Mental shift

Manage your mind and you can manage your life

There’s a saint in each one of us

Posted by jytmkh on October 17, 2008

Sister Alphonsa, a native of Kerala, has recently been canonised by the Vatican.

Canonisation did not make her a saint, she was already a saintly lady. It means that she is allowed to be publicly celebrated in the Christian ceremony of liturgy. For every Sister Alphonsa, there are many more holy persons who have not been recognised by the Church, but they are no less admirable for that.

Saint Alphonsa had a difficult life full of suffering, but she never complained. She lost her mother as a baby and was brought up by a harsh and violent aunt. She burnt her feet as a youth, becoming deformed. She suffered many illnesses, and died at a young age of 36 with an agonising tumour. Yet she was not bitter at her misfortunes, but charitable to those in need. Although dedicated to the Christian god, she made genuine friendships with peers of other religions. Whilst in wretched pain, she offered hope of healing to people suffering around her.

As a young trainee nun (a postulant) she wrote in her diary: “I want to be careful never to reject anyone. I will only speak sweet words to others. No matter what my sufferings may be, I will never complain.” These beautiful sentiments are ideal for a harmonious life.

Christians believe that after death, a person’s soul continues to live, either in heaven (for a good person) or hell (for a bad one). Canonisation is the Pope’s recognition that Saint Alphonsa is living in heaven. Yet compassion and goodness is respected by all religions. A saint-like person bears witness to her faith by honouring both gods and fellowmen. In their respect they allow people to live as they would like, acknowledging that happiness is a goal for everybody. Love is the ghee in the frying pan of society, making life more palatable.

Even the ordinary person can perform small miracles in his own life. It’s easy to forget how much you love each other when you are tired, or sick, or in a bad mood. It seems only natural to snap and growl when we don’t feel good. But that only increases our problems, because now we have our aches and a sore family.

Take, for example, the neighbour’s family. The father has a reputation for welcoming newcomers to the block, showing a ready smile whatever caste or creed they are. Offering advice and help, he becomes a good friend to all who need one. The grandmother ages gracefully, smiling and not complaining, so garners sympathy and caring. People are pleased to help her out, because her feebleness does not make her disagreeable.

Joy, love and charity are balm to the spirit, allowing people to live happily together. This is true of religious communities as within a family ^ which are so often set at each other’s throats by hatred. If we love each other, we cannot kill or maim. We cannot incite others to do the same. If we find joy in ordinary and simple things, we would not seek to seize the power of life and death over others. Nor would we lust after moving great crowds of people to our will.

If we are charitable, we deserve charity in return, but more than that it will enrich our soul. Those who give away the most are the wealthiest among us. Saint-like people help in their own everyday way to bind together families and communities. We cherish the small saints that we meet, and every group has their fair share of these precious people. The writings of Saint Alphonsa offer us a glimpse of what it means to be saintly, and how we can all aspire to these human ideals.


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