The Belfast-born writer and theologian C.S. Lewis once opined on the saints who live amongst us. “Already the new men are dotted here and there all over the earth,” he wrote.
“Some, as I have admitted, are still hardly recognisable: but others can be recognised. Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant…they do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less,” he added.
Probably we all know such people in our lives, I know I certainly do. Individuals who live their faith in such a way that they make me a better person. Not in a preachy or judgemental way, but in the sense of being a signpost towards God.
We all need such pointers. Christianity lived in an individualistic way will very quickly die and turn in to a vague form of wellness with a smattering of morality about being nice to one another. To understand the faith as a way of life, one needs the dimension of community.
We also need examples of those who have gone before us and shown how the Christian virtues can be lived heroically, even in the midst of great adversity.
The news this week that 15-year-old schoolboy Carlo Acutis is to be beatified in the autumn will be welcome for many young people”
This is acutely true in a post-Christian society where we live out our faith in an environment where the dominant culture is at best indifferent.
This is why the Church has always proposed the saints to us as witnesses to the Gospel in the midst of everyday life. The saints are not superhuman, or being who exist on an angelic plain – they are men and women who because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit are able to live the Faith in an extraordinary fashion.
The news this week that 15-year-old schoolboy Carlo Acutis is to be beatified in the autumn will be welcome for many young people (see Pages 14 and 15). To see one of their contemporaries held up as a model of holiness shows that living such a life not an unrealistic ideal, but something that is possible with the help of God.
As C.S. Lewis puts it: “To become holy is rather like joining a secret society. To put it at the very lowest, it must be great fun!”