My husband casually mentioned something he heard on Relevant Radio yesterday that I found to be life-changing: evidently, it’s OK to specifically aim to be a saint.
He was listening to an interview with author Bert Ghezzi about his new book, The Heart of a Saint: Ten Ways to Grow Closer to God. In the interview Ghezzi mentioned that one thing all the saints he profiled had in common was that they all specifically aimed to be saints. Obviously I’m sure he didn’t mean that they spent time visualizing the grand celebration in Vatican City that would happen upon their canonization, or even that they aimed to be canonized at all, but that they simply said, “I want to be as holy and as close to God as the great saints were.”
For whatever reason, I didn’t realize you could do that.
For a long time it’s appealed to me to hold myself to the standards of the great saints, using their conduct as a model for my own. But then, subconsciously, I’d talk myself out of it, feeling like aiming to be as saintly as, say, St. Francis would be either ridiculous or just too prideful to think that someone like me could ever come near his holiness.
I’d never realized until the chat with my husband last night that I’d set a pretty low bar for myself. My spiritual goals were less along the lines of “to be a living St. Gianna” and more along the lines of “to be a less ornery version of Jen”. And that attitude throws open the doors for my natural tendency to cut corners and make excuses for myself, like, “Yeah, I wasn’t charitable to the customer service rep at the insurance company and I snapped at the kids too often but, hey, I’m no saint and I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.” It’s hard to picture Mother Teresa or St. Clare shrugging off any bad behavior, however small, with “Gimme a break, I’m no saint and I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.” And neither should I.
So, all this is to say, I find it really inspiring to know that it’s not a bad thing — and is actually a really good thing — to specifically aim to be as saintly as the saints. Though there are people like me out there who could probably manage to turn it into a prideful endeavor (“Now which picture should I have them use for those 50-foot tapestries they hang from St. Peter’s at the canonization ceremony?”), simply aiming for the holiness of the great saints is a very worthy goal.
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