Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
February 5, 2007
Walk the simple path to sainthood
One great scandal of our Church is how ordinary we are. Oh, part of our call as lay faithful is to be ordinary – to be in the ordinary world and permeate it with the spirit of the Gospel. But we are not called to be ordinary in how we live in the world. We are called to be shining stars whose lives glow with virtue so that all can see Christ as the source of the light.
A few have lived in a way shot through with the love of God. Such people we call saints.
But sainthood is for everyone, not a select few. The Second Vatican Council made this "universal call to holiness" one of its basic themes. That call is not only rooted in Scripture but in common sense. Father Thomas Dubay says it is a normal expectation that when two people love each other, each one would show their love, not only in important events of life, but also in little ways.
So it should be in our relationship with God. By becoming Christian, one not only is permitted to receive the Eucharist and Reconciliation with regularity, but also should stop little things that offend God – being grouchy or gossipy, being defensive when one is criticized, coveting material things. One would think that the Christian would naturally strive to be more gentle, more forgiving and always promptly go beyond the call of mere duty.
Sadly, it isn't always so. We struggle with the same weaknesses in our 50s and 60s that beset us in our 20s.
Why is it that way? Why are we so hopeless in overcoming the evil in our lives?
The answer is simple. We have not fully turned towards God. Instead of being God-centred, our lives too often are self-centred. Our thoughts and imaginings are self-focused and when our inner world is so oriented, it cannot be otherwise for our external actions.
With the saint, one finds not just occasional acts of virtue, but unrelenting virtue, especially in the face of hardship. Many saints chose to serve the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and others who can be difficult to deal with. Instead of complaining about the habits of these people, they found Christ in them. They typically did not try to reform these people so much as to love and serve them.
The inner world of the saint is oriented towards Christ even in those places and faces where worldly thinking would least expect to find his presence. The saint has learned to love God's presence more than his or her own life.
Our pride is such that we can think we know more than God and more than the Church's teaching authority. One thinks the Church needs to change its thinking, not me. Again, ego has pushed God aside. The Church's teachings are widely criticized today. But in the saints one sees women and men who love the Church and its teachings, strive to follow its ways and reform themselves to live in accord with those teachings.
We are burdened by original sin and, in Dubay's words, "we cannot lift ourselves out of deadening mediocrity by our bootstraps." Only God can raise us up. He does this, not miraculously, but with our cooperation. Turning our hearts regularly towards the one we love, towards God, takes us away from egoism.
St. Francis de Sales' Introduction to the Devout Life remains the best guidebook to a deeper love of God 300 years after it was written. The Introduction was the first guidebook to holiness written, not for those withdrawn from the world, but for those engaged in it – lay people in the midst of a secular occupation.
At the end of the day, the way is simple. Mother Teresa described it this way: "The fruit of silence is prayer. The fruit of prayer is faith. The fruit of faith is love. The fruit of love is service. The fruit of service is peace." What is difficult is following that simple way with unbreakable perseverance.
- Glen Argan
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