My love affair with mystical saints began when I was a little girl, and I’m still drawn to their reckless abandon, blessed foolishness, and sheer audacity to win God’s heart. I used to romanticize these holy men and women, but now I recognize not only their resiliency, but also their potential to radically alter our lives.
Saints like St. Rose of Lima, who wore a silver crown studded with thorns, or St. Pio of Pietrelcina, who bore the wounds of Christ, are often scorned for their fanaticism. Most teenagers think of a party drug when they hear the word “ecstasy,” not St. Teresa of Avila levitating after receiving the Eucharist.
The message of our society is loud — buy this, distract yourself with that, look at her, work harder — but the message of the saints is louder. The message of consumerism is fleeting, but the message of the saints is timeless.
Unfortunately, those of us in our twenties and thirties grew up in the swirl of rapidly increasing technology, globalization, terrorism, materialism … and this caused an innate restlessness. It’s not shocking, then, that most of our résumés resemble treasure hunts; but what is it we are looking for?
After receiving that coveted piece of paper — Bachelor of Arts in Sociology! Happiness Awaits! — I languished in a corporate job, dreaming of some life that evoked The Song of Bernadette and Jesus Christ Superstar. It wasn’t long before I moved to an organic commune in Virginia, only to discover that utopia didn’t exist. Or … did it? So I moved to the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, basically a Catholic commune, and lived in solidarity with the homeless of Skid Row. After a couple of years, I set off to the mountains of Colorado, studying poetry at a hippie university founded by Allen Ginsberg (a genuine hippie) and a Buddhist abbot (surprisingly, also a genuine hippie). At this point, my wanderlust clearly wasn’t lusty enough, so I moved all the way to Korea for a teaching position and the exploration of Buddhism. Nearly two years an expat and the tug of the Catholic Worker pulled me back to the States, this time on the other side of the country, in New York City. Now I find myself full circle, back in the Midwest, interning at the National Catholic Reporter (a 31-year-old intern!) in Kansas City, Missouri.
Look at that. Does your journey in life seem similar? Such disquiet, right?
Turning to my beloved ones, those holy men and women whom the Church gives to all of us, I asked, How do I calm this life down? And they whispered, Re-focus. See God in everything.
So I chose to live in a blighted neighborhood, with beautiful old houses and urban gardens and potential shimmering everywhere. I started riding a bike to work. I’ve planted indoor tomatoes, strawberries and herbs. I’m eating organic. I’ve given up meat. I only buy clothes secondhand, and everything else, if possible. There’s no TV in the house, but there are lots of books, a record player, and art covering the walls.
Can I view my life, and the life of this planet, through the eyes of those saints who pushed themselves to the limit, not for money or recognition, but for God? Can our generation take the hipster trend and turn in into a viable lifestyle, one where we will learn to plant our own food if we can’t afford Whole Foods?
I’d like to share my trials and triumphs with you as I attempt to clarify my twenty-something ideology to a thirty-something lifestyle, a daily contemplation of how I can focus on God by re-focusing my choices. Suggestions, and your stories, are most welcome!