In this Random Nun Clip, S. Elizabeth Johnson offers ideas for how the saints can be our everyday companions. Hear the full podcast at IGF028 at aNunsLife.org.
Sister Elizabeth Johnson is a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood, Long Island, and is Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University in New York City.
SISTER MAXINE: Today we talk with Sister Elizabeth Johnson, a Sister of St. Joseph of Brentwood, Long Island and she is Distinguished Professor of Theology at Fordham University in New York City,
SISTER JULIE: Sister Elizabeth, as we look to the saints, what would you suggest as some of the ways that we can interact authentically with the communion of saints. We may have their holy cards or read inspiring stories but how can we let them live with us as companions?
SISTER ELIZABETH: There are practices of memory, of telling their stories, of calling upon them. There is a Sister in my community who was a peace activist with a group. She tells the story of they set her off in a rubber raft to cross this little body of water and go into the precincts of a nuclear plant with the idea of protesting. They called upon Franz Yagenstater as they set her off at night over this river in this little rubber dinghy. You may recall he was a German young man who opposed Hitler and was killed for his troubles but becomes known as a peace activist in that movement. With the strength of his name among them, they set her off, not knowing if they would be arrested or whatever would happen to them. There was such a power that came to them. Now that’s a very dramatic story, and most of us are not going to ever do something like that, but I think there are ways of knowing how many of the lives and how many of the places in the world, not even only all Christian, have sought to follow the spirit of God in their conscience and can give us so much encouragement like the cloud of witnesses can do.
I will just say one other way that is helpful to a degree and that is to follow the liturgical calendar of the church and add to it because once again, like the canonized saints, those whose feast days we celebrate liturgically in 365 days every year are mostly men, again, and hierarchy men—priests and ordained people. Make up your own calendar of the saints. There is something to me about the feast day like we just had, St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church in mid-October, various women and men of great, what should I say, great attraction. Remind yourself of them on a day when it’s their day and add to the days, make up your own calendar. Have communities do that. A lot of communities do, local saints are remembered. I think it’s more that you realize they have died, they have gone from this earth but what they have left behind, then again, I am quoting St. Augustine here, he said: “it’s like the fragrance of a warm oil that pervades a room.” They’ve left behind their perfume if you will and now united with them in the communion of saints, which is of course centered in God, we sort of let that perfume give aroma to our days.
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