They aren’t angels, our loved ones in Heaven. They’re saints. Humans don’t become angels, contrary to popular misconception.
Only a tiny, tiny percentage of those who become saints are canonized by the Church. The rest are like my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and dear mentors. They never wrote books, never founded religious orders. Didn’t come up with a new way of living the gospel. Didn’t have supernatural gifts like bilocation or the stigmata…
Instead most married, had children, worked long hard hours, suffered greatly in silence, prayed devoutly, struggled with sin, struggled with life, laughed, cried, fought, and forgave. Their lives were utterly unremarkable by any of the rock star standards the canonized saints have demonstrated. But unlike the rock star saints who have feast days and statues, who lived lives in religious communities most of us can’t relate to, these saints left us a greater example, and a simple little way that is in many ways even simpler than the Little Flower’s Little Way.
They showed us the holiness of the ordinary, the mundane. They showed us how little offerings of time and effort made meals that brought the family together in food and fellowship, providing the time and space that created family. They were for me, for so many of us a daily, physical reminder of God’s love and care, of His presence and graciousness.
I often hear priests and deacons groan at eulogies where people talk of grandma’s lasagna, as though that has nothing to do with the Christian life or holiness. It’s how these mothers and grandmothers worked out their salvation, one loving layer at a time. God with us.
Gerard M. Nadal is the president of the Coalition on Abortion/Breast Cancer. He’s a member of the American Society for Microbiology and other scientific organizations and has taught microbiology and related subjects at St. John’s University and Manhattan College.