In a recent weekly address from Pope Francis, the pope said, “Today the Lord invites us to assume an attitude of humble listening and docile waiting, because the grace of God often presents itself to us in surprising ways, which don’t line up with our expectations.”
Let us explore some of the ways that the saints (and a few future named saints) have listened to God and allowed God to work through them, allowing them to do surprising things for the good of everyone, beyond their wildest expectations!
St. Teresa of Calcutta
Jesus gave her a call within a call, in that after St. Teresa took her vows and became a teacher and principal at St. Mary’s school for the girls, she felt Jesus’ thirst for love and for souls. She went on to create the new congregation of Missionaries of Charity, where this “little woman’s” profound love moved by Jesus brought her to the poorest of the poor, and allowed her and her sisters to show Jesus’ love to those in most need of it.
Just looking at the background of where our first pope came from, it was an extraordinary journey. He was a fisherman with little education. He would have known the Faith but would not have studied scripture as the priests and scribes would have. Jesus called what those of the time would have considered ‘surprising’ because they didn’t fit the mold of “holy” and “righteous.” Peter recognized Jesus upon meeting him, saying “Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.” He was the first to call Jesus the Son of God, and he is also the one that denied knowing Jesus before the crucifixion. What is most surprising about the extraordinary work that the Lord did with Peter is what happened after the apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room. This man who hid immediately went out and preached the Gospel. He finally became the man Jesus called him to be.
St. Joan of Arc
St. Joan was born in France and as a little girl, she heard the voices of St. Michael, St. Catherine and St. Margaret. At 13, she was given the message to drive the English from French territory and to bring Dauphin to Reims for his coronation. When she was 16, she went to the garrison commander and asked to visit the French Royal Court. You can only imagine how that went (or didn’t)! She didn’t give up (although she confided that she would rather be home) and ultimately, guided the French army to victory against the English. Ultimately, she was captured, put on unjust trial, and burned.
Although he is one of the most popular saints, our stories of him are mainly of tradition. Christopher is thought to be very tall, and may have even been what can be called a giant. He decided he wanted to serve the greatest king, and searched for the local ruler to follow when he noticed the cross. He incorrectly thought the devil was stronger (for ‘defeating’ Christ), and joined a band of thieves who’s leader referred himself as the Devil. But, when this leader avoided a cross out of fear, Christopher realized there was someone even more powerful than the devil.
St. Christopher tried to find something that would make Christ happy, and it was suggested he help travelers pass through a river. One day, Christopher carried a child across, and as he got to the middle of the river, the child became extremely heavy. He asked the child why he was so heavy, and the child explained that he was the Christ and while he carried him, he also carried the weight of the whole world on his shoulders. He then vanished. St. Christopher was ultimately beheaded for refusing to offer sacrifice to the emperor.
Fr. Edward Flanagan
Born in Ireland, he came to America in 1904. He became a priest and served in the Diocese of Omaha in Nebraska. He worked with homeless men and there recognized a great need for abused and neglected boys. He opened Father Flanagan’s Boys’ Home in 1917 and accepted all boys, no matter what their race or what they had done. He is quoted, “The work will continue, you see, whether I am there or not, because it is God’s work, not mine.” After WWII, he traveled to German and Japan to lay the groundwork to take care of the thousands of orphaned by the war. He died in 1948. Today, Boys and Girls Town is internationally known. Pray for his sainthood.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
One of the greatest American evangelizers, he was born in El Paso, Illinois, in 1895 to a farmer and his wife. A ‘cradle Catholic’, he was ordained in 1919 and continued to study, preach and teach at The Catholic University of America. Even then, crowds would gather just to hear his lectures. As his popularity grew, Sheen was invited to broadcast a series of Lenten sermons in 1926 in New York. This grew into him being asked to be a weekly speaker on The Catholic Hour radio program from 1930-1950. On Easter Sunday, March 24, 1940, Monsignor Sheen appeared on world’s the first broadcast of a Catholic religious service. In 1951, he began his famous television series, Life is Worth Living, for which he won an Emmy for Most Outstanding Television Personality and featured on the cover of Time Magazine. He also attended all the sessions of the Second Vatican Council and worked closely with Fr. Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI). He died in 1979. Pray for his sainthood.
Yes, you too can do anything that these men and women did, and even more, through the power and might of God! A favorite priest of mine often said, “God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” Everything you do in the name of God, or for his Honor and Glory, is extraordinary. Don’t feel like you have to save every child from poverty or preach to millions, but how about saving one child or bringing one person to God. God uses everyone, from those who believed a little girl was having visions to those who influenced and taught the greatest preachers. Ask God in prayer and listen for His answer. We all play a part in God’s Plan, no matter how large or how small, and we too will be surprised by the work God can do through you.