Saints Like Us (Hebrews 12.1)  

by | Nov 3, 2021 | Formation, Reflections | 4 comments

There’s an instinct to idealize the saints as entirely different from the rest of us, off in another league at some unattainable level of holiness and favor with God. But reading their lives, one comes to realize their histories were filled with episodes of successes and failures, virtues and missteps, times of reaching the goal and times of not.

What makes them different is not primarily that perfect record of innocence and purity, of never straying from the path. Rather, it’s the way they opened themselves to God’s presence and nearness — in their lives of both grace and sin. It’s the extent to which, in their struggles, they called upon God’s assistance, the expansive way they leaned back on a strength coming from beyond them, the degree to which they came to trust in God’s love and care. Anyone familiar with St. Vincent’s story knows of his mountains and valleys; e.g., his struggles against moodiness and the battle he waged to become gentler and more approachable.

Seen from this ledge, the saints can figure more influentially in our lives. They are people who lived with the temptations we all experience, believers who faced hard choices and didn’t always choose rightly. They are not above us but rather walk with us, and can be taken into our everyday lives as companions travelling many of the same roads.

In his imagination, St. Paul pictures them as a wraparound cloud, present to us in the here and now. They witness to the struggles we all face on our path of discipleship. To this imagery Paul adds the scene of a packed sports stadium with we the living down on the playing field and the Holy Ones up in the stands cheering us on. On our side, they are a gathering of friends who want the best for us. Paul’s scenario portrays all of us in it together, those living now and those in eternity.

Each of us knows all too well the ups and downs of living a Gospel life. The saints, canonized and not, walk with us as fellow travelers who know (from the inside) what it is to respond to God’s strengthening presence which streams all through our days and nights.


  1. Rosalie Djgenan

    Father Tom, this selection resonated with me. As one of the players “on the field” I hear the “saints” in the stands cheering me on. Thank you for this encouraging snapshot of the stadium.

    Sr. Rosalie Digenan

    rosalie Digenan

    • Thomas McKenna

      Thanks, Rosalie. Happy to be one of your fellow players on the field!

  2. james E claffey

    Tom, great piece as usual. Another reason St Vincent is so special–as you mention, aware of his shortcomings and challenges, a man like the rest of us. No blue blood here, a red-blooded “normal” guy who became capable of extraordinary things even while continuing to be approachable, engaging and attractive to work with. Thanks for the reminder of the treasure he is.

    • Tom

      Thanks, Claff. Coming from you, it’s a double affirmation of Vincent!

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