Lay saint?

Lay saint?

Eamonn Keane

Now that Australia has one canonised saint who was a founder of a religious order, I think it would be good if the next Australian saint was a member of the laity. This would highlight the fact that for the vast majority of Catholic men and women the call to holiness is lived out in the ordinary things of life: marriage, family, profession, politics, friendships, recreation, etc.

One Australian layperson who I think showed heroic virtue sufficient to make him a candidate worthy of consideration for beatification is the late Bob Santamaria. In his public life and in his writings, he sought to explain in terms understandable to people in secular society the reasonableness of some of the Catholic Church's most contested teachings. For this he came in for heavy criticism, as much from people within the Church as from those without.

Santamaria was particularly heroic in his public defence of the centrality of the family based on marriage as the primary building block of society, and of the sanctity and inviolability of innocent human life from conception to natural death.

He never tired of stressing the link between sustainable economic well-being and principles drawn from Catholic social doctrine, such as solidarity and subsidiarity. He placed great emphasis on the need to understand the right to private ownership of property as something that must not be separated from the ethical and social responsibilities that accompany such a right.

In this regard, his prophetic insight was clearly evidenced in the last decade of his life up to his death in 1998 when he conducted an ongoing critique of the lack of ethics governing much of the emerging surge in global financial markets.

I only met Santamaria a few times and what impressed me most about him was that despite his implacable adherence to Catholic doctrinal truth and moral principle, he nevertheless did not seem to harbour resentment towards those who opposed him. Indeed I noted that in discussing his struggles in the political arena, he referred to his opponents in tones charitable rather than resentful, while not compromising one iota with what he saw as their errors.

In this he bore witness to the teaching and example of Christ regarding love of enemies combined with unflinching adherence to truth.

Cherrybrook, NSW

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