Ordinarily when I do one of these mini-reviews, I try to summarize the book as I offer my reflections on it. In the case of Joel Schorn’s wonderful little book God’s Doorkeepers, which presents the parallel biographies of three 20th century saints (though only two have been canonized to date), I’ll let the summary on the back of the book explain the work for me:
I look on my whole life as giving, and I want to give and give until there is nothing left to give. – Solanus Casey
Padre Pio and Andre Bessette would have readily agreed with Solanus Casey even though, on the surface, none of the three had much to give. All grew up in humble circumstances, each suffered poor health, and none achieved academic distinction or prominent positions in their religious orders. They were, to all appearances, the sort of people others overlook.
Yet in their lifetimes, untold numbers found physical and interior healing through their ministries, and since their deaths their fame has grown enormously. Their secret was the secret of every successful Christian life: In complete humility, they abandoned themselves to the will of God.
Bessette and Casey literally answered the door at their monasteries, and Pio was something of a spiritual doorkeeper in the confessional. God’s Doorkeepers reveals how these miracle-workers, in spite of their lowly circumstances, inspired and continue to inspire those who seek a healing encounter with God.
By way of commentary, I’ll offer this observation: I am sometimes guilty of reading Scripture or accounts of the incredible accomplishments of the ancient saints and silently wondering, “Where is God today? Why does He not show his power and love today as he’s done in the past?” I admit that I sometimes long for a sign (a parted sea, the lame walking, the dead raised) and when I don’t witness these things…I don’t lose faith, per se, but I wonder…
For awhile I thought this lack of the miraculous may be a backhanded blessing, since Jesus said to Thomas, “Blessed are they who have not seen and yet believe.” And while that may be the case, I see now that it is also a general lack of awareness, a spiritual (and historical) blindness on my part. I read this book quickly, captivated by the stories of three humble, broken, and at various points, outcast men — all three of whom lived in the 20th century; two during my parent’s lifetime and one in our neck of the woods — who healed thousands spiritually and, yes, physically; who were conduits of God’s love, grace, and mercy, and who (we might say, though they never would) worked miracles. There are people still alive today who encountered these men and can attest to what they did while on this earth. Too few of us know about them — and even fewer give credence to their stories, although we will live by countless less-well-attested “truths.”
God is active among us, even now. And if we know this — really know it — and act accordingly, what expectations are too great?