Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How Does One Get in the Running to be a Saint: Look to Jake Olson...

We are now reading "My Life with the Saints" by James Martin; year after year students are curious about one thing: how a man or woman becomes one. They are versed in the distinction between lower case "s" saints and those with the capital "s." They know the difference between one who is "Blessed" and those who are officially canonized. They've heard a thing or two about miracles, but want to learn: How does one's name get in the running?
Saints are among us, here's one that shines for his cross and his goodness.
I'm glad they ask. It's not a question to underestimate; with over 6 billion people in the world, how does the universal church recognize but one individual? I'll leave that to the experts like Martin, but from what I have read and studied, this man or woman is known for their heroic sanctity. The community recognizes them for their outstanding virtue. Their goodness precedes their reputation (this is then taken to the local Bishop, etc).

With my students, I aim to put this in context. Is there someone in your class, or at this school who is widely recognized because they put others before themselves? They are loving, generous and give of themselves?  They aren't perfect but we all know that this community is better because he or she is here. I pause and look around the room. I'm hoping they understand what I'm talking about, or more importantly that but one of their peers stands out. The good news is usually, one or two people do. 
Jake Olson, one of the most inspiring lives I know.
In this spirit that I felt the need to show a video clip about Jake Olson. His story was featured this past weekend during College Gameday—set at USC for their homecoming game against Stanford. Jake, a lifelong fan of the Trojans, has had some "up close and personal" contact with the former head coach, Pete Carroll as well as players on the field, the team bus and in the locker room. Not bad for a boy who is but a junior in high school. The sad part of this story, however, is the reason why Jake was privy to such intimate gatherings.

At 10 months, Jake lost his left eye to cancer. For the next 10 years, he fought to keep his sight, but cancer kept coming back. At the age of 11, he was blind. I watched and my immediate reaction was angered disbelief. Eye cancer? Who gets that? And then Jake shares his reaction to his fate. I won't put it in print—see for yourself. If you're like me, you will find yourself asking the question: Who reacts in like that? 
His responses to losing his vision are other-worldly. It reflects a wisdom and maturity beyond his years. It is not forced; it is not lip service. It is totally authentic. It is—saintlike.

Sometimes it's best not to tell anyone who or what a saint is, but rather just point to him or her and let them figure it out. And for the process? Who knew College Gameday could possibly play a part in that.... 

A big thank you to one of my students Alex for sharing this with me. He inspires me daily by his presence, sense of humor and gentle spirit in class. He has been through a lot in his young life, but he's also been richly blessed. As a Michigan fan, he knows my feeling toward ND rivals. It was very hard for me to like USC for something...I shed my bias!

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