Saints, whether formally recognized by Catholicism or informally regarded as such by other denominations, are bracing reminders that the transformation of spirit promised by religion””so elusive for most of us””is possible in this life. Christians of any kind can appreciate the remarkable lives of the two men the Catholic Church will canonize later this year.
Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, born a peasant in Lombard, became in 1958 the wise and generous “Good Pope” John XXIII, opening up the Catholic Church to the modern world. Karol Wojtyla, a young playwright living under the harsh rule of communist Poland, eventually played a pivotal part as Pope John Paul II in the collapse of that degrading system.
Saints like these suggest that there is more to life, and to faith, than most of us dare to know. A century-old aphorism attributed to the French essayist Charles PÃ©guy perhaps says it best: “Life holds only one tragedy, ultimately: not to have become a saint.”