Most of us are bound and determined not to be Saints.
Oh sure, we’re generally good people.
We don’t wake up and declare, “I refuse to be holy today. Sorry, God.”
We just don’t start each day with the conviction to practice virtue either.
Because the fact is…sanctity is hard.
(Especially when we’re already inclined to be mediocre in our faith.)
It’s so much easier to stop thinking about the work we’ll need to do to imitate Jesus and to start thinking about shortcuts.
You know, like what other people can do to help our holiness.
The big excuse
“If my spouse was more prayerful/submissive/radical/humble/servant-hearted/lovable, I’d be a better person.”
“If I lived in an authentic Christian culture, piety would be a piece of cake.”
“If my parish offered the Latin Mass, was staffed by a FSSP priest, held Confession 7 days a week, and had only zealous Catholics running the parish programs then, by golly, I could be canonized tomorrow!”
Adam did it with Eve. The Israelites did it with Moses. I’ve done it and you’ve done it.
We stop aiming for the Lord and start blaming it on others.
Soon we start living our lives convinced that the faults and successes of people, societies or programs actually determine our own holiness.
Have you heard the term for it? Idolatry.
No, it’s not of golden calves or marble statues. But I think it may be of something even worse:
Our own ideas.
Isn’t it ironic?
Like all idol worship, the more we love our ideas about how things “should be” in order to make sanctity easier, the less we actually do to cooperate with God’s plan to make us Saints.
A frequent idolater, I spent weeks not long ago consumed with finding The Ultimate Catholic Community in the United States.
The criteria was simple: it only had to have the Holiest Spiritual Directors, Most Vibrant Parish Ministries, Greatest Number of Vocations, Friendliest Moms, and Largest Homeschool Groups in the entire nation.
Embarrassingly large chunks of time were lost to me forever as I compulsively meandered through Catholic websites and forums, daydreaming about all the possible great things I could do and be IF ONLY I went to that One Perfect Church in that One Perfect Town.
Of course back in my life, I did nothing for my parish. I did little for the people in need around me. I hardly did anything for my own soul.
What did I do instead?
Lamented. Grumbled. Fretted.
“How can I go to Confession frequently if it’s only offered for an hour on Saturdays while my husband works? There’s no one to watch my little kids! My gosh, this is just…unreasonable! I can’t be radical about my spiritual life with these kinds of difficulties. In fact, it’s impossible! I…I give up.”
My idolatry, which demanded so much of others, had paralyzed me.
The truth is, it paralyzes all of us.
Evaluate the truth
If we are to be truly Great, we need to let go of our narrow ideas about what is “necessary” in order for us to be who we ought to be.
Saintly spouses are helpful, Christian societies are good and thriving parishes are the goal.
But God doesn’t need any of them to make you a Saint.
In fact, looking at the rosters of the men, women and children who have been raised to the altars I think He actually prefers to raise up Saints out of the most unsuitable situations.
All He needs is someone who is free.
Free to cooperate with the sufficiency of His grace. Free to do the hard, intentional work of daily death to self.
But this freedom can be found only when Jesus is King of our hearts. Not some comparatively pitiful ideas about our surroundings that we have erected in His place.
So, it’s time we ask ourselves…
Are we free, really free, to be Great?
Or are we shackled to the gods of What Seems Good To Us?