Each morning, bleary-eyed and clutching a large mug of organic green tea, I open my e-mail in box and find a wonderful little resource that gives me a glimpse into the past, encouragement for today, and hope for the future: The "Saint-of-the-Day" e-mail from AmericanCatholic.org. Each day I read of a different Saint and his or her contribution in obedience, faith, and even martyrdom. Each morning I am reminded, as the post below for today reminds me, that we do not walk this pilgrim pathway called the Christian Life alone. Not only do we walk it with our fellow parishoners and Christian friends of our time, but we also follow the same path that the Saints and martyrs and ordinary saints like us walked over the past twenty centuries. In fact, the apostles, through the Word of God, and the saints of the last two thousand years through their writings and the writings of others about them, have marked the path with signposts and warnings, with encouragement and with joy in the midst of unfathomable hardship and persecution.
The fact that I walk this pathway in the company of other believers over the past twenty centuries brings me immeasurable comfort and also the encouragement to keep slogging along the pilgrim way, filled with joy at some times and sorrow at others, but still walking on, no matter what may befall. The U2 song "Walk On" has always encouraged me, as the chorus demonstrates:
I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much...
But walk on.
The saints of the past walked on, right into the glory that was waiting for them when they arrived at the end of their path. And to know that the same glory awaits me when I come to the end of my life enables me to simply "walk on," no matter the effort involved to keep moving toward God.
Here's today's "Saint of the Day" in its entirety -- Saint Fabian, Bishop and Martyr:
January 19, 2008
Fabian was a Roman layman who came into the city from his farm one day as clergy and people were preparing to elect a new pope. Eusebius, a Church historian, says a dove flew in and settled on the head of Fabian. This sign united the votes of clergy and laity and he was chosen unanimously.
He led the Church for 14 years and died a martyr’s death during the persecution of Decius in a.d. 250. St. Cyprian wrote to his successor that Fabian was an “incomparable” man whose glory in death matched the holiness and purity of his life.
In the catacombs of St. Callistus, the stone that covered Fabian’s grave may still be seen, broken into four pieces, bearing the Greek words, “Fabian, bishop, martyr.”
We can go confidently into the future and accept the change that growth demands only if we have firm roots in the past, in a living tradition. A few pieces of stone in Rome are a reminder to us that we are bearers of 20 centuries of a living tradition of faith and courage in living the life of Christ and showing it to the world. We have brothers and sisters who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith,” as the First Eucharistic Prayer puts it, to light the way for us.
“The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertullian).