Why not, what else is there?
I sat there twisting the black bracelet around my wrist inscribed with these three words – Become a Saint – in white. It had been passed out first thing in the morning to all the attendees. The mission had been over eight months in the making, but sitting there in the midst of over 400 people, Dr. John Wood held us and our peers in momentary suspense as he unveiled just how his winding road had found its way to us. In days and weeks that would follow, it was clear that he and his band, Simply RC, had set our parish on fire.
As I sat there thinking about it, John told the story of how his book, Ordinary Lives, Extraordinary Mission came to be published by Matthew Kelly through Dynamic Catholic. He recalled the life-changing phone call in which Matthew told him that the book was a go. But there was one catch. The name had to be changed from Choosing the Saint Inside to something that better appealed to the masses. As John noted, Matthew indicated that people didn’t want to become saints. Although John’s first reaction was to question this whole idea (even though he had little or no experience to debate on), he quickly understood what Matthew was saying: You have to meet people where they are.
Months later, the thought continued to linger with me. Why didn’t we want to be saints? Although I believed deep down that most of us had a desire to do good, I knew that Matthew was right in his contention, especially when it came to men. The question was why. Part of the answer seemed rather easy, and it only took a golf scramble or a conversation at a barbeque to realize that even those men who seemed to be living good lives still often engaged in crass conversations about all sorts of matters. Even if they weren’t acting inappropriately, it certainly seemed that they weren’t thinking and talking virtuously at many points throughout the day. And that’s what it seems saints are called to do, which at times feels like a narrow, somber road. As Billy Joel once crooned, “Sinners have a lot more fun.”
Of course, most of us know that fun is not what we should be seeking. And as a psychologist, I know full well that fun and true happiness and wholeness are often distant cousins (although they don’t have to be), as many men who outwardly engage in all kinds of merriment bear the weight of significant struggles and heartaches, some self-imposed. But it isn’t just about fun. It is about joy and brotherhood, and trying to find it even as someone with many adult responsibilities. It seems that part of why men especially do not aspire to sainthood is that it is increasingly a lonely pathway in a culture where many already feel isolated.
But there is more, and I found myself asking the question: Just how many saints do you know that were husbands and fathers? The answer I came back with was one: Sr. Thomas More (and even he seemed canonized for heroic deeds not directly related to spouse hood and fatherhood). Although I certainly didn’t regard myself as an expert of the canonized world, I had come to know many popes, bishops, priests, brothers, sisters, and even married and unmarried women who had risen to the ranks of sainthood. But when it came to married men with children, I was practically at a loss. Although I knew they probably had existed all throughout history, the accomplishments of being a tremendous father and spouse, although professed to be very important by our Church, seemed to be resigned to second fiddle in comparison to other types of deeds. Undoubtedly, every saint was called to be more than just the primary roles they maintained. But many times when I started thinking about this, my coherent thoughts were shattered by a shill cry from the living room and a request for a diaper change. Frankly, it wasn’t just that sainthood felt like a lonely pursuit with my own cohort. It was also that I didn’t feel like I had hardly any support from two thousand years of Catholic history.