Saints, big and small

Tradition has too many heros of the faith to pick just one. It’s a  community who inspires today’s guest blogger on the saints.

By guest blogger Joan Kreb

In my growing-up-years saints were fantasy beings, certainly incapable of inspiring a 20th century city girl to emulation.  So, as young woman I was enthralled to bump into St. Paul in Acts and in his letters to people in various communities.  Here was a guy with a conviction, who, when he got knocked off his high horse, made a complete 180.  Reading signs of his times and submitting to the influence of the Holy Spirit, in collaboration with other Apostles he became responsible for the first People of God movement.  It was in one of his non-Jew communities the title “Christian” was originally coined. 

When I discovered St. Paul, church meant everything to my spiritual life as did being “missionary,” which turned out to be out of reach for me.  The example of St. Paul, though, melded to Jesus’ proclamation in John, “I am the vine; you are the branches,” to became my life mission as an educator.  

Those who make a difference for me are those whose influence continues after their death.  In the 1960s my philosophy mentor gave me an assignment that caused me to encounter Simone Weil, one of the few known women philosophers of the time. She opened me to radically new views. She affected the very manner in which I thought and continue think.  Deduction no longer is paramount; paradox is.  Her declared method exerted an identical influence: “Waiting in patience” where patience is not passive but very active, much like the antennae of a resting critter ready to pounce when the time is right. Simone Weil continues to consciously inform much of my life’s outlook and approach.    

There are still others who affect my life, and I turn to each often:  John XXIII because he surprised everyone by devising a way to turn the church’s attention ad extra, thus emphasizing the importance of context, milieu in spirituality; Teilhard de Chardin, St. Francis of Assisi, and Judy Cannato, who died from cancer in 2011, each emphasized unity in creation and God’s call to us from within it; Oscar Romero because he’s a modern day St. Paul, his spirit animates his people and those of us in solidarity;  Dorothy Soelle because she emphasizes the identity of the ordinary and the spiritual, and also mysticism and resistance are essentials in 21st century Christianity; My mom and dad who together inspire me daily with their integrity, creative and practical intelligence and humor. 

Long ago when teaching I wanted young people to see personal sainthood as relevant instead as  the “impossible dream” as I had.  We (the 11-year olds and I) did a lot of thinking and talking about Communion of Saints. Finally we agreed with delight that yes, we are all capable of being saints with a small “s.” I still live with the conviction and pleasure we felt that day; I hope they do too.

Joan Kreb is an Associate CSJ.

For the month of November we’re celebrating all the church’s saints–both official and unofficial–with blog submissions from readers and contributors on their favorite saints. Send in your own 500-600 word submission to

Guest blog posts express the views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of U.S. Catholic, its editors, or the Claretians.