VATICAN CITY – Catholic devotion to the saints appears to be alive and well, and Pope Benedict continues to proclaim new saints at a regular pace.
According to Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the appeal of the saints and their concrete examples of holiness give them "an undeniably positive role to play in this time of new evangelization," since they are living proof that the Church is holy.
In a new book, currently available only in Italian, Amato writes that it's easy to understand how people can question the Church's holiness when they see the sinful behaviour of some of its members.
But the good, loving and charitable activities of other members are the best evidence that the Church truly is the holy body of Christ, he says.
"The holiness of the Church is not the sum of the holiness of its children, but is a spiritual gift received from the spirit of the Risen Christ," he writes.
"Throughout history, the Church carries the treasure of its holiness in earthen vessels. Being aware of that, the historic Church can do nothing other than continually convert to the cross of Christ."
The saints and martyrs officially recognized by the Church are the "demonstration that the Church, even if it is not already perfect, given the misery of many of its sons and daughters, is not less holy, but continues to produce the fruits of holiness and always will."
Individual Christians and Christian communities thus have an obligation to pursue holiness "to counterbalance the humiliations" Christ's body suffers because of the sins of its members, he writes.
For Jesuit Father Paolo Molinari, who shepherded Blessed Kateri's sainthood cause for 55 years, saints are not mythic heroes but real men and women who show that it's possible to live holy lives no matter where they were born or what their state of life.
It's not a matter of demonstrating extraordinary courage in a dangerous situation, but "living an ordinary life in an extraordinary way," Molinari said.
That extraordinary way "comes from the spirit of Jesus poured into our hearts," he said in an interview.
Another great thing about the saints, Molinari said, is they are ready, willing and able today to help the Church's members along the path of holiness.