Consider all the tools and advantages God has already given you and ask "Why not?"
Well, All Saints Day has come and gone – did it do you any good? My Italian grandfather used to say, “When the Saint’s Day is over, so is the feast.” (Of course, like nearly everything else, it sounded much better in Italian.) In other words, once the day itself has come and gone, the celebration ends too, and we return to business-as-usual. But is that the best we can do? Couldn’t All Saints Day inspire us to become saints ourselves?
Sound ridiculous? Perhaps. “After all,” we tell ourselves, “only saintly people become saints, real – ahem, I mean ordinary people – don’t become saints!” Ok. Let’s stick with that thought for a moment.
On All Saints Day this year, which saint was most on your mind? I recalled Saint Margaret Mary, who received visions leading to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Her spiritual director was Saint Claude de la Colombiere, a Jesuit. During one of her visions of Jesus, Saint Margaret Mary said that our Lord spoke of Saint Claude, and referred to that good Jesuit as “… my perfect friend.”
Those words made my heart sink. If you are receiving messages from Jesus, and my name comes up, and He refers to me as His “perfect friend,” then I suspect that it is probably not Jesus who is talking to you. I am all too familiar with my sin, my mediocrity and my excuses. I know that as of today, I have not been a perfect friend to Jesus. That’s one problem I have. The bigger problem I have is that I find it nearly impossible to imagine that I could ever be a perfect friend of Jesus; I find it nearly impossible to imagine that I could ever be a saint. And that’s a shame, really, because my vocation is not only to be a Jesuit priest, my vocation is to be a saint – just like yours is.
The danger of All Saints Day is that we might think that spending a day contemplating the saints is like a day visiting the Catholic zoo or circus, where we admire, from a safe distance, rare, exotic or fascinating forms of Catholic life. And then we return to our banal and hopeless ordinariness, of which we are not even ashamed. I say, let’s not do that anymore, because the Christian vocation, yours and mine, is to become saints.
Looking at saints, we err if we say, “That can never be me. I can never be a saint.” No! We must look at the weakness of the saints, and then our own weakness, and then look at the power of God. Then we can marvel and say, “If God can make an evangelist out of a pagan like Augustine, if he can make a hero out of a brawler like Ignatius Loyola, if he can make a ‘steel magnolia’ out of a whiney girl like Therese, then what might God be able to do with the likes of me?” It will be a tragedy if we do not work with God in His plan for us to become saints.
What is a tragedy? It is not simply an avoidable loss. It is not simply a great loss. A tragedy is a loss that cannot be redeemed. French writer Leon Bloy wrote, “’Life holds only one tragedy: not to have been a saint.” Being a saint is what we are made for. What compensation can there be for failing to be truly human? We set our sights too low. If we do not aspire to be saints, then we do not aspire to what God made us for, we only desire to be something else, something far, far less than sanctity and humanity. How tepid and how ungracious we can be! For the love of God we ought to aim higher, and for the love of neighbor, we need to aim higher.
“But Father! We can’t become saints! We’re sinners!”
Yes, let’s take sin seriously. Consider what I call, “The Litany of the Catholic Sinner.”
I have lived as if I had not been created for a noble purpose.
I have lived as if I had not been called by name as a disciple.