Monday, October 24, 2005
Chilean Saints  

I am not certain why, but I am very taken with Chilean saints. For the two with whom I have learned something about their lives, I have had an immediate affinity. First, I learned about St. Terese of the Andes in July, and I thought that this woman was truly a beautiful saint. She came from a well-off family that took their faith seriously, and this family life was the seedbed for her religious vocation.

Perhaps what strikes me the most about her is that she learned at such an early age the holy call to devote everything to the love of Christ. Her affirmative response to that call enabled her to overcome her natural tendencies and to live a life filled with deeds of love.
She wakened to the life of grace while still quite young. She affirms that God drew her at the age of six to begin to spare no effort in directing her capacity to love totally towards him. "It was shortly after the 1906 earthquake that Jesus began to claim my heart for himself." (Diary n. 3, p. 26).

Juanita possessed an enormous capacity to love and to be loved joined with an extraordinary intelligence. God allowed her to experience his presence. With this knowledge he purified her and made her his own through what it entails to take up the cross. Knowing him, she loved him; and loving him, she bound herself totally to him.

Once this child understood that love demonstrates itself in deeds rather than words, the result was that she expressed her love through every action of her life. She examined herself sincerely and wisely and understood that in order to belong to God it was necessary to die to herself in all that did not belong to him.

Her natural inclinations were completely contrary to the demands of the Gospel. She was proud, self-centered, stubborn, with all the defects that these things suppose, as is the common lot. But where she differed from the general run, was to carry out continual warfare on every impulse that did not arise from love.

At the age of ten she became a new person. What lay immediately behind this was the fact that she was going to make her first Communion. Understanding that nobody less that God was going to dwell within her, she set about acquiring all the virtues that would make her less unworthy of this grace. In the shortest possible time she managed to transform her character completely. Source
This account renders a most challenging but very beautiful example of what I am called to do. I have so many faults, but I am not attacking them as she did. She understood what one Jesuit priest noted that is there has only ever been one war and that is the war between our will and God's Will. She wanted God's Will to win so she fought her own natural will in order to concede to His.

The second Chilean saint with whom I have become fascinated by is the newly canonized Saint Alberto Hurtado. The Holy Father raised him to the altar this past Sunday, October 23rd, and it must be with tremendous joy that the Chilean people receive another saint as one from their own. He was born in poverty, and he grew up to become a priest who served the poor. Like many saints, he accomplished much in his life, and his list of activities is very long. He is impressive because of his desire to serve and then serve some more.
Alberto's father died when the boy was four years old, and he grew up in poverty. Educated at the Jesuit College in Santiago, Chile. He early felt a call to religion, and to work with those as poor as himself. He entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1923, and was ordained in 1933. He taught religion at Colegion San Ignacio, trained teachers at the Catholic University in Santiago, led retreats for young men, and worked in the poor areas of the city whenever he could. In 1941 he wrote Is Chile a Catholic Country?, and became national chaplain to the youth movement Catholic Action. During a retreat in 1944 he started the work that would lead to El Hagar de Cristo which shelters the homeless and tries to rescue abandoned children, and was later modeled somewhat on the American Boys Town movement. In 1947 Father Hurtado founded the Chilean Trade Union Association (ASICH) to promote a Christian labour-union movement. He founded the journal Mensaje, dedicated to explaining the Church's teaching, in 1951. He wrote several works in his later years on trade unions, social humanism and the Christian social order. Source
I am reminded of the idea that in order to accomplish much in this life, one must be completely under God's control. He, alone, can enable us to complete the things we must do with the resources He has given us. It is doubtful that many of the saints, including Fr. Alberto, would have accomplished what they did without God's grace. They availed themselves of what God gives in order that they might give it all back to Him in what they did. Once again, I am challenged because I am lazy and spiritually lethargic. I need to take a lesson from this holy saint and turn to God completely in order to do what He has called me to do.

Saints Terese and Alberto, pray for us!


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