Lately I attended a public lecture on faith and at one point an intervention from the audience questioned the importance given to saints, especially in the way Catholics seem to worship them. The argument went around the 50th anniversary of the coronation of St. Joseph and about how can anyone coronate someone other than Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour. For a second this made me think about the role saints have in our religion, and how at times, especially in feasts, we tend to adore a saint more than we ever adore God. Why do we give any importance to mere humans like us? Well I guess we see in saints something we admire, something we wish we possess, and something that is God-like.
Taking St. Joseph as an example, I thought of what God-like characteristic could this man have had; something that could make him worthy to be coronated! Humility – that is the quality which first came to mind when I thought of St. Joseph. So through this we are saying that God is humble, well how is this so? Well, from an All Mighty God he decided to come on earth, become human and live the lives of humans. He decided to renounce the possibility of saving His people by the click of a finger, and become a weakling in the eyes of humans in order to take on him our sins. What a humiliating position!
Does St. Joseph replicate this? A respected man, who is about to marry a good woman, is seemingly made a fool by her. Instead of condemning her, he wanted to find a way to save her, risking humiliation. A respected man who, unto being told, even if by an angel, that all this was part of a plan, instead of shaking off this seemingly nonsense dream he believed and humbly accepted something he could not understand. He was ready to give up everything in order to protect his wife and apparently ‘special’ child. A humble act indeed!
It is not the ‘if’ we should put saints on pedestals which is an issue, but rather the ‘how’! Would we be celebrating one’s humility or would we be alienating this quality from what it was directed to? How can we praise and supposedly learn from the lives of such saints when at times we only seem to be putting their lives and example in vain? I guess here we have to question feasts and other such religious activities/pilgrims connected to saints. Expression of one’s feelings is essential. Expressing our humbleness in realising that we are not always the most knowledgeable and powerful beings would be a good way to show our admiration and high-esteem towards St. Joseph, and once understanding his humility, then yes, let us put him on a pedestal, because it is only then that we will ever understand why he is a saint and therefore why he is to be held in the highest regard.