What makes someone a saint? Is it an incredibly perfect, virtuous life? A dramatic death in the defense of faith? Trying to do the most difficult, challenging thing for the glory of God? Is a saint someone who gives away everything and spends the entirety of their life in fasting and prayer? Sure, there have been people (many people) who have done those things and become saints because of it. But sometimes the perception of what it takes to actually be a saint can be a little skewed. I look at the exemplary lives of those people and am tempted to think, “That’s great and everything, but living in the desert just isn’t for me,” or “There’s no way I can see myself spending the rest of my life in contemplative prayer.” (Hopefully I’m not alone in this…)
It’s easy to feel discouraged about it sometimes– like maybe the whole “saint-thing” doesn't fit me well. Whenever I read about the lives of the saints, I struggle to identify with them. It just seems like it was so easy for them to be So Perfect.
I found this quote the other day, and it gave me a lot of the encouragement I’d needed. Even though it’s been misattributed to both Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Francis, I think the sentiment is still valid:
“We need saints without cassocks, without veils- we need saints with jeans and tennis shoes. We need saints that go to the movies that listen to music that hang out with their friends. We need saints that place God in first place ahead of succeeding in any career. We need saints that look for time to pray every day and who know how to be in love with purity, chastity and all good things. We need saints – saints for the 21st century with spirituality appropriate to our new time. We need saints that have a commitment to helping the poor and to make the needed social change. We need saints to live in the world, sanctify the world and to not be afraid of living in the world by their presence in it. We need saints that drink Coca-Cola, that eat hot dogs, that surf the internet and that listen to their iPods. We need saints that love the Eucharist, that are not afraid or embarrassed to eat a pizza or drink beer with their friends. We need saints who love the movies, dance, sports, theater. We need saints that are open, social, normal, happy companions. We need saints who are in this world and who know how to enjoy the best in this world without being callous or mundane. We need saints.”
Part of me really wishes one of them had actually said this. Regardless, the overarching idea is so refreshing. We need saints who are out in the world, living vibrant, happy lives. Who are striving to follow the teachings of Christ, but not pushing their beliefs on others. Our goal should not be to hide ourselves from the “evils” of the modern day world, but to stand in its midst – in the good, bad, and ugly, and to live our lives in Christ no matter what. In this way, not only will we hopefully be good examples to others, but maybe we will draw them closer to Christ simply by our attitude towards life.
I love this quote by Madeleine L’Engle:
I think we should strive to be our own version of a saint – not limiting ourselves to fitting into the cookie-cutter mold we might project or pressure ourselves to follow. God gave us all a hugely vast range of talents and skills for a reason – He does not want us all to end up exactly the same… He just wants us to end up in the same place. He has created a unique plan for each and every one of us. I think that by striving to be the Truest version of yourself – the one where you are fulfilled by the pursuit of the joyful and good – you are on the right track towards becoming the saint God created you to be.
Before I end, I just wanted to share this one last quote:
“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” - Timothy Keller
Until next time,