Today’s saint is Saint Celestine V. According to Saints: A Year in Faith and Art:
Pietro Angelerio was born near Isernia, Italy, in 1215. A Benedictine monk, he spent many years as a hermit on Mount Morrone; his disciples later became part of the Benedictine order, the Celestines. In 1294, when after two years the cardinals had failed to find a successor to Pope Nicholas IV, Peter sent them a message that God was not pleased with their delay. In response, they chose him as pope, and he became Celestine V. After five months he realized he was being used as a tool in political maneuverings and abdicated the papal throne. Boniface VIII had him imprisoned until his death, in 1296. He was canonized in 1313.
(Image courtesy of culturalcatholic.com)
There is a lesson to learn from the life and trials of Saint Celestine: If we are going to speak up about the problems we see, then we had better be willing to work toward correcting them. Celestine saw the problem, and he took objection to the church being leaderless for two years. He was justified in his critique to the cardinals, but he was unprepared for their response: Then you be pope! Perhaps he assumed that once he drew attention to the issue that others would fix it. It is a classic mistake we, as Christians, make time and time again.
We have been gifted with a powerful voice, a prophetic voice with which we can cry out from the wilderness against the injustices and the sins of this world. Along with that power comes responsibility; we cannot proclaim that change must be made without our willingness to be part of that change, part of the solution. For some, this thought is frightful, especially if you do not want to be in a leadership position. Maybe you are like Celestine, you don’t want to have all the authority and the responsibility of leading. You would rather leave that in someone else’s capable hands. Unfortunately, scripture is filled with those who said that same thing, such as Moses. Moses witnessed the subjugation of his people and reacted by killing the Egyptian who mercilessly beat his fellow Hebrew. He fled into the wilderness and away from further involvement, or so he thought. Instead, God called to Moses from the new life he had begun in Midian. He was to go back to Egypt and finish what he had begun. Moses would be the hand by which God set the Hebrew free from their slavery in Egypt. Moses too had excuse after excuse which he gave to God as to why he should not be the one to lead, but God would have none of them. Moses would lead the Hebrews, and God would enable and empower him with all the resources necessary.
So many times we look upon our church, both local and global, and we see changes that must be made. We speak out to our family and close friends, some even being bold enough to raise issue in the public forums of the Church. However, far less often, do those voices crying out for change ever offer to lead the change, if they even offer up a possible solution. Condemnations are easy. Proposals for solutions are more difficult, and willingness to be a part of the process of change few and far between. So before we open our mouths, let us be prayerful about what our role in this change we want to see should be, according to God’s will. Unless we want to find ourselves adding to the load, rather than easing the burdens of others, we need to be prepared to go where Celestine wasn’t: to the top of the hierarchy and the end of the line in accountability. The expectations of God are nothing less.