21 January 2008

Longing for the Saints

In his book The Presence, Pr. Berthold von Schenk has some pretty interesting, and insightful, things to say on the communion of saints. If I didn't know better, I'd think that he were writing today, in 2008, not "way back" in 1945! I guess some things just don't change that quickly after all! :-)

Pr. von Schenk begins by saying that "the connecting link between Heaven and earth is the Holy Communion.... It is the ladder by which the risen, ascended Saviour comes down to us" (p. 123). Then he discusses the saints, first by clarifying that they were not some kind of spiritual supermen or wonder women [my phrase], but rather people who were tempted and who struggled and suffered just as we do.

Then von Schenk says, "It was a sad loss to the church, a grave mistake, when a few stupid people pushed the saints out of the picture. It was a sad mistake when they took them out of the life of the church, but it was even a greater mistake to place them into the niche of supernatural people. What has the church substituted for the saints and their glorious triumphant lives? Perhaps respectability, which is not holiness" (p. 124).

After critiquing such "respectability" in the church, von Schenk continues to lobby for the usefulness of the saints in the life of the church: "In place of that smug, cold, soulless respectability we must put the passionate love, first for Jesus, and then for sinners for Jesus' sake. We must have a reckless, supernatural, sacrificial love, supernatural in its vision; supernatural in its power to transform our lives; supernatural in its power to heal the souls of men. Let us get off that pedestal of respectability and fall on our knees and learn to be saints!" (p. 125).

I think von Schenk may be on to something here. Instead of groping for respectability in the eyes of the world and/or people around us (even respectability measured by mere numbers or even mere increasing numbers!), let's learn to be saints - those who live only by the grace and mercy of our God and Savior Jesus Christ, those who learn to love Him and the people around them with a sacrificial love, and, yes, those who even suffer trials, temptations, and even death for the sake of confessing Christ crucified and risen. As von Schenk also says, "The saint has only one motive. This motive is the love of Jesus guiding and dominating everything he does or says. It is not his life, but Christ's life" (p. 126).

And I just cannot resist including this snippet from The Presence. It really puts things in perspective. We don't need more humanly derived notions, plans, and programs to save the church! We need the divine Love, the Calvary Love, the very love that sparked and warmed the saints, the very love that unites us with them. Here's von Schenk's juicy little morsel:
"What men have done men can do again. The world needs saints; men who will free themselves of self, who love with the divine love. Church leaders are looking for [something] to save a declining Church. They start all sorts of campaigns, drives, calls of the Cross. And while the Church is deliberating, men's hearts are aching, are hungering for the supernatural, for saints, for glimpses of heaven, for romance. Conferences, synods, arguments, eloquence, committees, campaigns are merely stopping leaks in a weak dam. The world needs saints; it needs the mad vision of saints, which alone can keep us sane, the supernatural vision which will turn the world, which is upside down, back to where God wants it. The saints are not mere figures in history; they speak today. They are part of the Church, the mystical Body of Christ. Certainly the Body of Christ cannot be divided. Death cannot separate the members of the Body of Christ, the Church. The Church on earth knows of no separation from the Church beyond the grave. What is this bond of union? Why, the Communion. At the Altar we link ourselves with the saints. Here we are caught up with them. The Blessed Sacrament is the link which binds us to our risen and ascended Lord, and the whole company of Heaven. Here at the Altar I get a glimpse of the saints. Here I am united with them, and here heaven is made real to me as my faith is nourished" (pp. 126-127, emphasis original).


  1. I absolutely love that whole section of The Presence. Thanks for reminding me of it - makes me want to read the whole thing one more time, and right now. :)

  2. Enjoy the reread! I have been. In fact just finished my reread. The first time was with a copy borrowed from the library; the second time now with the copy I found online, which I got to highlight for all of these great quotes and sections. :-)