A recall of saints for the Church today

THE MONTHS OF October and November are specially dedicated to remembering and honouring the lives of saints in the Church. October is a month that celebrates the life witness of numerous saints. It is also a month when the Church celebrates its mission mandate to proclaim the gospel through the Extraordinary Missionary Month.  As icing on the cake, Pope Francis canonised five new saints this month including England’s John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801 to 1890) on Sunday, October 13.  

The month of November will begin with the feast of All Saints and then honour the departed souls and pray for them on November 2. At a time when we celebrates the heroic lives of these saints, if we were to prepare a wish-list for the Church today, I would include a request for the re-appearance of three saints of history in a new guise for our times. What the Church—especially in China—needs today is a new John Henry Newman, a new Matteo Ricci and a new Francis Xavier.

On the eve of the canonisation of Cardinal Newman, Prince Charles of the United Kingdom wrote an article about him where he states that, “Newman’s example, is needed more than ever for the manner in which, at his best, he could advocate without accusation, could disagree without disrespect and, perhaps most of all, could see differences as places of encounter rather than exclusion.” This sounds like the precise criterion for the much needed dialogue and collaboration within the Church and among the Churches today. 

The legacy of Cardinal Newman should be a stimulus for the leaders of Churches to appreciate and honour differences in order to work for a harmonious coexistence. The concept of harmony comes from the very heart of Christian theology on the mystery of Holy Trinity. Hence, Christians should not be afraid of differences, instead differences must serve as a platform for collaboration. 

Next in the wish list is a new Matteo Ricci (1552 to 1610). He advocated a Christianity with Chinese characteristics and insisted that the Church shed its Western garb and be clothed in Chinese style. Although misunderstood and denounced by the Church, he courageously displayed a profound respect for Chinese culture,  and promoted mutual understanding and dialogue. 

Two thousand years before Ricci, Confucius, China’s great thinker and educator advocated “harmony as the most precious thing” and stressed that “one could always learn from others.” In Confucius’ teaching, Ricci found a common ground to work on.

Ricci placed great emphasis on harmonious relationships. He lived the gospel virtues of patience, tolerance and kindness. His good manners, understanding and respect for the Chinese people and culture, combined with his outstanding scholarship, enabled him to adapt to the Chinese environment, and to gain the confidence and friendship of many Chinese scholars. As a result, he introduced the gospel message to the Chinese through his life witness. 

The Church stands in need of a new Francis Xavier (1506 to 1552) today. Francis had a tireless zeal for the salvation of souls. He kept seeking new frontiers and pushing the boundaries. His availability to God and to his mission must inspire the youngsters to respond to the missionary call of the Church today.  St. Francis inspires us to take a leap into God’s hands and welcome God’s dreams for us. jose 

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