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home : opinion : perspectives

10/27/2016 9:00:00 AM
REFLECTION
Photographs of saints
BY REV. DAVID MICKIEWICZ


Photography has been around for about 200 years -- and so, we have photographs of saints!

No longer do we have to create imagined likenesses, because we have photographs of saintly women and men who lived among us in our time: men and women who lived out holiness from the beginnings of our incredible age of technology, which, regretfully, also gave birth to a century that has experienced so much war, hatred, and violence. Those courageous women and men reached out to the oppressed, the poor and those ostracized from our society because of fear of disease, race or prejudice.

As we contemplate them, they look out at us: real, not sanitized people, with complicated lives like ours.

In light of the racial tensions in our country, St. Katherine Drexel (1858-1955) looks out at us. The American heiress, who bridged the 19th and 20th centuries, addressed the plight among the Afro-American and Native American peoples of our nation.

Polish St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe and German St. Edith Stein, a convert from Judaism, look out at us. Both were martyred at the hands of the Nazis. They not only put us in touch with early Christian martyrs, but with present-day Christians who are being persecuted and martyred in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and even -- in Rouen, France -- Rev. Jacques Hamel.

"Blessed are they when they insult you and persecute you."

New Yorker St. Marianne Cope of Syracuse assisted the Belgian St. Damien de Veuster in caring for the lepers of Molokai, Hawaii. In the age of AIDS, how many of us have responded with fear and judgment to people whose illnesses frighten us? St. Marianne and St. Damien's gaze challenges us.

The Haitian slave St. Pierre Toussaint (whose name actually translates as "All Saints") and the Sudanese slave St. Josephine Bakhita remind us that Christianity acknowledges the dignity of the human being, as the world struggles with human trafficking, slave trade and child sex industry and labor.

These darker-skinned individuals confront us with the many people who continue to be enslaved by race, bigotry and prejudice. Their eyes mingle the sadness and pain of slaves with the hope of a renewed future for humanity.

The joy-filled eyes of Albanian St. Teresa of Kolkata are always reminding us that the poor and the outcast are Christ in our midst.

"Blessed are those who show mercy."

In a world that experiences so much injustice, Mexican Miguel Pro, Salvadoran Oscar Romero and Polish Jerzy Popieluszko -- all now beatified -- were martyred for justice's sake. Their eyes reflect their prayers of forgiveness for their murderers.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness."

The gentle look of the poor in spirit is given to us in St. Therese of Lisieux; monastic St. Andre Bessette, who was a doorkeeper, sacristan and laundry worker; St. Padre Pio, a mystic who lived most of his life in poor health; and St. Faustina Kowalska, a visionary of Christ's mercy.

From photographs, they look out at us from the not-so-distant past. Their eyes reflect that holiness in this century is grounded in standing with and advocating for those people who are poor, persecuted and suffering injustice.

We can look into their eyes, which are filled with hope -- hope, in a century that has known so much suffering and pain. Into that pain and suffering, these men and women brought Christ.

What do your eyes reflect to the world?

(Father Mickiewicz is pastor of St. Mary's parish in Oneonta.)





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