From Shanghai to Los Angeles to Macau, in search of a saint
The author, originally from Shanghai, studies in Los Angeles, California. He came to Macau last week, thinking that from here he could go to Shangchuan, the island where St. Francis Xavier died. That is how we met him. Here is his story.
I was baptized into a Baptist church, and knew nothing positive about the Catholic faith.
We were told that the Catholic Church is the “whore” described in the Book of Revelation, and that the Pope is the anti-Christ. I believed naively that Catholics worshipped Mary and the saints, and that they do not have the Holy Spirit, and ought to be considered lost.
I accused them of idolatry, and that they nullified the commandments of God by their tradition. These I was told, and these I believed.
So I was a Protestant, a very conservative, somewhat schismatic Protestant. So how did I begin to be interested in the Catholic faith?
I believe it was when I began to read the life of St. Francis, and some works on the early desert fathers. I had never heard of St. Francis of Assisi. When I read that St. Francis gave up his wealth, and lived like a beggar, I was in awe, because I remembered in the Protestant church, even though I had always been told that I ought to deny my self, and love others, I vaguely had an idea of how that looked like. It was like the pearl of great price for me.
I began to read more lives of the saints, and was amazed.
I believe that there are many differences between the Protestant church and the Catholic Church. However, I believe that one of the major differences is the testimony of the saints.
I believe Saints are the witness of the orthodoxy of the Holy Catholic faith, without which Catholicism is but vain words. Liturgy, prayer, chanting, or religious activities are nothing without the saints. Saints are the real imitators of Jesus. Saints are truly Christ incarnate. Saints testify that “the kingdom of God suffers violence, and violent men take it by force” (Mt 11:12). Saints loved Jesus, and in observing His commandments, they abided in His love. They lived like angels, although yet in the flesh.
For example, St. Anthony the Great, who when he heard the reading of the Holy Gospel, “if thou wilt be perfect, sell thy possessions, and give it to the poor, and come follow me,” (Mt 19:21) went, and obeyed in faith, selling his inheritance, and followed Christ into the desert.
St. Simeon the Stylite ascended onto a pillar, standing and raising his hand in prayer. He became a prophet of righteousness to that generation.
And St. Francis, covenanted to the poverty of our Lord Jesus Christ, followed the Holy Gospel to the letter, walking barefoot, and refusing to indulge in the sinful way of the flesh.
Because of love, St. Dominic, carrying only a staff and the Holy Scripture in his hands, went everywhere to preach the Holy Faith against heresy.
Because of love, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who for the greater glory of God, practiced his penance in a cave, despising vainglory, later founded the glorious company of Jesus.
Because of love, St. Francis Xavier, that worthy apostle of Christ, although prestigious in ecclesiastical rank, refused to have servants, but washed his clothes with his own hands, being reminded that Christ himself was a servant to all.
Some were not willing to own more than one tunic, but gave all else to those who are in need.
Others shared their table with the hungry.
Yet some even gave their bed to the needy, while they themselves kept watch through the night.
Some denied themselves good food, eating only herbs, giving glory to God.
Some lived like a beggar.
Some were considered to be mad, and of these the Scriptures testify that they are the ones the world is not worthy of.
So what am I saying? I don’t know precisely, but I feel my heart is becoming a child again, dreaming that perhaps one day I too, can live and love like one of them.
I’m searching not just for the Catholic faith, but more than that, a Catholic saint, someone who can change my life, like what Jesus did to Peter’s life, like what St. Ignatius did to St. Francis Xavier’s life.
By the mercy of God, through his example and teaching, maybe one day I can become a servant of the Most High too.