Events of the past few weeks have provided inspiring illustrations of how Catholics in the Diocese of Salt Lake City live out their faith.
During the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women’s annual Women of the Year banquet on April 28, the room was full of examples of everyday sainthood, as Pope Francis defines it in his recent exhortation “Gaudete et Exsultate.”
The women honored at the banquet were all exceptional, but I would wager that most of the others in the room also spend countless hours dedicated to our local Church. They tend to the priests who fall ill, arrange funeral lunches, organize fundraisers, clean the church and wash the altar linens, serve as ushers and greeters and lectors and Extraordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist, teach religious education, lead or participate in the music ministry, visit the sick and homebound. I looked around the room and realized that our parishes could not function without these women who are quietly holy, “working for the common good and renouncing personal gain,” as Pope Francis states.
The weekend following the DCCW banquet I attended a similar event hosted by the Utah Knights of Columbus. There, too, example followed example: men who organize Sunday Celebrations in the Absence of a Priest; who stepped up to provide the annual bowling tournament for Special Olympic athletes when it was canceled by the organization that traditionally had sponsored it; who raised funds to reduce the parish debt; who provided household appliances, clothing and other gifts for an immigrant family of seven who didn’t qualify for refugee programs; who conduct a parish Easter Egg Hunt that has more than 800 participants; who raise funds to support the diocesan Culture of Life efforts. That evening too I looked around the room and wondered what we in the local Church would do without these men.
Then again there are our priests, three of whom are highlighted in this issue of the Intermountain Catholic: Fr. Charles Cummins celebrated the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination this year, Fr. Javier Virgen has been a priest for 25 years and Fr. James Blaine, who was ordained in 1977, just retired. The Church cannot exist without her priests, who offer most importantly the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but also comfort the afflicted, advise the wayward, encourage the doubtful and lead us in the Way.
Faced with these amazing examples of everyday holiness, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of inadequacy, because I do so little for our Church, and that oftentimes is given only grudgingly, without the joy that the Gospel calls for. But here too Pope Francis offers encouragement. In a section of his exhortation with the subtitle “an often overlooked Church teaching,” the Holy Father points out that “The Church has repeatedly taught that we are justified not by our own works or efforts, but by the grace of the Lord, who always takes the initiative.”
In that same section, Pope Francis paraphrases a quote by Saint John Chrysostom to the effect that “God pours into us the very source of all his gifts even before we enter into battle.” While searching for the complete quote, I stumbled upon this one from the golden-mouthed saint: “When you are weary of praying and do not receive, consider how often you heard a poor man calling, and have not listened to him.”
Here we have the paradox of trying to live a life of faith in the modern world: We, who are without merit, are given all we need, but too often instead of acting as Christ would wish us to, we out of selfishness or laziness withhold what we could offer to others. In these cases, too, we are provided for, through the encouragement of the examples of our fellow pilgrims, through the words of our spiritual leaders and inspiration from the saints.
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic.