Sainthood's so terribly misunderstood. We think of little carved statues or untouchable characters from a dusty book. But if we can't point to a saint around us, we're a pitiful people. More likely, we're just blind. Saints are everywhere, but unfortunately, they're not often where we need them to be . . . in positions of leadership. Don't get me wrong, ordinary saints lead. But we can use a few more in positions of official leadership. Too few of us have desired or required leaders who are saints---women and men of humble virtue. Consequently, we've gotten the kind of leaders we deserve, and we've become the kind of communities we've become.
Thomas Merton, who led us with remarkable wisdom through his pen and his prayers, couldn't see the kind of leadership the twentieth century needed until he was pushed.
As a carousing and ambitious young man walking the streets of New York City, he wondered out loud to friend about his sense of vocation.
His friend told Merton he needed to become a saint.
"A saint?" Merton replied. "But how?"
"By desiring it," said his friend.
And that's what he became.
In the fourteenth century---a century not much different from the one facing us today--the anonymous author of the little book, The Cloud of Unknowing, wrote: "It's not what you are, nor what you have been, that God looks at with his merciful eyes, but what you desire to be."
I'm praying for a new generation of leaders who will desire what we really need, the only thing that will guide us through this tumultuous twenty-first century . . . sainthood . . .in our homes and offices, schools and public places.