My friend Marc Cardaronella just posted a tweet that really got me thinking. He said:
The problem with our evangelization is that we don’t have enough living Saints.
— Marc Cardaronella (@MCardaronella) April 24, 2013
First, let me say that he is absolutely right. We need more saints who are living saints–people who live saintly lives here on earth–if we are going to see any success in evangelization. These are people who inspire others with their lives. They are true, living witnesses. They are holy men and women whose example leads us deeper into ourselves and closer to God. They are people like Mother Teresa, Bl. John Paul II, Maximillion Kolbe, and I daresay our new pope.
Anyway, it got me thinking. . .
What does it take to be saint?
My first reaction–the reaction most of us think incorrectly–is that I need to work harder to become more holy. I should probably pray more, right? I should go to confession, receive the Eucharist more frequently, and be kinder to others.
Of course a living saint prays daily. Of course she frequently encounters God in the sacraments. Of course she shows mercy.
The thing is, that’s not where our path to sainthood begins. That is the practice of the saint, but it isn’t the first step.
What people don’t see when they meet or learn about a saint is that path that got them there. It is impossible to become a saint–impossible, at least, without God.
Think about that for a minute.
In that first step to sainthood, these men and women chose to take a path that required them to give up everything. They gave up everything they hoped for–everything they’ve dreamed of.
They didn’t have to make just any, general sacrifice. This kind of sacrifice is specific to each individual. Saints had to make the sacrifices that hurt the most. They had to open themselves up to enormous exposure and vulnerability.
That is why there aren’t more living saints. That is why I’m not one of them yet.
To become a saint, we have to face our biggest fear. We have to go to the places where we feel the most self doubt. We have to fight against those experiences that make us want to hide. I imagine becoming a saint is extremely uncomfortable.
The hardest part is that when you beat the Resistance today, it will be back tomorrow.
The only way to face it is union with God. The only way to be a saint–to give up everything and yet gain even more–is to turn to God and put our trust in him. All of it.
“Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)
We lose our False Self (“I can do it!”) and live our True Self (“we can do it!”).
Moses had a speech impediment, but he was sent to convince the Pharaoh to set his people free.
The boy David was given the best armor Israel had to offer to face Goliath, but he traded it in for a sling and some stones putting his whole trust in God.
Saint Francis was rich and popular, but he sold everything he had and became a poor beggar.
Karol Wojtyła lost everyone in his family: mother, brother, and finally his father. He was all that was left of his immediate family. It was up to him to carry on the family name. But instead, he asked his bishop if he could study in the seminary–a seminary that was forbidden by the Nazi’s who occupied Poland at the time. He risked his life studying in and underground seminary.
So, the questions I am asking myself in order to live up to Marc’s challenge to become a living saint is this:
- What am I most afraid of losing?
- What makes me feel insecure and exposed?
- What is that I could never do on my own without God’s help?
Saints and Evangelism
Marc is right about evangelism because we need to tell these stories too. We need to live the life of a saint, but we need to be able to tell our stories of being sinners–sinners who couldn’t go on without God’s grace.
Most people are living a lie. They’re comfortable. They’re looking for gratification in all the wrong places.
Saints went through that too. They were afraid, but they found help. They turned to God who gave them strength.
It is that example and that story that will make evangelization by saints a powerful force in the world.
(photo credit: arbyreed)