"We also want to see more miracles of justice, rather than simply miracles of the inexplicable. A clergy friend in Boston once explained to me the problem he had with the ministry of Mother Teresa. Imagine that you are living alongside a river, and babies in baskets are continually floating by. They are abandoned, sick, needy. You would try and care for the babies, wouldn't you? But wouldn't you also stop and say, 'Where are all these babies coming from? How did they get here?' Social services, government agencies, religious groups, and saints are adept at finding babies, plucking them from the water, and helping them become well. But these same organizations and saints like Mother Teresa are not always focused enough on finding out who is putting all these babies in the river.
"Mother Teresa was clearly a woman of action, but her efforts were almost entirely focused on compassionate response, not on attempting to slow or stop what was causing the enormous need. Much in her life is worthy of imitation, but we should also imitate those who perhaps do not possess the popular notion of sanctity but work hard to stop the politics, structures, policies, and institutions that make chronic hunger and disease possible.
"Many saints have performed miracles of justice. We have profiled a number already: Oscar Romero, Thomas More, Dorothy Day, and Frances Cabrini, for example. Their miracles are focused entirely outside themselves; they are different from those who are saints of personality only, so to speak, and also different from someone like Mother Teresa, who avoided all political entanglements. Their lives show a commitment to peace, nonviolence, mediation, and justice for both the earth and all people and creatures. Daniel Berrigan, S.J., explains this perspective in an open letter he wrote in opposition to the cause for making Dorothy Day, his friend, a saint of the church:
" 'Abandon all thought of this expensive, overly juridical process. Let those so minded keep a photo of Dorothy some place given to prayer or worship. In such a place, implore her intercession for peace in the world, and bread for the multitudes.
" 'With the money thus saved, otherwise spent on ecclesiastical lawyers, expensive meetings and travel of experts, begin here and now feeding the multitudes. Send $1, $5, $10, $20, $100 to the nearest Catholic Worker house. Better still, drop by and help on the soup line. Best of all, start a Catholic Worker house.'
"Berrigan asks all who would venerate Dorothy Day to imitate her instead. That is what she would have wanted most of all. At the same time, Berrigan acknowledges that this is how saints were originally made in the early church, by popular appeal. He explains that Dorothy is a saint already, interceding for peace in the world and for the rights and needs of the most needy; she doesn't need an ecclesiastical process to verify it.
"Nikos Kazantzakis, in the prologue to the novel he wrote about the life of Francis of Assisi, summarized the meaning of Francis's life as a challenge to us. He wrote that we each have 'the obligation to transubstantiate the matter which God entrusted to us, and turn it into spirit.' Every Christian should show some heroic virtue and do the same."