21 February 2014

Tolton: An example of hope against despair

When Saint Paul wrote to the early Christians in Corinth, he exhorted them with a brief and profound statement: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1). So closely did the Apostle to the Gentiles imitate the Lord Jesus that he could rightly say, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).  When see in these two sentences that who seeks to imitate the life of Saint Paul will, through imitation, come to imitate Jesus Christ and to become united with him.

This is the theological principle at work whenever Holy Mother Church presents certain lives of the saints to us, whether by means of the liturgical calendar or through another means.  We know that Saint Paul is not only follower of the Lord who imitated him to the point of conformity and so others can make his words their own.  In this way, we can also imitate Christ by imitating them.

In most every area of life we need guides or models to follow to learn the ropes, as it were.  We have teachers and tutors to help us with our academics; we have colleagues who train us in a new position at work; we are friends who teach us new hobbies.  The Christian life is no exception.

His Holiness Benedict XVI explained this aspect of life simply and well in his encyclical Spe salvi (Saved by Hope):
Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ is the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by—people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way (49). 
Each of these lights reflects the light of Jesus Christ, but each one does so with its own subtlety, a point Benedict XVI highlighted in his many catecheses on the saints by concluding them with several things (usually three in number) we can learn to do from each one of their lives.

For this reason, while continually turning our attention to the saints of old, the Church presents new such lights to us and is constantly on the lookout for new lights, as in the person of the Servant of God Father Augustus Tolton.

A picture on my wall in Rome
I mention all of this simply because I read a short ago a little article by Dr. C. Vanessa White in U.S. Catholic that serves as a brief introduction to the life of Father Gus in which she mentions she has learned from him:

His sense of hope in the midst of overwhelming challenges has guided me to “keep on keepin’ on” when despair appears to be knocking at my door.

I know very well what she means.  Because he was also raised in Quincy, studied in Rome, and served in (what is now) the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois - three things I have in common with him - I find myself frequently calling upon his intercession.  I see in Father Tolton what Benedict XVI said about the saints: "The saints were able to make the great journey of human existence in the way that Christ had done before them, because they were brimming with great hope" (Spe salvi, 39).

If you haven't yet found such heavenly light, intercessor, and companion the coming season of Lent would be a perfect time to pick up a book on the lives of the saints.  Spend a few minutes each day reading about one or two of their lives and seeing what you might learn from them better imitate Jesus Christ and so become a light for others.

His sense of hope in the midst of overwhelming challenges has guided me to “keep on keepin’ on” when despair appears to be knocking at my door. - See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201402/augustus-tolton-pioneer-pastor-28450#sthash.tzB0cUuS.dpuf

No comments:

Post a Comment