We canonize Saints because they practice heroic virtue: a Saint does something, or many things, for Christ that someone else might not be called to do. Now, there is the argument that we’re all called to be saints and we’re all called to heroic virtue.
All priests and religious are, in theory, practicing heroic virtue by the nature of their vocations. So are married couples who practice NFP and so are married couples who have lots of kids.
In theory. In practice, we know that we are all flawed human beings.
Priests, monks, nuns, husbands and wives all commit sins against chastity in their respective vocations. Or they may remain chaste but fail in their prayer lives, or they may have problems with anger, or abuse, or some other sin.
The Church is a hospital for sinners. We point out people as Saints because we know they’re the exceptions who do it the way it’s supposed to be done.
Even if they sin, they show they get it for the most part by acts of “heroic virtue.” Heroic virtue is kind of what the letter to the Hebrew means Abraham was justified by faith: Abraham’s trust in God allowed him to perform acts which most people would be afraid to do.
King David was a “man after God’s heart” because he showed heroic virtue, even when he also showed very villainous sin.
St. Gianna Molla is a saint because she refused to have a medical procedure the Church considered morally justifiable. She was not urged to have an abortion. She declined medical treatment which may have possibly hurt her unborn baby. There’s a difference there .
The Orthodox Church has a category of saints known as “passion bearers” saints who, while not martyrs for the Faith, died nobly in a Christian manner, particularly in an act of love. Sts. Nicholas, Alexandra, Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei are all saints in this category.
Now, that’s not to say those who refuse to have abortions despite life-threatening conditions are not also practicing heroic virtue: it’s just a bit more complicated, since they’re praciticing “virtue.” I guess you can say they’re practicing virtue heroically, versus virtue-that-is-heroic.
And St. Wenceslaus is a martyr, even though he defended himself.
But the point is that heroic virtue constitutes a profound witness for the faith, and a profound trust in Providence.
If a man invades my home with a gun, I have a moral right-some would say an obligation-to defend my family against him using whatever weapon I have at my disposal. I could shoot a gun at him. I could throw a knife at him. I could through a heavy object down the stairs and hit him on the head.
I could also grab my family and flee.
Or, I could do something else. I might, like the bishop in Les Miserables, tell him that whatever he came to steal is my gift to him. I might offer him a seat at my table and give him some food.
I might stand in front of him and begin to pray loudly. I might try to talk to him of Jesus, or read the Bible to him.
I don’t have a gun in my house, but I do have two very powerful weapons stored in my kitchen. I could go in the kitchen and get those weeapons–the weapons I wish someone had used on George Tiller before Scott Roeder did his work: holy water and holy salt.
I could pray to the angels to defend my home.
All of those would be, in a spiritual sense, weapons. They would also “heap burning coals on his head,” as the Biblical teaching goes.
It would also not, strictly speaking, be pacifism. Running and hiding would be pacifism. It would rather be spiritual warfare. I would be fighting against the real problem: the demons and the sinful thoughts influencnig the home invader’s soul.
So, as I contemplate issues like waterboarding suspected terrorists and shooting abortionists, I wonder about the death penalty and war in general. I know they are “necessary” from a worldly perspective. And I know that the Church teaches the state has the right to recourse to them.
But they are not necessarily the best ways for a Christian to respond to evil.
I wonder how much better our results would be if we splahsed the Muslim suspects’s foreheads with holy water instead of filling their lungs with unblessed water. What if instead of CIA analysts, we sent in Catholic priests or even Protestant ministers to talk to them about Jesus? What if we left them in empty cells for days on end with nothing to watch, read or listen to but a Bible?
If we wonder why God doesn’t work grand miracles anymore, it’s not just because Jesus “finished the job.” We know that’s not true: the Apostles worked ’em, too. OK, “Death of the Last Apostle.” B ut what of the many great miracles worked by saints, even in the past century?
No, besides the fact that people just ignore them when they happen, miracles dont’ happen because we don’t go out on a limb to show our faith in God. We always hold back.
It wasn’t just Joshua bringing down Jericho by marching the Arch of the Covenant around it. It wasn’t just Gideon bringing down the Midianites with some trumpets and torches.
It was St. Leo the Great sending away the Saracens with a Eucharistic Procession, and St. Clare of Asissi sending away the Moors the same way.
That’s the real way to engage in defensive warfare.