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.