In today’s readings in our liturgy from the Book of Sirach, the kindly Jewish father and grandfather offers advice on what people to follow, who are examples showing us how to live? He picks saints over celebrities. Some are remembered by society, some are not.
For 6 chapters (44-50) Sirach cites names celebrated in Jewish history, from Adam to Nehemiah “who rebuilt our ruined walls.” They gave themselves to building up the people of Israel; they’re not just people in the news. They helped others and their nation achieve something. For Sirach they’re Israel’s litany of saints. He tells those who come after him to follow them.
Good advice for us too. In a society today obsessed with celebrities we need to study and follow the saints. Our church calendar offers a selection of them on certain days of the year, some recognized the world over, like Mary, the Mother of Jesus, the apostles, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Theresa of Avila. They teach us how to live and are examples to follow.
There are saints and blessed men and women from our own countries who guide us too. Here in America, we have saints like St. Elizabeth Seton, St. Elizabeth Cabrini, St. John Neumann, Dorothy Day, the North American martyrs, to name of few.
What’s more, the saints to follow may not be formally recognized, the Book of Sirach notes. They’re saints we know and live with. Like Sirach, Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation “Gaudete et exultate” calls attention to ordinary holiness in our world found in “the saints next door”: “Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.” (3)
Ordinary men and women we’ve known, the “saints next door”, guide and support us through life. God’s wisdom and grace is given through them. They’re there and they’re never mentioned in the media.