Will the internet give us future saints?

I think I came across this quote on Facebook a few days ago, attributed to St Bernard of Clairvaux:

A saint is not someone who never sins, but  one who sins less and less frequently and gets up more and more quickly.

I just find this comment so consoling. Definitely a balm on a very sore spot of mine and similar to a statement made by one of my favourite saints, St Teresa of Avila.

These saints, I don’t know what faith would be without them, their example, their encouragement, and their prayers. Sure, we should probably only need the example and sayings of Jesus along with his presence in the sacraments to get us through life, but gosh, isn’t it heart-warming to have mutual friends like these as well?

The saints are such a brilliant depository of so many different cultures and times and occupations and other life circumstances, that whatever difficulty I’m going through I can always find one to provide me with very direct advice or encouragement. This week it’s St Bernard, French Cistercian and a Doctor of the Church.

I wonder whom the Church will raise up as saints in the later part of this century, and the next? I think that with the outpouring of the many lay movements since Vatican II we will see an army of lay people take their places in Church history and tradition as official saints. Maybe people like Dexter Condez, a lay member of the Vincentians who worked for indigenous rights in the Philippines island Boracaya and was killed in February last year. Maybe we’ll have more than a few saintly parents who will have struggled to raise large families in increasingly anti-child societies – parents who might have sinned a lot, but then less and less frequently and who got up more and more quickly!

Yesterday afternoon I received my copy of Something Other Than God, the newly-released debut book by Jennifer Fulwiler and published by Ignatius Press. It’s a memoir about the mother of six’s conversion from material atheism to Catholicism, and the dramatic impact it had on her life. I finished it this morning at breakfast (I did get some sleep in there as well). I just had a little click around her archives and was really surprised to see that I’ve been reading her personal blog, Conversion Diary, fairly regularly for at least the last six years. That’s a long time to be ingesting bits and pieces of a stranger’s personal life.

No wonder I identify with her so strongly and actually cried when she finally got her book deal after an arduous writing journey spanning over five years. I have prayed for her book to be well received and widely read, because I’m pretty sure she means for it to be an offering to God to be used to enlighten others who have questions about Christian faith and to encourage and strengthen Catholics whose faith makes their life difficult. It will do both.

The Internet can be a place of darkness, for sure, but wow, it can be such a source of light as well. We are illuminating it with our presence here, the light of Christ pervades here, when we uplift and encourage and pray for people we have only ‘met’ online.

People are so invested in their online lives; people’s lives are being played out on Facebook and Instagram and goodness-knows-what-else ’cause I can’t even pretend to keep up.

The Internet is a big part of Jen Fulwiler’s story – as a self-proclaimed reluctant atheist she began blogging to seek out thinking Christians she could ask about their faith. Later, some major turning points in her journey to the Catholic Church came through her reading, pondering, and discussing things online. In her acknowledgements she claims to love her blog readers. I can be a pretty cynical girl but I do believe her.

The Internet can be holy ground. I imagine there may even be saints of the future who are discovered mainly through their presence online.

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