A few weeks ago, Deacon Phil Lawson commented that when the Church confronts great challenges, God supplies us with great saints.
As we are aware the Church faces such great challenges right now in the Covid-19 pandemic. Those challenges extend throughout the world, including here in Vermont. We can be confident that God will bring forth saints to assure us of God’s continued presence and love, but they will also inspire us by their example to find our way to heaven. The Covid-19 pandemic is superimposed on the background of a continuing crisis in faith brought about by the tyranny of relativism and specifically moral relativism.
We do not know who the saints from this time will be. Given the challenges before us we have a good indication of some of the attributes, some of the virtues they will show.
First, they will be people of faith, of hope and of charity. These are three essential virtues that need to grow within our Church and in the broader culture.
The saints arising from this point in time will also be agents of peace, of justice, of patience and of humility. They will be imbued with the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit. They will practice these virtues heroically.
Some of the saints from our time will be the healthcare personnel selflessly caring for those suffering from the Covid-19 infections. One might think of the heroic St. Damien De Veuster who cared for those suffering with leprosy in Molokai. Some of our saints will confront evil in our times just as St. Maximilian Kolbe confronted Nazi oppression, and ultimately offered his life to save another prisoner at Auschwitz. Some may be teachers sacrificing their time patiently to ensure that their students still receive the education they need and deserve despite the Covid-19 outbreak. Others will be the prayerful, contemplative and reflective who guide our thinking, such as St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), who had been a nurse working in infectious disease and a teacher prior to entering the Carmelite order.
Finally, some will be like a young Karol Józef Wojtyła who, formed by his experience of oppression by Nazi and Communist regimes, became a priest, philosopher, teacher and minister to young adults, a cardinal and ultimately Pope John Paul II and had an extraordinary positive influence on the Church and on society.
We could also identify Blessed Nicholas Conrad (Mykola Kondrad), a Ukrainian Catholic priest tortured and executed by agents of the Soviet government after visiting a sick woman who requested the sacraments.
There are probably some saints among us here in Vermont – some healthcare professionals, teachers or priests or those in other vocations and professions. One day, some may be canonized formally by the Church for work done during the pandemic. But others will receive the canonization that really matters, from God himself.
—Deacon Pete Gummere lives in St. Johnsbury and serves at Corpus Christi Parish. He is a bioethicist and director of the diaconate for the Diocese of Burlington.