In the year of the Jubilee Pope John Paul II called the WYD pilgrims gathered in Rome “to be the saints of the new millennium.” In the company of over 2,000,000 other pilgrims, I listened to words of the Holy Father eager to assume the challenge. However, once the fanfare of WYD had slowly faded, when I found myself back home in the routine of daily life, I began to wonder how was I to realize this Christian call to holiness?
It was in my search for a roadmap to sainthood that I discovered the saints themselves. Of course, I had already heard and known of these men and women of the church. A Catholic of Italian origin, I was certainly familiar with the likes of Padre Pio (Padre Pio would be canonized in 2002) or Sant’ Antonio di Padua. As member of the Salesian family I knew of Don Bosco, Mary Mazzarello, Laura Vicunia and Dominic Savio. I knew of the saints, but I had not yet learned to walk with them. As such, I would spend the next several years befriending these icons of the faith, at times walking with them on life’s journey at other times having them walk ahead of me, letting their example lead the way.
John Paul II is remembered as the pope who canonized the greatest number of saints. Among this list of “santi” is a young man by the name of Pier Giorgio Frassati. This week in Sydney’s St. Mary’s Cathedral I had the opportunity to pray before the earthly remains of Pier Giorgio. My gaze fixed on Frassati’s tomb and eventually moved to watch the other pilgrims make the same pilgrimage. Among them were both WYD veterans and novices. In this experience I discovered something else about this communion of saints to which we belong. Saints are not static. Their lives though rooted in a particular time and place are meant to transcend history. Their stories immortalized in the tradition of the Church are meant to be retold and relived over and over again, each time lending themselves in a different way to a new generation who turns to them for inspiration, guidance and intersession.