In times like these, I can understand why people turn to religion.
As bad as these times seem, they most certainly had it worse.
Take, for instance, Saint Norbert, the namesake of St. Norbert Church in Orange, CA (whose Piczek-designed stained glass windows drew me in).
Descended from the Holy Roman Empire and born in an ancient area of what's now Germany...
...this 12th century holy man rejected a path of nobility after a near-death lightning strike at the foot of his horse, which threw him, knocking him unconscious.
He pursued a life of penance and asceticism after that, becoming a roving preacher throughout western Germany and into Belgium and the Netherlands.
Miracles that he performed led to his canonization in 1582, four centuries after his death. But perhaps more remarkable are those who chose to follow him in his path, known as "Norbertines."
These were just regular people who chose a life of faith over power, politics, wealth, or greed.
Principles were more important than the poverty they endured. They chose to believe in something rather than embracing doubt and suspicion.
St. Norbert inspired leagues of people to follow the message he'd received in his heart upon his conversion: "Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it."
He himself had turned away from a spoiled youth—and his subsequent ministry of abstinence and celibacy caused some to cry hypocrisy.
But the thing is, it's never too late to change our minds.
You've never gone too far to reverse the course.
Sure, if you're going through hell, keep going, as they say.
But if you're putting someone else through hell, you can stop.
If you see someone putting someone else through hell, you can stop them.
You don't have to take the path of least (or no) resistance.
You don't have to pick a fight, per se...
...but you don't have to avoid one altogether, either.
Some things are worth fighting for.
Some people need someone to speak up for them; some are so bad off that they need someone to show them the light—any light.
Choosing a better path may not make you a saint...
...but it might make you someone's angel.
And whether or not you believe in celestial beings—the patron saints of whatever, the divine messengers, the cherubim and seraphim—surely you believe in the possibility of being a better human.
We may be "only" human.
But plenty of humans have shown how much our species can accomplish...
...with or without divine intervention.
Of St. Norbert, Catholics have said, "A different world cannot be built by indifferent people."
Of course, the Catholic Church would have you devote fervently, unswervingly, and loyally to the figures, rituals, and icons of its particular brand of wisdom.
But I have a more pragmatic perspective for the God-fearing, the God-questioning, and the godless.
Be interested in the world around you. Listen. Form a well-researched bias. Embrace empathy.
And then, act accordingly.
If everyone did that, it would surely be a miracle.
[Ed: Additional stained glass window by Roger Darricarrere]
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