Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Little Bit of Clarification

I tend to write at night after hashing out my thoughts during the day.  Unfortunately my thoughts tend to get more confusing sounding, muddied, by my tired brain so I thought that I would clarify.

What is a Saint?

The basic definition of sainthood is holiness.  However, it also is a title.  The Bible speaks of holy people who are alive as prophets and elders.  Those who are dead who were once holy, living people are referred to as saints.  In other words, it's a title you receive upon your death.

The Church concurs with this definition.  While alive, the Church doesn't recognize a person as being a saint or a Saint (in the canonical form).  She does recognize people as being holy or saintly (like a saint).  It isn't until a person's death that a person receives the title.

The Focus

What happens with people and discussions on sainthood is two-fold:
1) They place being saint on a pedestal, something utterly unattainable.  Which is partially true.  It is only with God and through God that we can ever become saints on our death.  Holiness takes a life time and we cannot do that alone.  The solution to this is not to focus on saints as being perfect persons because they were not.  They frequently struggled.  But rather to focus on their ability to always agree to do the will of God.  And this happens minute by minute.  It's not a one time thing.  We should take their example and focus on agreeing to do the will of God all the time rather than worrying over the finality.  God will take care of the rest.  Make sense?

2) What also happens is we view the pathway to heaven as a check list.  If I do X,Y,Z, then I'm covered.  The problem is that will of God is something to be discerned always.  Bl. Mother Teresa is a good example of this.  First she discerned that she should become a nun and then later start her order.  She called this "the call within the call."  And so we should not say "well God has told me to this" and that be the end of that.  If that were the case, I would have remained a single, musician performing at various parishes the rest of my life.  But God called me to marriage and motherhood.  And so there is no check list in life.  It is constantly remaining open and in dialogue with God.

As the saying goes it is the journey not the destination.  The goal is to achieve sainthood; the just fruits of the long journey.  But what happens is the Devil can easily get in the way of things if we don't focus more of our attention on Christ ie doing His Will.  Christ will mold us and shape us to conform to him if we simply agree (and repeatedly do so).  So even if we never focus on sainthood as a title or heaven as a destination, but focus solely on discerning and following the will of God, then we will end up as saints anyway.  Call it the focus within the focus.  Make sense?

Even if we never focus on being holy persons even if we are all called to holiness, but rather simply to agree to God's will, then we will become saints.

God's will for us is to become holy persons and saints and as long as we focus on doing his will in our lives then we will become saints and holy persons.  We need not focus on the destination (although you can but as I said there are the two traps that are easy to fall into).  We need to focus on the journey.

And this is what's happened in the modern world.   People are deluding themselves into everything will be fine so long as they lead a good life.  And therefore if they check things off the "good life" list, heaven is attained for all regardless.  But it's a lie.  For the individual to do the will of God is more than just leading a good life, it's doing what we are called to do.  Only by doing God's will can God mold us into saints.  And not just through collective piety but also individual discernments.

If I keep writing, I'll just end up repeating myself, I think.  I just wanted to clarify what I meant by the word sainthood.  That to me and many others it's more than just simply a call to holiness but rather it is the fruit of life-time of seeking holiness.  N'est pas?


  1. Another good reflection!

    But I think sometimes we all might be talking past each other. One person might not want to think in terms of "attaining Heaven", but certainly, many saints have spoken in that vein. They understand (inherently!) that it's a process, and that we get there by Love alone, and by doing God's will in the moment. But the very reason we have icons and statues and holy things all around us is because we are supposed to keep our eyes focused on our true home. We are supposed to surround ourselves with heavenly images and thoughts. We use all of our senses as Catholics, and we keep our mind and eyes on the ultimate goal, just as the Bride keeps her eyes on the Groom, waiting to meet her at the wedding, and to partake in the Feast and the Consummation. We prepare and purify ourselves long before the consummation, and we love the Groom all along the way, but certainly we are allowed (and encouraged!) to remember that we are not in the journey for the sake of the journey in itself, but for the sake of journeying to the Bridegroom. We are longing for union with God. St. Therese the Little Flower said, "The World's Thy Ship, Not Thy Home." Such comfort! Such Truth!

    So yes, what you said is true, but it's not either/or. We love God now, in the moment, and we keep our eyes on our true home, when we can be united with the Beloved. And, just to be clear, everything that I wrote in my original post presupposes that Christians reading it already love Jesus. That assumption is crucial. Otherwise, we are what the Protestants accuse us of: Works only, with no relationship with Jesus. But that is not what the Church teaches or has ever taught. Our works as well as our faith are borne of Love, and they cannot occur apart from Grace. I hope that was understood, but if not, I apologize.

    One last thought…I think the title "saint" is used for earthly Christians in the Bible (that's a term some Protestants use, to speak of themselves, pilgrims on earth; New Testament Christians called themselves "saints"), so there are different applications for the term.

    Also, in my original post (because I think that post was the catalyst for your last two), I was not talking aspiring to be canonized saints. I was talking about the saints that we are all supposed to be (i.e., perfected by Love -- in Heaven of course we will be, but for a very few, the perfection happens on earth, too). So, I was not meaning "Do you want to be a canonized saint?"

    Hope that makes sense! Everyone's journey and approach to sanctity will be different, as individual as each of us is. Each saint (canonized or not) had/has such different personalities, temperaments, circumstances. It's what I love about our faith! We can conceptualize things differently, but the end result is the same: Perfection, Union with God, Dwelling in the Heart of the Trinity, Sanctity. Beautiful!

  2. PS: Maybe the confusion I am feeling is because it seems like I might have given you the impression that holiness is a check list? Maybe because I mentioned that I wanted to start praying a daily rosary and get to adoration? I should clarify that I do not in any way believe that just because a human being does x number of rosaries or visits the Blessed Sacrament x number of times, that she will get to heaven. I apologize if that's what it seemed like I was saying!

    I was saying that for me, I need to get disciplined in my prayer life (subordinate my will to His) and get grounded in the most beautiful, sublime prayer of Our Lady. I need it, I am called to it, and have been ignoring the call till now. Also, I need, need, need to spend time with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Not to "check something off a list", but to be in the Presence of our Lord. I have felt the call to that for quite some time, too. It is very individual (though it's not unusual for those stepping tentatively deeper to be called to these things). I sure hope I did not imply that someone could just check things off a list to be holy! :)

  3. Its not just you post that spawned the reflection. Sorry if I seem to be talking past you. Like I said I wasn't sure how to respond.

    Ive been reading rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly. He takes holiness and extrapolates. He doesn't call it sainthood (I surmise that it would be too confusing since the book is meant to be evangelistic). He calls it being your best self.

    Good book. Much to chew on. He mentions pedastals and check lists. And hes right. Its the intent behind things. I wasn't meaning to address you specifically or make it sound that your intentions were wrong. Sorry about that.

    No. We all have stuff we're told to do. I was told to cover my head at mass. Is that God's will for other? Well that's between them and God of course. But that is what God wants for me. Why? Heck if I know. :)

  4. Deltaflute, understood! And, I am reading Kelly's book at the moment, too. :) I love it so far. I don't love the first story (the story is not analogous to Christ, as the poor child in the story did not willfully offer to lay down his life, so it's a problematic story, morally speaking, yikes!!), but I am really enjoying the rest! I love his CD on the seven levels of intimacy. :)

    Anyway, I know, I'm really picky about details, so thanks for hanging with me through my foibles!

    1. Totally neglecting my kids at the moment (bad Momma). But yeah, I didn't like the story either. Got the point though. I guess he needs to revise it.


I love to read your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!