The Opposition of Saints

One of the most useful things about having tons and tons of named, biographied saints as examples is that they show that following Christ the Way isn’t a lockstep thing. One becomes a saint for peaceful martyrdom, another for defending a kingdom with the blade. One begs for food and lives homeless, another feeds the poor with his inherited money, a third does it by growing food and making homes for others. There are preaching saints and silent saints. There are ignorant saints and bookish saints. There are saints who were good from childhood, and saints who were wicked as sin and repented.

So here we have two popes. One pope was stubborn and Polish and stood his ground, and one was quiet and Bavarian and is leaving when it seemed time. Both had perfect freedom to choose, under God; both chose what they discerned that God wanted from them. They made opposite choices on the surface, but the same choice underneath.

Following Christ is the point that’s not optional. How He leads us can look very different.

Moreover, it’s very often the case that “opposite” Christians become friends, or that God puts them together at the same time and place. Chesterton and Belloc were as different as day and night, except that they both loved Jesus Christ and newspapers. Saints who are brothers and sisters, or in families, often show the same kind of differences in personality and lifepaths that you expect in a family of lively individuals. Always there is a spectrum of holiness that is as variegated as the electromagnetic one, and as beautiful as the rainbow. God created us different to be each holy in our own ways.

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