What an affirming statement: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." This is the spirit of Step One, recognition of our powerlessness in the face of the troubles and temptations and sins of our wounded nature in this broken world. Christ came to redeem, and this redemptive power of His is available to all who have the humility to accept their powerlessness. Once accepted, there is no situation too dark that the light of Christ can't pierce it. This is evidenced many times over and through the centuries in the lives of the Saints. There was no unhappiness too great to be lessened, no obstacle too great to be hurdled.

The Example of the Saints

Some Saints had to overcome slavery. With the power of grace, the stigma of having been a slave did not defeat these saints. For example, in the first Canon of the Mass, we have the twelve apostles given and then the next twelve, "Linus, Cletus, Clement, etc." The one that leads the group, St. Linus, was St. Peter's successor. St Linus was a slave!

In the same Canon we have the early female martyrs: "Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, etc." Here, too, the one that leads the list was a slave, St. Felicity.

The most renown Saint who was a slave, who in our culture is celebrated with great festivity each year, is St. Patrick. He was kidnapped as a teenager and made a slave by his captors. At the age of 22 he was able to escape and finally return home. And here is the beauty of Christ's Gospel: the Christian cannot take revenge on his enemies but must, in spite it all, learn to return a blessing. So St. Patrick returned home and became a priest and returned to his slaveholders and brought them the Catholic faith. It was the first time in history that a people-the Irish-suffered no martyrdom in becoming Christian.

Some Saints were conceived through the crime of rape and yet this, too, His power could overcome. I met a woman some years ago who was raped at knife point. Coming from a devoutly Christian family, she refused to abort the child she conceived. She gave birth to a lovely girl and gave her up for adoption. Twenty years later that girl, wanting to know her background, found her birth mother and, of course, wanted to know why she was given up for adoption. Her mother explained how she had been raped at the age of 16 just three blocks from her home. She said her daughter's first words were, "Thank God you didn't have an abortion!" She couldn't believe it, that she had been conceived through rape! St. David, the patron Saint of Wales was conceived in the same way.

  • St. Theodore was the illegitimate son of a circus performer and a prostitute;

  • St. Bartolomea Capitanio had to lead her drunken, abusive father home from the tavern several times a week;
  • St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine, had a drinking problem, as St. Augustine tells us in his autobiography;
  • St. Augustine inherited the obsessive-compulsive behavior of his parents, but his drug was lust. Sexually active from the age of 15, he had a son out of wedlock at seventeen, and lived on in lust until the age of 30, when he finally converted;
  • St. Mary of Egypt was a prostitute before her conversion;
  • St. Fabiola was a passionate, self-willed control addict who was restless all her life. She dumped her husband and married her boyfriend outside the Church. Then, years later, after his death, she returned to the Church in great humility, was reconciled, and became a friend of the poor;
  • The Saints include the rich and famous, even kings and queens who became saints despite their great wealth and power, like St. Elizabeth of Hungry who, after the death of her husband, spent her life caring for the sick poor in her own castle;
  • The Saints include the weak and poor, like St. Germaine, and the physically deformed, like Margaret of Costello, who was born blind and deformed;
  • The Saints include teenagers who, despite peer pressure, having surrendered to that Power greater than their youth, overcome their weaknesses: St. Dominic Savio, aged 16; St. Joan of Arc, patroness of France, put to death at the age of 19;
  • The Saints include married people, like St. Isadore and his wife, St. Maria; Christians married to non-Christians or nonpracticing Christians, like St. Rita;
  • Housewives who were Saints like St. Dorothy and Helen of Udine;
  • People involved in terrible cults, like St. Lucian and St. Marcian. St. Bartholomew Long had been ordained a satanist priest before being rescued from depression and suicidal tendencies by some good Christians;
  • Medical doctors who are Saints, like St. Cosmos and St. Damian; Soldiers, like St. Olaf, St. Leopold, St. Joan of Arc; teachers, like St. Cassian, St. John Bosco, Mother Seton; waitresses, like Margaret of Louvain; church cleaners like St. Theobold; lawyers (it's possible!! With grace, all things are possible!) like St. Thomas More, St. John Storey. Bakers, like St. William of Rochester.

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