IN HIS HOLY FLIRTATION WITH THE WORLD, God occasionally drops a pocket handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints.
Many people think of saints as plaster saints, men and women of such paralyzing virtue that they never thought a nasty thought or did an evil deed their whole lives long. As far as I know, real saints never even come close to characterizing themselves that way. On the contrary, no less a saint than Saint Paul wrote to Timothy, "I am foremost among sinners" ( l Timothy 1:15), and Jesus himself prayed God to forgive him his trespasses, and when the rich young man addressed him as "good Teacher," answered, "No one is good but God alone" (Mark 10:18).
In other words, the feet of saints are as much of clay as everybody else's, and their sainthood consists less of what they have done than of what God has for some reason chosen to do through them. When you consider that Saint Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven devils, that Saint Augustine prayed, "Give me chastity and continence, but not now," that Saint Francis started out as a high-living young dude in downtown Assisi, and that Saint Simeon Stylites spent years on top of a sixty-foot pillar, you figure that maybe there's nobody God can't use as a means of grace, including even ourselves.
The Holy Spirit has been called "the Lord, the giver of life" and, drawing their power from that source, saints are essentially life-givers. To be with them is to become more alive.