VATICAN CITY — What the world today really needs is mystics and saints, men and women who “believe so deeply in Jesus that they become the image of Christ for the world,” Pope Francis said today.
Speaking to the faithful and pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square, at this morning’s general audience, the pope continued his series of Christian hope. Today he turned to the saints.
He reminded those present that we are all summoned to be saints and mystics, in virtue of our baptism. Indeed, according to the constant teaching of the Catholic Church, the mystical life — i.e., an interior life of union with Christ — is but the full flowering of sanctifying grace in the baptized soul, and the fruit of a sacramental life lived to the full.
Being a mystic does not depend on having extraordinary graces such as levitation, visions, and ecstatic prayer. These extraordinary graces, the Church teaches, are given to some of the saints, such as St. Theresa of Avila or St. Padre Pio, for the edification of the Mystical Body of Christ.
All of the baptized are called to be mystics, then. If so few attain it, it is due to the reasons Jesus gives us in the Gospel (cf. Mt. 22:3-6).
Pope Francis encouraged the faithful and pilgrims today, saying: “You can become a saint.” And the angels and saints in heaven are present in our lives here on earth to help us become the saint God envisioned from all eternity.
Read the pope’s address below.
Dear brothers and sisters!
On the day of our Baptism we were summoned to be saints. At the time, many of us were babies carried in the arms of our parents. Shortly before anointing us with the Oil of Catechumens, a symbol of God’s strength in the battle against evil, the priest invited the entire assembly to pray for those about to receive Baptism, by invoking the intercession of the saints. That was the first time in our lives when we were given this company of “older” brothers and sisters — the saints — who have travelled our same road, known our same struggles, and now live in God’s embrace forever. The Letter to the Hebrews calls this company that surrounds us “a great cloud of witnesses” (12:1). That is what the saints are: a great cloud of witnesses.
Christians do not despair in the battle against evil. Christianity cultivates an incurable confidence: it does not believe that negative and divisive forces can prevail. The last word on human history is not hatred; it is not death; it is not war. At every moment of our lives the hand of God is helping us, along with the subtle presence of all the faithful “those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith” (Roman Canon). Their existence tells us, first of all, that the Christian life isnot an unattainable ideal. And togetherness consoles us: we are not alone. The Church is made up of countless brothers and sisters, often anonymous, who have gone before us, and who, through the action of the Holy Spirit, are involved in the affairs of those who still live down here.
Baptism is not the only time we pray the Litany of the Saints on the journey of the Christian life. When two fiances consecrate their love in the sacrament of Matrimony, the intercession of the saints is again invoked for them, this time as a couple. And this invocation is a source of confidence for the two young people who are departing on the “journey” of married life.
Whoever loves truly has the desire and courage to say “forever” — “forever” — but he knows that he needs the grace of Christ and the help of the saints to be able to live married life forever. Not as some say: “as long as love lasts.” No: forever! Otherwise it is better that you don’t get married. Either forever or nothing. That is why in the nuptial liturgy the presence of the saints is invoked. And in difficult moments we need to have the courage to raise our eyes to heaven, thinking of the many Christians who have passed through tribulation and have kept their baptismal garments white, washing them in the blood of the Lamb (cf. Rev 7:14): this is what the Book of Revelation says.
Angels among us
God never abandons us: every time that we are in need, one of His angels will come to lift us up and fill us with consolation. His “angels” will sometimes have a human face and heart, because the saints of God are always here, hidden among us. This is difficult to understand and even to imagine, but the saints are present in our lives. And when someone invokes a saint, it is precisely because they are close to us.
Priests, too, remember the saints being invoked on their behalf. It is one of the most touching moments of the Rite of Ordination. The candidates prostrate themselves on the ground, with their face to the pavement. And the whole assembly, guided by the bishop, invokes the intercession of the saints. A man would be crushed under the weight of the mission entrusted to him, but feeling that all heaven is behind him, that the grace of God will not be lacking because Jesus is always faithful, he can start out serene and refreshed. We are not alone.
Dust aspiring to heaven
And what are we? We are dust aspiring to heaven. Left to ourselves we are weak, but strong is the mystery of grace that is present in the lives of Christians. We are faithful to this earth, which Jesus loved at every moment of his life, but we know and want to hope in the transfiguration of the world, in its definitive fulfillment where finally there will be no more tears, evil and suffering.
Hope to become a saint!
May the Lord grant us all the hope of being saints. But you might ask me: “Father, can someone be a saint in everyday life?” Yes, you can. “But does this mean that we have to pray all day?” No, it means that you have to do your duty all day: pray, go to work, take care of your children. But you have to do everything with a heart open to God, so that at work, even in sickness and suffering, even amid struggles, your heart is open to God. This is how we can become saints.
May the Lord give us the hope of being saints. Let us not think that it is something difficult, that it is easier to be scoundrels than saints! No. We can become saints because the Lord helps us; He is the one who helps us.
[Becoming a saint] is the greatest gift that each one of us can give to the world. May the Lord grant us the grace to believe so deeply in Him that we become the image of Christ for the world. Our times need “mystics”: people who reject every form of power, who aspire to charity and fraternity. Men and women who live, also accepting a portion of suffering, because they take on themselves the struggles of others. Without these men and women the world would not have hope. That is why I hope that the Lord will grant you — and me — the gift of hoping to be saints. Thank you!