The saints are not superhuman, nor are they born perfect. Before reaching the glory of heaven, they were people who lived normal lives, and as Francis said in 2013 at his first All Saints’ Day as pontiff, with their joys and sorrows, and their labors and hopes. So much for that, for this is especially true for the saints and blessed women of this papacy.
If it can be said the current Pontiff has a “policy” of female holiness, we find it in the full humanity of the women proposed for the altars, a sanctity of the one next door.
In the past, as is well known, in addition to being figures of devotion, the blessed and the saints were also instruments for strengthening the identity (and power) of communities and populations. Their virtues have been depicted through images and iconographic symbols that have not been chosen by chance. For example, the many depictions of lilies to illustrate morality and purity, the many red roses as a symbol of charity that can lead to martyrdom; and, swords to indicate a life at the service of faith.
Contemporary saints seem to trace new paths. Today, they are not heroes or figures who have been beatified after abundant bequests from wealthy families; in fact, their holiness is not functional to power.
Instead, they are normal women, who may have had a secular or consecrated life; they might have decided to work, or study, have been wives, mothers, committed themselves to their communities, to the Church or civil life. They may have been mystics or women immersed in everyday life, which was sometimes a hard lot. In addition, and not infrequently, among their virtues we find a sense of humor.
Today, it is important to recognize that women’s holiness is expressed through other forms. It is significant that the model of Church these women suggest is first and foremost that of a just church.
The interventions in this issue are dedicated to the women who have been beatified and canonized since Francis’ ascension to the throne of Peter. In many of them, mention is made of Gaudete et exsultate, the apostolic exhortation on the call to holiness in the contemporary world. It is with such an exultation that the Pontiff emphasizes that today one becomes holy by living the Beatitudes; thus by living against the tide.
“Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, give justice to the orphan, defend the cause of the widow”: Francis says quoting Isaiah. Women, who have said it always, are on the front lines of these frontiers. (DCM)