Although this refection is from last month, it may still serve us today...
By Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle
My third grade student raised her hand and seemed bursting to share something with our religious education class recently when we were discussing the saints. I called on her and she quickly blurted out, “I know who the next saint will be!”
“Who?” I asked.
“I don’t know her name,” she answered, “but she’s a teacher at my sister’s school and someone said she only needs to complete one more course before she becomes a saint!”
I smiled and mused about what might have been expressed and overheard at school to cause this misunderstanding. It was very cute, no question about it.
I answered my student, “We don’t have to take any courses to become a saint. There could be a very poor person living on the other side of the world who has never gone to school ever. This person has no education, no courses, yet he can love God with all his heart and love others too. That person can become a saint, same as someone who learns more about the faith,” I told the class.
During the month of November we have the saints on our minds. We celebrate the saints and pray for all of the deceased on All Saints Day and All Souls day and throughout the month. As part of the Communion of Saints, we are formally called the Church Militant because we are busy working out our salvation. We most likely are not involved in any wars, but we encounter spiritual warfare on a daily basis as we tread through each day. The Communion of Saints supports one another in prayer. The souls in Purgatory, called the Church Suffering needs our prayers. The Church Triumphant consisting of the saints in Heaven will pray for us and also wait for our requests for their intercession. We are all linked together in the family of the Communion of Saints in the beautiful Body of the Church.
Pope Urban VIII put the formal process of canonization in place in 1634. When the Church formally canonizes saints she solemnly proclaims that they lived lives in fidelity to God’s grace and have practiced heroic virtues. We can invoke the saints for the most pressing or the most trivial of needs. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us, “We can and should ask [the saints] to intercede for us and the whole world” (CCC # 2683).
What makes a Saint a Saint?
We can think of the saints as people to emulate. But what makes a saint a saint? What’s the stuff that saints are made of? We know that saints are people just like you and me – from differing walks of life, races, eras and temperaments. What sets them apart? They all had in common a shared communal faith in God and His promises. The saints are people who all choose to become holy. They are united in the love of God and the love for their neighbor. They were all challenged in many ways and became saints despite of, and actually more accurately, because of the struggles. They rose above the trials and persecutions with their eyes set on the goal – eternal life! Their example speaks volumes to us.
I find it amusing when in talking with people about striving for holiness, I have been told, “Oh, I know I can be holy if I wasn’t sick” or “If I had more time” or “If I had a different boss” or even “If I had a different spouse!” I smile and say, “My husband tells me with a twinkle in his eyes that God put him on this earth to make me a saint!”
God knows just what each of us needs to become a saint. It’s when we decide to respond in love to all of the little details of life we are immersed in that we are heading in the right direction. A trying child, a grumpy spouse, an angry co-worker; all can contribute to our sanctity and theirs – imagine that! This gives us a better perspective and also a whole lot of hope for the future when we recognize that we are where we are for a reason. God is calling us to holiness in the here and now of our lives.
How to Become a Saint
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta said time and time again, “Holiness is not a luxury of a few, but a duty for us all.” Jesus tells how to become a saint—how to inherit eternal life. He asks us, rather, He instructs us implicitly to live the Gospel of Matthew:
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory.
"All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate people from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and He will put the sheep at His right hand and the goats on the left.
"Then the King will say to those at His right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
'For I was hungry, and you gave Me food, I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed Me,
I was naked, and you gave me clothing, I was sick, and you took care of Me; I was in prison, and you visited Me.'
"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when was it when we saw You hungry and gave You food, or thirsty and gave You something to drink? And when was it that we saw You a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave You clothing?
“And when was it that we saw You sick or in prison and visited You?
"And the King will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least who are members of my family, you did it to Me.”
"Then He will say to those at His left, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;
I was a stranger, and you did not welcome Me, naked, and you did not give Me clothing, sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.'
"Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not take care of You?'
"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'
"And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25: 31-46).
Opportunities Surround Us
We live this Gospel every time we bring a glass of water to our child in the night or clothe our family, and when we visit the lonely and take care of the lonely in our own families. Do we have a lonely relative in need of a visit? We can put aside some time on Sundays for practicing the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy. Friday is another good day to give to others. Fridays are days meant for exercising penance and offering service to others. Amazing things will happen when we give of our time and love. Hearts are transformed!
Our Lord is asking us to see Him in others and serve Him in them. We have umpteen opportunities in our daily lives to live out the call to holiness; we just need to be attentive to the call. Perhaps we need to unplug from some of the technology and spend some time in quiet contemplation to hear Our Lord’s voice. And when there’s no time to be quiet and we are busy with the care of the family, right in the midst of changing diapers, keeping up with overflowing hampers of dirty laundry and all of the constant demands that call for our immediate attention - God speaks to us there too – even more clearly sometimes because we know we are serving Him as we tend to the needs of our families.
Blessed Teresa has told us: “The Church of God needs saints today. This imposes a great responsibility on us. We must become holy, not because we want to feel holy, but because Christ must be able to live his life fully in us.” We certainly live in an era when we are in need of saints to light the way to Heaven. God in His goodness has given us many holy people in our time—some have gone before us and are now in Heaven—some are here in our midst, humbling living out their lives of love and holiness.
No, we don’t need to take a course in sanctity to become a saint one day– it’s all mapped out for us and right under our noses. We only need to live out our lives faithfully, paying close attention to all of the tiny details while living in all of the present moments of our lives – surrendering everything over to God with great love. He’ll take care of it all if we allow Him to so that one day we will be rejoicing in Heaven – not just because we made it there, but because we lived out our lives with great love and service to others, and along with God’s abundant graces, we will have paved the road to Heaven for countless other souls!
Thank you dear Lord for Your love! Please teach me how to love with YOUR love and draw others to You so that we may all enjoy the eternal happiness of Heaven with You! Blessed Mother Mary, be a Mother to me and watch over and protect my family. All of you Angels and Saints, pray for us and guide us, please. Amen.
[This article originally appeared on the TORCH website (www.torchhomeschooling.org). Traditions of Roman Catholic Homes (TORCH) is an association of lay faithful established to promote homeschooling among Catholic families and to support those families who are engaged in providing their children’s primary education at home.]