Now is as good a time as any to remind myself that the last couple centuries have not been all doom and gloom; that the saints of the Church are as numerous in the last few hundred years as they were in ancient and medieval times.
Why do I say this? Because I sometimes get pretty down on the state of the Church in the West: all the New Age influence, the diminishment of the priesthood, the undermining of the Church by dissident groups, the forgetting of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the poor theology, and so on. But our age is no different than ages past in that regard: the Church has suffered through much and yet remains. She always will.
With that in mind, I will present some pictures of more recent saints whose lives reflected the light of Christ so intensely.
What is fascinating about the images of modern saints is oftentimes the fact that, with the advent of photography, we can actually see what they really looked like. We can see them outside of religious art and as they really were: imperfect human beings totally in love with God, who gave their lives in service to Him and to their fellow man.
It is a great comfort for me to gaze upon these images. Given my sinful, cynical outlook at times, I can tend towards a kind of despair when I see what the Church is suffering at present. I often begin to wonder where the saints are, why the faith seems to be forgotten left and right, why persecution is rife in the East and indifference growing in the West.
Then I see these pictures, and I have hope. I begin to know, once again, that the Church is alive and well, that the saints are hidden amongst the shadows of the world, toiling in love for the sake of Christ. One day, I think many of my contemporaries around the world will be recognized as 20th and 21st century saints. And many others will follow in centuries to come. The Church shall not be overcome.
Just look upon these pictures! The light of Christ is reflected in every aspect of the image. How can one not take solace in knowing that these men and women existed, and many more like them now exist without us even knowing who they are! I cannot help but be excited. My heart cannot help but throb and glow, knowing that there are saints among us, who meet the struggles and dangers of this age with holy courage and blessed charity. How one can look upon these pictures and not be edified is beyond comprehension!
Though there are modern saints who are very well-known, such as St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Faustina, so many others await the faithful who wish to study lives lived in intense love and fidelity to Christ: St. Clelia Barbieri, Bl. Elizabeth of the Trinity, Bl. Charles de Foucauld, the list goes on and on. For me, it’s tremendously exciting, and in many ways, it keeps me going.
Though I myself cannot hope to reach the same heights as these holy men and women, maybe you can! As for myself, I can always look up to them, for in looking up to the saints, I am looking up to Christ. Their humility, their heroism, love, and self-sacrifice: these are all lived in imitation of our Lord. They are lights that line the Royal Road to the throne of God Himself.
Consider the heavenly voice of St. Clelia, which still resounds in convents of the order of nuns she established; consider the monastic life of St. Charbel; consider the life of self-sacrifice of St. Damien of Molokai; consider all the lives of the saints, and in doing so, you will taste and see the love of God.