Numbers can be pretty interesting. Did you know that in 1535 St.Thomas Moore and St. John Fisher died exactly two weeks apart in London…. both martyrs, both victims of Henry VIII. In 2021 good friends Paul Giegerich and Dick Birmingham died exactly two week apart in Warren, NJ. How about this….. Presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on exactly the same day ….July 4, 1826…. “Independence Day…the 4th of July. And just the other day on Friday, June 24, 2022, Steve Fiero, a wonderful friend, husband and father died suddenly… it was also the day abortion was declared no longer the law of the land by the United States Supreme Court.
Any significance to these coincidents …. to these numbers? To be honest, I can’t think of anything clever to say. I would guess that Thomas Moore and John Fisher encouraged each other in standing for Christ even to the point of martyrdom. I know that Dick and Paul encouraged each other to follow the Lord in the building of the People of Hope Community and Koinonia Academy. From a more secular perspective, I have read that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson challenged each other to give their best in the founding of our nation… even in the disagreements they had. And I know that Steve Fiero was pro-life and would have been happy to know about the important Supreme Court ruling on the day he died.
It seems that great men and women often encourage and propel each other to do great things; they challenge each other. On a secular stage we see the giants of industry that helped build our nation in the early 1900’s … Carnegie, Rockefeller, Edison, Henry Ford, Alexander Bell. In wartime, we’ve had brilliant generals….. Eisenhower, Marshall, MacArthur, Montgomery, Patton. In the kingdom of God, it also seems that saints come in “clumps”. I think they stir up a holy atmosphere of loving God that causes others to strive for holiness…like a “spiritual chain reaction”. Think of John Paul II and Mother Teresa, or Pope Leo XIII and Mother Cabrini…how about Francis DeSales and Jane Frances De Chantel ….. I’ve been privileged to live among many holy people and I think it rubs off and causes the rest of us to keep striving for holiness.
Let me pop in another point to these stories. Just because you have a group of pioneers or holy people together, it doesn’t mean that there’s always agreement…. that there aren’t different opinions. In fact, I think exceptional people often “bang heads” together. We read that Peter and Paul had “their moments.” Saints can be a bit irascible. I’ve read that “St. Jerome was brilliant and heroic, but not always very nice. In fact, in the Church of his day he was best known (aside from his brilliance) for his cantankerous and quarrelsome disposition. Even St Augustine found himself on the receiving end of St Jerome’s famous barbs. (this is the man who single-handedly translated the entire Bible to put it within reach of ordinary people).” Padre Pio was also a “tough cookie” who wasn’t reluctant to admonish a sinner strongly when it was needed. I know I’ve been a part of meetings and deliberations where good and holy people disagree.
So, it’s good when we’re surrounded by good holy people, even if it means we will disagree at times and “bang heads”. In the end, we will hopefully still be standing, still looking to love and serve the Lord…. encouraged by the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Let me end this somewhat “jumbled BLOG” with a final “numbers story”. I visited Scotland in 1998, again in 2010, and now in 2022…. 3 times …. every 12 years….hmmmm. I was 51 on the first visit, 63 on the second, and now 75. In each of those visits I interfaced with holy men and women. Some have gone on to glory. Being with these holy people have helped me to follow the Lord, to press on in running the race. And that is very good news.