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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Catholicity of the Saints

cath·o·lic·i·ty
n.
1. The condition or quality of being catholic; breadth or inclusiveness.
2. General application or acceptance; universality.
3. Catholicity Roman Catholicism.


Theologian, Jesuit, and Cardinal Anthony Dulles formulated and illumined the notion of the Catholicity of Saints brilliantly in his 1985 book “The Catholicity of The Church.”
Hardly any practice is so distinctively Catholic as the cult of the saints. The Catholic esteems the saints as living embodiments of the gospel and archetypal instances of it's transforming power... Christ's 'being for others' takes root in them. The merits of the saints, though they serve to build up the Church, are not directed only to the Church as a closed community. The Church would not be Catholic if it were simply a mutual aid society based on mutual interest. Its catholicity it to be open without restriction. The saints are those in whom Christ's totally selfless love is present and operative. (Dulles Chapter 5).
What is written here is both succinct and accurate. Saints are venerated, or honored, by practitioners of the Church because of the holiness they exhibited by them through thought and deed. The veneration we have for the saints is different than the adoration associated with God, though those who are not familiar with the faith can find this confusing.

One of the Saints held in most high regard is Saint Francis of Assisi. His life, and subsequent death has influenced people since the 13th century. His example has lead to the formation of the Franciscan order, more recently he has become the namesake for Jorge Mario Bergoglio (the 266th pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church), and art and literature beyond measure. Saint Francis was an ordinary Italian man from the small city of Assisi. He lead the stereotypical life of a young wealthy merchant's son. After a brief stint in the army Francis had a vision. In his vision a crucified Christ appeared and said "Francis, Francis, go and repair My house which, as you can see, is falling into ruins." This vision combined with a life changing sermon in which he heard a reading from Matthew saying:
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave (New Oxford Annotated Bible With The Apocrypha. Matt. 10:6-12).
Francis took these words and vowed to live by them. He gave up all the worldly trappings of wealth, and made it his mission to help those less fortunate than he. He would strive to commit good deeds, and to adhere to a lifestyle of poverty and charity. He was determined  to be a living testament to the life and works of Jesus Christ. Much like Christ upon which the Church is founded, he selflessly gave to all, man and animal alike. His love was universal, and therefore Catholic.

Source: 

Dulles, Avery. The Catholicity of The Church. Oxford Scholarship Online/Oxford University Press, 2003. Chapter 5. eBook. <http://www.oxfordscholarship.com/view/10.1093/0198266952.001.0001/acprof-9780198266952-chapter-5>.


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