Don’t think for a second they weren’t real.
Saints were very much real people. We’re too used to thinking of them in terms of the smiling, gentle statues in the back of church where we throw in a couple of coins looking for a little assistance. “Hey St. Anthony, can you help a brother out? I’m tryin’ to find a wife.”
Or perhaps we only think of saints based on stories in our books which sometimes make them seem almost superhuman. “While still in his mother’s womb, St. ‘So and So’ began preaching the Gospel, converting the entire Roman Empire in utero. He was formally declared a saint upon birth.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to make fun of saints (or saint books). In my own, often pathetic way, I’m trying to be one. (Emphasis mine.)
But I do think that sometimes we tend to think of saints as a different species from us. Like they were aliens who just happen to live among us. Or they were regular before they were bitten by a radio-active, holiness spider.
On the other hand, it’s not altogether wrong to say they were super-human. Why? Because their lives were powered by supernatural grace from God. They were incredible people because they allowed God to be their strength. They knew they couldn’t do it on their own. They struggled with temptation and vice just like us. So they asked for help.
Remember that except for Mary, saints weren’t born sinless. They just wanted to be holy more than anything else. They were regular humans who sought superhuman grace to overcome their frailties.
And the same grace that made them saints is the same grace that can make us saints.
So take heart, my friends. Even if your attempts to become holy in Christ sometimes feel as pathetic as mine, we know that “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26) Someday, somebody might read an incredible saint story about you! (And we all know you’re real!)
We’ve all heard it before.
The universal call to holiness means we’re supposed to get holy. Every one of us is called to sainthood. And really, what are the alternatives? Well, behind door number 1 is the eternal fire of hell. No thanks.
Slightly less warm is behind door number 2 – purgatory – the place scripture says our work on earth will be “tested” by fire. (1 Cor 3:13)
Interestingly, I don’t think we take purgatory seriously enough. In fact, it seems that many of us are pretty resigned to that fact that’s where we’re going to end up. How many times have you heard someone declare with a sigh, “As long as I make it to purgatory!” Really? That’s what you want? Cuz it’s not going to be cupcakes and brownies.
We may not know exactly what it is or how long it lasts, but we do know it’s gonna hurt. Scripture says nothing unclean can enter heaven, and our impurities are going to be “revealed by fire.” So we’re talking way hotter than James Brown’s hot tub on SNL.
St. John of the Cross said that purgatory is more terrible than a thousand deaths. Without God’s grace, it’s a purification we couldn’t survive. Yikes!
The good news is, you don’t have to go there. Our Lord provides door number 3 – it’s called sainthood. Love God with everything you’ve got, and there’ll be no reason for the eternal elevator to stop on the way up.
So make sure to set your sights as high as possible. Besides, it’s not a good idea to aim for purgatory…You might miss.
Keep striving, my friends! God bless you.
Let me ask you a question you’ve probably never been asked before. How much do you hate sin?
Seriously. Do you hate it like a piece of popcorn stuck between your teeth? Or do you hate it like you just stepped in fresh dog dookie and tramped it all over your new white carpet?
In other words, do you hate sin enough?
Certainly there are degrees of sin. We know that mortal and venial sin are different animals. Scripture (see 1 Jn 5:16-18) and the Catechism make it clear that one kills the life of grace in the soul – spiritual suicide – and the other wounds it. (Of course, repeated wounding eventually leads to death. Remember the knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? “It’s just a flesh wound.”)
Regardless, we have to remember that there’s no such thing as a “small” sin. All of it is a terrible offense against our perfectly holy God.
To achieve holiness in and through him; become worthy of the family of God, we have to hate sin with a passion – the passion of Christ. Of course, this doesn’t mean hating sinners (a title which covers all of us), but calling ourselves and others to a higher, holier standard of life.