To Be or Not to Be . . . a Saint

by Kathleen Glavich, SND on May 24, 2017

in Blogs

This past week I was interviewed about saints for a podcast, so I thought I’d share some thoughts about them this week. I believe it was Leon Bloy who noted, “The only failure in life is not to be a saint.” A saint is someone who made it to heaven. Consider the alternative. Sometimes people say (or think) “I’m no saint.” No, none of us earthlings are yet. We still have time to determine our eternal future. Our concept of a saint might be a grim person, a goody-goody, a priest or nun . . . but not us. But saints were as human as we are. They too had failings, as someone put it, “tilted haloes.” St. Jerome had a temper, St. Therese was sensitive, St. Augustine once stole pears—not to mention his other sins. But the saints lived in a way that mattered: they loved God and people the way Jesus did. A youngster was asked what a saint was.  Thinking of stained-glass windows, he replied: “A saint is someone the light shines through.”  Yes, saints let the light and love of Christ shine through them. For that, they achieved our most important goal: life with God forever.

Saints were like us in that they had a sense of humor and were playful.  St. Francis of Assisi picked up sticks in the woods and pretended to play the violin. St. Julie Billiart told a sobbing young sister who was being separated from her, “You may only shed five tears a day—in honor of the five wounds of Jesus.” When Thomas More was about to be beheaded, he moved his beard away from the blade, telling the executioner, “It hasn’t done anything wrong.” And we mustn’t forget St. Lawrence, who while being burned to death for his faith said, “Turn me over. I’m done on this side.”

Saints were like us in that they had good friends: St. Francis and his cousin St. Clare; St. Teresa of Avila and her short friend St. John of the Cross, whom she called her half-priest; St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. When St. Francis Xavier was in China, he missed his Jesuit colleagues so much that he pinned the signatures on their letters inside his habit.

Saints are from every walk of life and every country. They are queens and kings like St. Margaret of Hungry and St. Louis IX of France. They are parents like the Martins, the mother and father of St. Therese of Lisieux. They are religious, like St. Martin de Porres, the Dominican brother who made an animal hospital in his sister’s house. (She was probably a saint too!) And they are single like St. Agatha and St. Charles Lwanga.

Saints are different ages, ranging from St. Dominic Savio, St. Maria Goretti, and the Fatima children Francisco and Jacinta Martos (who on May 13 this year were canonized, officially declared a saint) to the martyr St. Polycarp who refused to reject God, saying, “For eighty-six years I have served God, and he has never done me wrong.”

Some saints are geniuses like St. Thomas Aquinas, who, by the way, was so obese that the dining room table had to be cut into to make room for him. And some saints have low IQs. St. Joseph of Cupertino was repeatedly rejected by religious communities, but he could levitate!

Some saints are beautiful, like St. Gemma, while others are not, like St. Kateri, whose face was pockmarked from smallpox.

It’s good to get to know the saints, for many reasons. First, they are our brothers and sisters in the Communion of Saints and we will be living with them someday, hopefully. Second, they can intercede for us with God. Third, knowing about them inspires us to be better human beings. As a Kenyan saying goes: “No one sits by the fire without being warmed.” St. Ignatius turned his life around after reading the lives of the saints while he was recuperating from a war injury. And, fourth, saints are models for us. They show us how to live a life as God intended us to.

The goal of families is to make one another saints. When we attain that goal, after we die, we will not be angels but rather glorified human beings.

If the prospect of being a saint seems daunting to you, you might make this aspiration your prayer:  “O God, who are all-powerful, make me a saint!”

Who is your patron saint or favorite saint?  Why?





{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Joe clark May 24, 2017 at 2:32 pm

Great column, sister.
Like they say: every sinner has a future . Every
Saint had a past
Enjoy you weekend


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