It was a sad loss to the church, a grave mistake, when a few stupid people pushed the saints out of the picture. It was a sad mistake when they took them out of the life of the church, but it was even a greater mistake to place them into the niche of supernatural people. What has the church substituted for saints and their glorious triumphant lives? Perhaps respectability, which is not holiness. It usually only means that you have not been found out. And that is exactly what we too often have in our churches - deadly, cold, stiff, starchy respectability, people who have lived sheltered lives, with no need, no poverty. The reason why some of them have not been bad is because they did not have much of an opportunity to be bad, and perhaps no courage to step out of their routine. And that is what a lot of people call religion. Respectability can never be genuine religion. Because it has often been substituted for true sanctity, it has not infrequently taken the life out of the Church.
In place of that smug, cold, soulless respectability we must put the passionate love, first for Jesus, and then for sinners for Jesus' sake. We must have a reckless, supernatural, sacrificial love, supernatural in its vision; supernatural in its power to transform our lives; supernatural in its power to heal the souls of men. Let us get off that pedestal of respectability and fall on our knees and learn to be saints!
No wonder that we have lost our savor. And if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall the church be salted? We need saints. If it helps to have their statues around, let us have them. We have pictures of our loved ones in our homes. Why not the saints? Thus being reminded of them we can realize that men and women, of flesh and blood, have actually lived and have been saints. And then we shall begin to believe once more that what men and women have been and have done for Christ, men and women can be, and can do, today. We can bring the saints to earth again when we realize that the glory, which they now have, began here on earth; their supernatural love began while they lived on earth as men and women.
"Who are these arrayed in white?" The answer is given by John: "These are the saints who have come forth out of great tribulation." The one essential condition in the life of every saint which made it possible for life in heaven to begin on earth was the one thing which we seek so madly to avoid, the one universal fact which faces every single soul on earth - suffering. These are the saints. Not a few angel-faced, spineless people. They were human, of flesh and blood. Very human at times, beaten, wounded, scarred, for saints always bear the stigmata of their Lord. When they were persecuted, what did they do? They returned love, invincible, divine love, purified of self, and in union with their crucified Lord they received their foretaste of heaven. This is the mystery of the Cross. These saints got their divine love on Calvary. That is where you and I must get it.
(*The Presence* pp. 124, 125)