Do I Have a Chance of Being the Saint I'm Called to Be?
I’ve been having a difficult time with the idea that I’m called to be a saint. I mean, I have responsibilities and work that needs to get done. I have people who need me to be present to them. I don’t have time to live in a church and just pray. Does that mean that I have no chance of being a saint?
First of all, thank you! Thank you for acknowledging the fact that God has made you for this one purpose: to become a saint. And thank you for caring enough about this call that it actually bothers you that you might not be able to become the person God has made you to be. In fact, to not become the person God has made you to be would be devastating. As Leon Bloy said, “There is only one real tragedy in life, not to have been a saint.”By this, he does not mean being “declared a saint” by the Catholic Church. He also doesn’t mean being recognized by others as someone who sticks out because of personal holiness. He further did not mean that, without long fasts and all-night vigils, a person could not hope to be holy. Those might be characteristics of saints (and they might be what God is calling you to at some point), but none of those “tasks” are the key to holiness.
Let me back up.
The Second Vatican Council reminded Catholics of something that we ought to never have forgotten: It is the destiny of every human being to become holy. Now, “destiny” here does not mean the same thing as “fate.” As Catholics, we do not believe in fate, but we do believe that every person has been created by God on purpose with a “destination” in mind. And that destination is eternal life with God in heaven. All of us are made for one reason: to become saints. In fact, that is what the term “saint” refers to: being “holy.” And “holy” refers to being “set apart.” If a thing or a person is holy, they are set apart for God. That is why St. Paul can refer to those who are baptized as “holy ones” or “saints”: because through their baptism, they have been set apart and consecrated for God.
And if you are baptized, the same is true for you: you have been set apart for God. You are one of his “holy ones.” The invitation now is to actually live what you already are. To not do this would be to make a shipwreck of your life. To do this would be to cooperate with God in making a masterpiece of your life.
And this is noteworthy: the process of living what you already are (becoming a saint) is primarily God’s work. God is the one who makes us holy. We can either cooperate with his grace and become who he is crafting us to be, or we can refuse or ignore his grace and become something infinitely less, a distorted and stunted version of who he has created and redeemed us to be.
So, how does a person (especially a person like you who has responsibilities and people counting on you) become a saint in the midst of your busy life?
Well, there are the obvious things: We have to repent of sins and turn to God. That is a no-brainer. Regardless of what else you and I are called to, if we insist on clinging to our sins, there is not much God can do with us. There is also the purification of our hearts and lives. Many of us are busy with non-essential things. We have the ability to fill up our lives with meaningless diversions and distractions. I’m not talking about helpful and life-giving activities. I mean the things that simply steal our attention and rob us of really living. The kinds of things that, if we make it to heaven, it will be in spite of these things, not because of them. But the key to being a saint is simply this: saying yes to God. A holy priest once told me: “A saint is someone who says yes to God … and then never stops saying yes.”
This is incredibly simple. If God is calling you to pray, say yes. If you’ve fallen into sin and God is calling you to go to confession, say yes. If you have been away from the church and God is calling you back, say yes. If you have at the sense that God is calling you to act in any way, say yes.
I know that you indicated that you aren’t always able to pray. I would invite you to pray on a daily basis. This is something that must be present in your life in some way. Without prayer, there is no possible way we can grow in holiness. You are not called to spend your entire day in the church. Still, you are called to live what you already are: set apart.
St. Francis de Sales had a fantastic way to do this. It can be encapsulated in three simple words: “Ask, Offer, Accept.” First, before any task, we ask God to be present and to make us holy by his grace. Second, we offer whatever the task is to him as a gift of love. Third, we resolve to accept what the fruit of that time dedicated to him is. In doing this, we allow every moment to be a sacrament (God is present and active). Every moment is a sacrifice (which makes every moment an act of worship). And every moment becomes a profound act of surrender (in which we entrust our lives to God in faith). Imagine! Every moment of your life a sacrament, sacrifice, and surrender! Even when you are not technically “in prayer”!
You have been set apart. By “asking, offering, and accepting” every moment, your life is also set apart for love of God.
Father Michael Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth.