Who is a saint?
Each day, this question is typed into internet search engines. Perhaps this is so because new saints (e.g., Sts. John Paul and John XXIII) have just been canonized. Or maybe we are curious as to whether our name bears any resemblance to a declared saint. But better still, have we considered the possibility that God—at this very moment—may be calling us to sainthood?
In scanning the Scriptures, we find many characteristics of saints. Some of them are: attentiveness to Christ’s voice, blameless and harmless, bold, contrite, faithful, godly, holy, just, humble, hungering for righteousness, just, and led by the Spirit. And this is only a beginning.
With such job requirements, many of us will say:
This is too hard and time consuming. Lord, you know I love you, but I haven’t enough time in the day to accomplish what I already have on my plate.
Doesn’t God already know that we will feel this way? Of course. But out of love for us, He persists in calling us to conversion and consideration of this lofty vocation?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#946) notes that:
After confessing “the holy catholic Church,” the Apostles’ Creed adds “the communion of saints.” In a certain sense this article is a further explanation of the preceding: “What is the Church if not the assembly of all the saints?” The communion of saints is the Church.
Hmm. In studying this paragraph more closely, may our focus rest upon two words: communion and assembly. Do they not indicate that we are speaking of more than one person? Do they not imply that we are in this together? In becoming saints and special friends of God, does not the Lord himself bring this about through our interaction with others?
On the 2013 Feast of All Saints, Pope Francis declared that the saints are not “supermen” who are “born perfect” but rather are ordinary people who followed God with “all their heart.”
“They are like us; they are like each of us: They are people who, before reaching the glory of heaven, lived a normal life, with joys and griefs, struggles and hopes…” Each saint changed his or her life, because, “when they recognized the love of God, they followed him with all their heart, without conditions and hypocrisies.”
“They spent their lives in the service of others; they endured suffering and adversity without hatred and responded to evil with good, spreading joy and peace,” he said.
“Sanctity is beautiful! It is a beautiful way!” Pope Francis stressed. “The saints give us a message. They tell us: Be faithful to the Lord, because the Lord does not disappoint! He does not disappoint ever, and he is a good friend, always at our side.”
Years ago, a holy woman once confided to me that in praying before the Blessed Sacrament, she always asks our Lord to lead and guide her life. Over time, she described that in listening to Him and following His footsteps, her life has turned out far different than anything she could ever imagine. With the Lord continually offering her His guidance, she has emptied her fears and doubts into His holy embrace. Jesus invites us to do the same.
As Mother Mary Angelica often said: “We are all called to be great saints, don’t miss the opportunity.”