I remember the first time I heard someone say they wanted to be a saint.
It was early in my sophomore year of college, and as we stood in the lobby of the boys’ dorm in Atchison, surrounded by the smells of old cups-of-soup and unwashed laundry, my Residence Director introduced himself by telling us three things:
1. His name was Mark, and he loved Jesus and his wife more than anything.
2. He and his wife had just one goal in life: to become saints.
3. He never wore sandals because you can’t kick down doors in sandals.
I had been through fifteen years of Catholic education at that point, and I really think it was the first time someone had actually said to me that they wanted to be a saint. It was the first time the possibility that someone I knew could become one had crossed my mind.
Now, it is perfectly possible that this had been said to me dozens of times and I simply had not listened, or that it had been said in different ways that I didn’t fully understand, or that I was just not ready to hear that message before that day. All of these are possible.
But I do believe that the idea that I could become a saint was actually largely, if not completely, absent from my pre-K through 12th Catholic education.
I was taught to live in service to others. I was taught right from wrong and that I was called to act in accord with my conscience. I was taught that faith was important and should be part of my life.
But sainthood seemed like something different. It was for the great, the elite, the rare.
As we celebrated the feasts of All Saints and All Souls this week, I was reflecting on how powerful that moment was for me when I heard my RD say he wanted to be a saint. There was something about him that was arresting to me as a young man trying to figure life out: here was someone who had direction, purpose, meaning. He had clarity. His life was pointed to a specific horizon, and he seemed excited about that.
If we have been listening to Mother Church for the last few decades, we should know the New Evangelization is at its heart the re-proclamation that sainthood, holiness, is the destiny of each person. To be a saint is to be in friendship with God, to be in Heaven, and so if we want to be in Heaven, it means we must become a saint, either before our death or after.
Do you want to be a saint? If the answer is no, why not? If the answer is yes, have you told your kids that?
If you do want to be a saint, then this week would be a great chance to talk to your kids about that and ask what they think about it. If the answer is no, or even if it is yes but needs more reflection, this week would be a great chance to take the question to prayer. It would be a great lens to which you could hold up each part of your life:
What time would a saint get out of bed?
How much would a saint eat for dinner?
How much time would a saint spend on their phone?
How would a saint spend their Sundays?
The beautiful, or perhaps terrifying, part of our understanding of Heaven and Hell is that in some mysterious way, it has already begun. The more we live like a saint in this life, the more intimate our union with God, and union with God is the essence of Heaven. The less we live like a saint in this life, the more we are isolated, alone, afraid, in pain, which is the essence of Hell.
It’s like eternity reaches backwards into our lives and starts growing in time, a seed planted in the soil of this earthly life whose true fruit is saved for after death but which we can see budding and growing right now. Sound familiar? “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed…” “A sower went out to sow…”
On these feasts, we contemplate our mortality, our ultimate destiny, and we should think about what seeds have we planted. If there are weeds, if the fruit smells like it may be rotting, then invite the Gardener in. Remember, God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the evening, and Jesus’ was buried in a garden, Mary Magdalen confusing the Resurrected Christ with a gardener. He is the Vine, and we are the branches. He can tend them better than we.
And if your tree is bearing good fruit, then break it open, take the seeds, and plant them wherever you go. Plant, and let God worry about the rest.
I am blessed to work in a building with a whole lot of future saints (all of course with room to grow). Our staff, the parents, the kids…so many are seeking holiness and growing in faith, hope and love, which in turn inspires me to seek the same more deeply for myself and my family. Not a bad way to make a living. Thanks for sharing your family with us, and have a great November!
Your brother in Christ,