Making “Saints”

Father Frans
Father Frans

While the Catholic Church apparently has enough evidence to “canonize” (make the measure of faith) two popes. . .

those who might be better examples of “living their faith” may just be overlooked.

Like Father Frans, an unconventional Dutch Jesuit Priest who was just shot to death in Syria (BBC)

In the early 1990s. . .Frans was given a few acres of flat agricultural land about 15km south-west of Homs. He called it al-Ard – the earth – and he used it to create a spiritual centre that had no precedent in Syria.

“It’s simple, like the earth,” Frans said. “That’s all.”

The dirt track that led from the main road to al-Ard ran between olive groves and vineyards. Frans didn’t use weed-killers or pesticides and there were wild flowers everywhere. In the centre of the land was a vegetable garden where perhaps a dozen people, many of them children or teenagers with disabilities, were weeding and watering the red earth.

Each morning Frans made a circuit of the nearby villages in his old VW van, collecting these young people from their families and bringing them to the farm. In a culture where people with disabilities are often hidden away in shame, Frans was creating a space where they could work together as part of “a community that values everybody.”

If anything, he looked beyond monotheism entirely. He was a serious student of Zen Buddhism and sat in silent meditation every morning. He also taught meditation and yoga in a quiet, light-filled space, neither church nor mosque, that he built at the heart of al-Ard. “For me,” he said, “it is important to start from the human meeting. Not to start with religion.”

That lack of dogmatism may have been one of the things that drew young people to Frans. In 1980 he began walking through the Jebal Ansariya, the mountains that rise from Syria’s Mediterranean coast, with students from his parish. Almost 30 years later, already in his 70s, Frans was still leading an annual eight-day hike across the country, followed by as many as 200 or 300 young Syrians – Christian and Muslim, Druze and Alawite. Though he was reluctant to ascribe any particular purpose to the walks, Frans acknowledged that they had become something special.

“The hike brings people together. They share the common experience of fatigue, of sleeping and eating together, and this builds a link between people. After the hike it is not important that you are Christian or Muslim, it is important that you are present.”

Working on the land, sitting in silence, walking across the countryside. For Frans, these basic human experiences were the most reliable way to create “a kind of unity, a human complicity, a human comprehension.”

I would have liked this man.  I could imagine joining his work and his walk.  I nominate him for Secular Sainthood (canonized as “the measure of a good human being”)


Regarding the “miracle”  test for sainthood. . .what happens when one “miracle healing” is followed by a “miracle killing”? (crucifix dedicated to Pope crushes a man to death in Italy)


2 thoughts on “Making “Saints”

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