I Want To Be A Saint

 

I love the college students. They are just so full of … everything, and most everything in a good way. As part of my campus ministry responsibility, I occasionally meet with one student group or another. Earlier this semester I had one meeting in which a reflection on saints were part of an opening prayer before the agenda was tackled. In discussing these saints, the student leader and many others there voiced the opinion that sainthood was too high of an ambition for them. I disagree. But for the moment, I kept my counsel to myself.

Tom Franzak composed a one-man musical, “Saints,” which I’ve seen performed by the artist twice. The opening song, unsurprisingly named, ” I Want to Be A Saint,” includes some voice-overs of people reflecting on the lives of the saints. “I couldn’t be a saint,” one person among many muses. But the last voice, a young child’s, declares “I want to be a saint!”

I’ve come to the conclusion that Catholics who cannot declare this are missing out on a delicious and rightful self-confidence. I confess I think it often. My wife and I remark on occasion that each of us is the other’s ticket to sainthood.

Kidding aside, I think Catholics should take seriously the notion that we are baptized to be saints. We receive Communion to draw closer to Christ and to be open to divine grace. We participate in the sacramental life of the Church as an expression of our desire to get closer to Christ, to have divinity rub off on us, to be more like Christ and those who follow him.

Images of saints in Church surround the body of earthly believers. We are part of a communion, or so we profess in the Creed. We also profess One Church, not a Church of different classes of lay people: one holy and in glory, and another grovellng and due for thousands of years of purgation.

One of the students expressed an admiration for St Faustina, who, according to her biography, I’m told was often coming up short by the standards of behavior in her order or doing things thought inappropriate by her spiritual director. So I’m not convinced either that lack of sin is or should be equated with holiness or sainthood. If you want sinless, there’s God. Our human example is the Blessed Mother. Every other saint sinned. Sometimes grievously so.

I’m curious as to why more Christians don’t aspire to sainthood. One cannot earn it by oneself. It’s all up to God. And if it is up to God, then why not ask God for the grace? I want to be a saint, and I think you should want to be one, too.

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Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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7 Responses to I Want To Be A Saint

  1. Liam says:

    Well, this brings to mind one of the better scenes from “Agnes of God” – particularly the contrast between holiness-as-goodness (holiness is what we do) and holiness-as-belonging-to-God (holiness is who we are):

    MOTHER MIRIAM When I was a child I used to hear my guardian angel. She sang to me ’till I was six years old. That’s when I stopped listening. But I remember the voice. A few years ago I looked at myself and saw nothing but a nun who was certain of nothing. Not even of Heaven. Not even of God. And then one evening I saw Agnes standing by her window, singing. And all my doubts about myself and God were gone, in that one moment. I recognized the voice. Please don’t take it away from me again, Doctor Livingston. Those years after six were very bleak.

    MARTHA Do you suppose the saints would have smoked if tobacco had been popular back then?

    MOTHER MIRIAM Undoubtedly. Not the ascetics of course but, well Saint Thomas More…

    MARTHA (chuckles) Long, thin and filtered.

    MOTHER MIRIAM Saint Ignatius would smoke cigars and stub them out on the soles of his bare feet. (they roar with laughter) And of course (distorted)

    MARTHA Hand rolled.

    MOTHER MIRIAM Even Christ would partake socially.

    MARTHA Saint Peter?

    MOTHER MIRIAM Pipe!

    MARTHA Right…

    MOTHER MIRIAM Mary Magdalen?

    MARTHA (imitating) Oh, you’ve come a long way baby.

    MOTHER MIRIAM And Saint John would chew tobacco.

    More laughter, then the moment because more serious.

    MARTHA Right. (a pause) What do you suppose today’s saints are smoking?

    MOTHER MIRIAM There are no saints today. Good people yes, but extraordinarily good people… those I’m afraid we are sorely lacking.

    MARTHA Do you think they ever existed?

    MOTHER MIRIAM Yes I do.

    MARTHA Do you want to become one?

    MOTHER MIRIAM Become? One is born a saint.

    MARTHA Well you can try, can’t you, to be good?

    MOTHER MIRIAM Yes, but goodness has very little to do with it. Not all the saints were good, in fact some of them were a little crazy. But… they were still attached to God. Agnes has that birth. (she stands) No more… we’re born, we live, we die. No room for miracles. (Martha gets up too) Oh my dear, how I miss the miracles.

    MARTHA Do you think Agnes is still attached to God?

    MOTHER MIRIAM Listen to her singing.

  2. crystal says:

    I’m not sure what it takes to be a saint. There are guys like Ignatius of Loyola who really did contribute amazing things like the Spiritual Exercises, but there are also a lot of saints whose main claim to fame is getting killed for staying a virgin (St. Lucy and so many others), or being a sucessful warrior (Alexander Nevsky, Joan of Arc), etc. Then there’s Pius XII – if guys like him can be mades saint,s I don’t want to be one :)

  3. + Alan says:

    Well, in a very real sense, if we are Christian people, we already are saints. We are incorporated into the Life and Body of Jesus. We are set apart for His service and to eventually become fully and completely who He created us to be. So, we are and are not yet. In Hebrews it says that “he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated.” Again, are and are not yet.

    We certainly aren’t yet fully transformed into the Image of Christ, but we’re all on our way. It seems unfortunate that we, as Catholics, seem to have a limited view of what a “saint” is – equating it only with the official process of canonization. Most of us will never be canonized by the Church as it is on earth. We don’t really need to be. But if we continue to cooperate with Grace and allow God to change us, we will eventually all be perfected “saints,” whether we think about it like that or not.

    If we would shift our understanding, a bit, of what it is to be a saint, of course we’d all want to be one. We all want to be like Jesus – to be changed inside and out into His Image. That’s kind of the whole point of Christianity. We just keep on walking on the path and trusting (relying on His mercy and Grace to keep holding us). Just a few thoughts. Peace to you.

  4. Jimmy Mac says:

    I suspect that most of our parents were saints in some way, shape or form. They devoted a lot of time and effort to ensuring that their children had what was needed, most of the time at major cost of time, effort and money to the parents.

    I’ll take that kind of saint anytime.

  5. Todd:

    I liked your post and meant to blog on it but haven’t had time yet. It is interesting how uncomfortable the idea of being saints makes us.

    I have often felt the same way. In my case, because what I saw held up as sanctity in some Catholic circles basically had a lot to do with just enduring or even seeking out suffering. And I’d already had a belly full of that in my life. And there was very little sense of mission or apostleship involved.

    But I’m changing as my sense of what “sanctity” looks like expands. I can *almost* say with a straight face that “I would like to be a saint.” Some day!

    One of the things we have noticed is that most Catholics – across the board – assume that there is “two tracks” – the “normal Catholic life” tack and the “saint” track. And saints are very, very rare. And you certainly can’t aspire to it. God just zaps you.

    And that many Catholics tend to confuse the signs of discipleship with the “saint” track because visible spiritual growth seems so different from the lived Catholic norm.

  6. Rita faith okechukwu says:

    Yes i believe all you said but we catholic can’t we live an examplary life for example like st. Faustina, st. Rita & other saints.

  7. ellie says:

    I want to be a saint. But I’m really bad…I steal and stuff

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