, for better or worse.
If this system of mentor and apprentice is such a natural, obvious part of biological and worldly lives, so much so that it appears to be hardwired into our species, why would we assume that the One who created us wouldn’t provide a similar means to develop our spiritual lives? It seems obvious to me that, in fact, He did just that. God has not told us to be holy and then abandoned us to figure out what that meant on our own. No, instead, we have been given a whole host of saints as predecessors who have walked the road to and with God so that they can show us the way. Whether we are striving for the humility of St. Joseph or the loyalty of St. Athanasius, either way, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, we have masters to whom we can be apprenticed. Let’s walk like they did so that we can arrive where they have.
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