In the deep and rich annexes of Church history are housed the stories of more than 10,000 saints — men and women who have lived lives of holiness and virtue, and who over time have been recognized by the Church for doing so.
We read about them in books, and we study their faces molded onto statues and etched into stained-glass windows. We celebrate them on feast days and memorials, and, in their roles as intercessors for us to the Father, we turn to them to hear our petitions and to pray for us.
It’s only natural therefore, I suppose, for us to put these great men and women on a collective pedestal. After all, they’re saints in heaven, and we aren’t. They are holy; we are flawed. They lived lives of virtue; we stumble around this earth with good intentions, every once in a while getting something right.
But, as Pope Pius XI has been quoted as saying: “Saints are those who do ordinary things extraordinarily well.”
In other words, they are regular people who, by being open to God’s will and receptive to his grace, are able to do some remarkable things to build up Christ and his Church.
But while the pages of history are filled with these examples of saints living in a time gone by, it might be helpful to put a face on modern-day sanctity.
This week’s Faith story on Iraqi-born Mother Olga Yaqob (Pages 14-15) does just that. A resilient woman who survived four wars in Iraq and who began a religious order in Boston, Mother Olga is a walking witness for how to answer Christ’s call to care for the least of his children. For more than 35 years, and in the midst of some dire situations, she has helped to meet the basic needs of those in her home country of Iraq and also worked to bring the Muslim and Catholic communities in that area together.
The recently inflamed conflict in Iraq makes her life and ministry even more relevant this summer as she cares for her war-torn people. To her now, peace is the most important thing.
Though I’m sure she’d never admit it, Mother Olga is an example of how to be saintly while still walking this earth. Though she’s witnessed incredible sorrow and suffering, she has persevered to carry out the plan that the Lord has set her.
“We can all sincerely help and change the face of humanity,” Mother Olga said in an interview with Our Sunday Visitor. And why not?
Mother Olga’s face might not yet be cast into bronze, and she might not yet be honored on a special day during the liturgical calendar. But she’s certainly a modern-day example of how a regular person can do ordinary things extraordinarily well.
I hope you enjoy the story of Mother Olga. It’s my belief that the more stories we hear about modern-day people like her, the more we will be inspired to emulate them ourselves.
Do you know anyone who is doing ordinary things in an extraordinary manner? Share their stories by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.