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Well, Halloween is over and the kids are coming down from their sugar highs. We grownups (who should have resisted the urge to “help” get rid of all that candy) are marking more mature celebrations, like All Saints and All Souls days.

At least once a year, the church is wise to remind us that we need saints, and counting all the uncanonized folk who’ve made it to heaven along with the haloed canonized elite, there should be plenty to choose from. Fr. Richard McBrien, in this week’s column on Page 21, notes that we don’t honor saints so much by lighting vigil lights in front of their images (though churches do like that revenue!), but by imitating them.

Calling someone a “living saint” can sound at once saccharine and presumptuous, but our church has them in every era. One of them, in my view, is Jean Vanier -- a man of fierce gospel faith who has an absolutely unshakable confidence in the power of love to transform human beings. NCR Rome correspondent John Allen Jr. recently interviewed Vanier and his feature is this week’s cover story on Page 14, together with a story about a L’Arche community right in NCR’s backyard, in Overland Park, Kan. Vanier’s L’Arche communities are signs of hope in a weary world, just as the ark in the Genesis story carried weary travelers hopeful of a new beginning.

If, like me, you’re weary of the seemingly never-ending waves of the clergy sex abuse scandal, reading about people like Vanier can be an adrenalin boost.

Another small glimmer of hope is a new Los Angeles Times survey of American priests, analyzed by NCR editor-at-large Arthur Jones on Page 5. Despite priests’ loss of trust in their bishops and low morale over the current climate in the church, a large number of U.S. priests -- 70 percent -- say they’re happy and satisfied in their vocation. The survey reveals nothing we haven’t heard before, but reinforces the theory that people in the church, though unhappy with much in the institution, are still committed to it.

More good news on the NCR home front. Many of you have been calling, e-mailing and writing to inquire how our editor Tom Roberts is doing after his cardiac bypass surgery last month. Tom is doing so well that there are reports of “Tom Roberts Sightings” here in Kansas City.

In fact, Tom felt strong enough to make his first post-op foray into society Oct. 17, just nine days after his surgery. The occasion was the visit to Kansas City’s Rockhurst University by Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, the Jesuit superior general. Kolvenbach celebrated Mass and preached at St. Francis Xavier Church. As the covertly photographed image (shot by NCR copy editor and sometime paparazza Patty McCarty) above reveals, a hale-looking Roberts was seen chatting with the multilingual Jesuit leader after the Mass.

We’re locking the NCR doors on Tom for now, though, to ensure he gets the doctor-prescribed R&R he needs before heading back to the newsroom. If his great progress continues as it has, we’re confident that he will be back soon. Please keep those prayers coming for his speedy and full healing!

-- Pat Morrison

My e-mail address is pmorrison@natcath.org

National Catholic Reporter, November 01, 2002