Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Vision of the Saints

The Vision of the Saints

The Saints are quite a varied group of people.  Some have been men, some have been women; some have been poor, some have come from wealth; some have been old, some have been young; some have been geniuses, some have had below average intelligence; some have been robust, some have been sickly.  Whoever we are, we have something in common with a great many Saints.  All the same, sometimes we can be intimidated by them, as though they are another species.  But they are all human beings, and some had been great sinners.  But they all, at least eventually, sought holiness, and found it.

          There is something else that sets the Saints apart from the rest of us (from me at least) and that is their singleness of vision.  Once a person attains that holiness that allows them to become a Saint, they see everything in terms of God.  Or perhaps it is that singleness of vision that leads to saintly holiness.

          What do I mean?  It is not that a Saint refuses to live on Earth, and has his or her head always in heavenly clouds.  No, the Saints live fully their lives on Earth.  But they are constantly conscious of God’s presence, and they see the world for what it truly is, a sacramental, a sign pointing us to God.

          For example, the Saints can see the beauty of nature, and enjoy it more than the rest of us because in that beauty they see a hint of the beauty of God.  They can gaze at the great expanse of the universe and it leads them to contemplate the infinite nature of God.  Most of all, they see other people so clearly, made in the Image and Likeness of God. 

          We may look at this and be tempted to think that the Saints are always engaged in pious musings and do not see the world for what it really is.  But just the opposite is true.  This world is meant to lead us to God.  His imprint is all over it.  If I look at another person and see Jesus in that person, it does not mean that I don’t also see that person for his own unique identity.  But I see a great reality about that identity, that it is a unique and personal manifestation of the Glory of God.  I can’t help but acknowledge the other’s great dignity and worth.  With every unique person I encounter I can find some new perspective of the Image of God.

          The Saints also learn how to see in every situation an opportunity to grow closer to God.  The joys of Earth are foretastes of the joys of Heaven and should lead me to thanksgiving.  The struggles in this life help me to develop fortitude and a dependence on God.  In my sorrows I can find an opportunity for solidarity with the suffering throughout the world, and I can seek comfort from the Lord.  In humiliations and failures I can even rejoice because they afford me the precious chance to develop the all-important virtue of humility.

          Is it a wonder that it is the Saints who live life with the most peace and joy?  Is this outlook easy?  Certainly not, but nothing worth attaining is.  Is it attainable?  Yes, for both you and me.  We can train our vision.

          Years ago there was a popular program called the See Clearly Method.  It was a series of eye exercises that were supposed to strengthen our eyes and restore proper vision to those who use glasses.  We can practice a See Clearly Method for our interior vision as well.  But we must be deliberate about it.  Take the time purposely to contemplate God in his creation, particularly the people in our lives.  God’s Image is somewhere in even the most hardened sinner.  Perhaps there are people who are counting on us to help them discover it.  In all circumstances seek to find opportunities for spiritual growth.  It will take hard work and discipline at first, but in time we will develop a second nature.  (At least, as one who has not yet achieved the vision of the Saints, I am trusting in that.)  But I will persevere.  This Lent provides a perfect opportunity.  Forty days is a great amount of time to obtain a new habit. 

          So let us focus our vision this Lent.  Let us deepen our vision.  And come Easter, we may just be able to see this world with the eyes of the Saints.