What Are We For?


“If you never learn to pray and so to become one with God and the world, then, indeed, you may live completely enclosed in your isolation, in this sense also that when you die you will leave no legacy, your life and your death will have made no more difference than the falling of a dead leaf to the ground. But the saint, not by what he does so much as by what he is, transfigures the world; and even when he dies, his life and power remain with those who come after. Here and now we enjoy the addition of life that the saints have brought us, just as we reap the whirlwind which the sinners have sown. The most secret saint in his hermitage has more power than the tyrant who can change for a time the face of the world…


“What we are we owe largely to others; and we, in our turn, can determine largely what others will be; and the long process of receiving life and giving it goes on endlessly; so that if you today are a saint, the holiness of others in a thousand years’ time may be due to you. If you are a saint, your personality will never touch the lives of others without influencing them; by what you are you can reveal reality to them, or at least revive the thirst for reality which was dried up in them. They say of St. Dominic that he spoke only to God or of God; and do you think, then, that he was always preaching? Not at all; but if you are a saint you can talk of philosophy or science, of nature and art, of great things or small things, the making of kingdoms or the humble things and events of home, and always the breath of the Spirit will be on your lips and your words will carry like an unspoken blessing the scent of the winds that blow from the eternal hills…


“Have I spoken too much of the life of making, of the joy of making, and forgotten the unhappy, the loveless, the derelict? But you, if you are making the Church, it is what you are for: to see that none are left without love and happiness, none are lonely. It is what you are for: ‘to visit the fatherless and widows in their tribulation.’ It is what you are for: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to harbor the harborless…Yes, there are some for whom the life of loving and making may mean only a treasure that was snatched from them, or a treasure that was never theirs; but it is what you are for: to show them that, if they live in the Church, they live in love and will be makers — will make more by humility and simple prayer and patience than by living in high places. Yes, we know that the company of Christians is a company of sinners as well as of saints; we know that we go far from the ‘well of living water,’ and cause many evils to come upon us; we know that because divinity is held in human hands, there is stupidity and ignorance and intolerance, sometimes there is much to be suffered, and sometimes there is much to give us shame; but we know that all this is ultimately unimportant compared with the charity of Christ, we know that all this is not the substance of the Church’s life, we know that the substance of the Church’s life is in the cry of St. Paul, that ‘neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor things present nor things to come nor might nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’” (Fr. Gerald Vann, The Heart of Man, ch. 8)

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