Have you ever looked at the life of a saint and thought, I could never do that—I’m nothing like them? Have you ever felt like sainthood was challenging you to a stare-down, and you couldn’t hold your gaze steady?
Some days, the thought of being called to be holy seems about as achievable as making it up Mount Everest without an oxygen tank!
We all know that we’re called to sainthood—and that we all fall short. How many times have you heard questions or insecurities, whether in your own thoughts, at a parish study group, or from a friend or family member? Thoughts like these:
- I’m not good enough…
- I’m definitely not holy enough…
- If I’m holy, then my halo’s pretty tarnished!
- It’s too scary, it would change everything…
- I want to be holy, but I don’t know how to do it!
What you’re probably wondering about, in all of this, is what your specific path to holiness is.
You’re probably trying to figure out in the midst of your day-to-day life, and the noise of the world around you, exactly which voice is the voice of God.
The fact that you’re asking these questions is so wonderful! Curiosity is a gift from God, as is the impulse toward holiness. At this time of year, as we celebrate All Saints’ Day, we’re reminded that that is our calling, each one of us: to be a saint. We’re called to question and to try, to make mistakes and fall down and get up again and try again. We may never attain perfection in this life, but we must keep aiming for it.
And just as God is working through your mind, your questions, your challenges, he is also working through the Church. It’s easy to forget that at times like this, when we’re confronted with abuse from within the Church, but we cannot forget that God works through his Church. While it’s true that people in the Church have—just like us—made mistakes and fallen, they’ve also gotten up and tried again, and God has used the Church and its people as instruments of his will and of his love.
There are signs of hope. In October, Pope Francis canonized seven saints, people from every walk of life: a young man who died at the age of 19, an archbishop martyred in San Salvador for standing with the poor, a pope, two religious sisters, and a priest, people who worked tirelessly for God’s kingdom. They give us hope and remind us that every day, all around us—not just in history but right now—holiness is achievable.
Every journey, they say, starts with a first step.
That first step needs to be something practical: sitting around waiting for someone to place a halo on your head isn’t going to cut it! So make a plan today, right now, to work toward holiness. That first step can be as simple as defining what holiness looks like to you, how it manifests in your life. Read a book that clarifies, enlightens, inspires. (We can suggest some for you!) Talk to someone—your priest, a nun, your family, your Bible study group, your friends. Ask everyone you know what holiness means to them. You won’t find answers unless you really start actively asking the questions.
Start with that first step today. Read something. Talk to someone. Pray about it.
Even the saints had to struggle to find their own specific path to holiness.
Saint Thérèse left us a wonderful story about her own search. One day when she was asking God for clarity around her path to holiness, she opened the Bible to the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians. She read that the Church is made up of many different members, yet still she was not satisfied.
Without being discouraged I continued my reading and this sentence consoled me: “Strive after the most perfect gifts.” And the apostle explains how all the most perfect gifts are nothing without love. . . that Charity is the excellent way that leads most surely to God.
When she read this passage, her heart began to burn within her. She realized she was meant to keep love alive in the Church, because it was love that led the apostles to preach and the martyrs to courageously give their lives for Jesus. She wrote:
I understood that LOVE INCLUDED ALL VOCATIONS, THAT LOVE WAS EVERYTHING, THAT IT EMBRACED ALL TIMES AND ALL PLACES. . . IN A WORD, THAT IT IS ETERNAL!
And it is here that she cries out, “My vocation is love.” She explains this vocation has been given her by God, but he had placed the ardent desire for it into her heart.
God places within each of us an ardent desire for holiness.
So as we celebrate the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, remember you have what it takes to make something beautiful with your life, that God has given you a vocation and a unique path to holiness in the Church, and that you are very dear to God. As God has done with all the saints, so he will do for you. Holiness, after all, is about what God accomplishes in us in his mercy…and then gives us all the credit!
Do you have practical steps of holiness that have worked for you or favorite saints that show you the way? We hope you share them with everyone below.
So as we close we want to tell you: take courage! Let us walk together with the saints on the road of holiness!
Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, Jeannette de Beauvoir, Sr Barbara Gerace, Orianne Dyck (postulant)
You will also enjoy: Purgatory, Candy, and All the Saints by Jeannette de Beauvoir and All Souls: Thoughts and Memories by Sr Barbara Gerace, FSP