(Today is the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. I am taking this opportunity to rerun this post from All Saints Day 2009.)
Today we celebrate all the saints who now dwell in perfect bliss before the Beatific Vision, seeing God face to face. All the saints love God and love their neighbor, but other than that they have little in common. We have saints who lived lives of quiet meditation, and there are saints who were ever in the midst of human tumult. Some saints have easy paths to God; others have gained their crowns at the last moment, an act of supreme love redeeming a wasted life. Many saints have been heroic, a few have been timid. We number among the saints some of the greatest intellects of mankind, while we also venerate saints who never learned to read. We have saints with sunny dispositions, and some who were usually grouchy. Saints who attained great renown in their lives and saints who were obscure in life and remain obscure after death, except to God. Among such a panoply of humanity we can draw endless inspiration for our own attempts to serve God and our neighbors. For me, one saint has always stood out as a man with a deep meaning for this period of history we inhabit: Saint Maximilian Kolbe. Why?
At one of the blogs I read regularly, Neo-Neocon, the proprietress has an excellent story highlighting the praise of Mathew Parris, a British atheist and writer, for the work of missionaries in Africa and the enormous positive spiritual changes which frequently occur in their converts. I have long thought that the good work performed by missionaries around the globe, but especially in Africa, was the major overlooked story of the last century. If I had to pick one development of the past century that will still be having a major impact a millennium hence, I would pick the fact that Africa is becoming a Christian continent. As much of Europe is forgetting the Faith, and too many Americans are cold and indifferent, the message of Christ is meeting with cries of joy throughout Africa. Perhaps some day Christian missionaries from Africa will light the fire of faith again in “darkest” Europe.