Trying to be a saint

June 26, 2007 | Conversion | 8 comments

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.

8 Comments

  1. Father Kyle

    Hey, Jen,

    What if God is calling you to be St. Jen, the ornery?

    You never know, and hey I think God has a pretty good sense of humor, after all, he called me to be a priest, and that’s just plain funny right there!

  2. Julie D.

    I remember the first time I read in Peter Kreeft somewhere that we are all supposed to aim for being saints and that the universe was created for this purpose. Wow. Huge change in perspective after reading that. So aim high! 🙂

  3. Kate

    That confirms it – you should start your reading with St. Francis de Sales. You won’t find any better advice on being a lay person and a saint.

  4. beez

    Not only is if OK to want to be a saint, that’s exactly what we are all called to be. Yes, you heard me right. We are all called to be saints.

    If, therefore, we can exhibit the courage, love, grace and heroic virtue to be recognized as a saint, how can it be bad to want that?

    It’s can’t because, after all, the great saints don’t glorify themselves (not to any real Catholic who understands sanctity), they glorify God! Because, we know, no one can be a saint without having a deep and abiding love for God. It is our love for God that draws us close to Him and makes us saints.

    God makes saints – all saints. Therefore, all saints prove the greatness of God, not their own greatness!

  5. Catholic Mom

    Remember, Jen, not all saints are canonized saints. All those who are in Heaven–the Church Triumphant–are saints. So if you are trying to get to Heaven, you are trying to be a saint.

  6. Megan Elizabeth

    Not only is it “okay” to aspire to sainthood, you MUST aspire to sainthood. Sainthood is simply perfect union with God. You’ll never be perfectly united to Him unitl you reach Heaven (God willing), but that’s the goal.

  7. John Seymour

    A follow on to Fr. Kyle: If you discern that you have indeed been called to be St. Jen, the ornery, make sure your orneriness is perfected in love.

    In my case, orneriness is most often generated by my pride offended at how I think I have been treated by the company/customer service rep/salesman. (Doesn’t this idiot realize who I am!?)

    God bless – it is a wonderful – and humbling – experience to realize Jesus meant it when he said: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

  8. Donna-Marie Cooper O'Boyle

    I just came across your blog recently and now again through Karen Edmisten. I love your posts and want to just add a quick word about the desire to become a saint. Mother Teresa (whom I have had the wonderful privilege to know) has said, “Holiness is not a luxury for a few but a duty for us all.” We are all called to be saints. I often try to point out in my writings (books, articles, and blogs) that our good Lord knows what He is doing when He puts us wherever we find ourselves in life. Some will say, “I could be a saint if I had a better spouse, or a better family, or a better boss, more money, less problems, etc., etc.” But it is actually where we are that we will work out our sanctification. As I said, God knows what He is doing and gives us these challenges around us to work out our salvation and also the sanctification of those around us through our loving responses to all of it! 🙂 I hope you don’t mind me throwing in my “two cents.”

    God bless!
    Donna

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