Note from Author: I am not a saint, but, as encouraged by Church teaching, hope to become one before the Lord takes me from this world. I do not claim to know everything it takes to be a saint: only God and the saints know that, and the complete answer is surely different for each person. However, we all have access to the divine wisdom given to us by Jesus Christ, developed in the Magisterium of the Church, and captured beautifully in the well-documented lives of the saints. The observations, thoughts and guidance in this article are based on such information as well as sound spiritual direction and the carefully discerned promptings of the Holy Spirit. The content here is meant only to introduce the path of sainthood that we are all called to follow. Each of us can start with the basics, which is an essential reason why the Church itself exists, and through proper spiritual direction, the promises of our Lord to us of salvation can come to fulfillment.
What would your life be like if it was fully centered on the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus? What if the cross was always before you? What if you allowed yourself always to be led by the hand of the Virgin Mary? What if you were always in communion with the angels and saints? What if you always stood before God as you weighed every thought and action in your life? “Ask and you shall receive“: such a blessed life is truly yours for the asking.
The fact is that every one of us is called to sainthood, as it is how we must respond to the 1st and greatest of all God’s commandments. Most saints have never been publicly recognized and would not care, but that does not matter in the least, especially as you consider the joy that awaits them in Heaven. The immediate reaction on the part of most people is that becoming a saint is not really possible for them, and they assume it requires too much sacrifice. The truth is that everyone can become a saint, as God does not wish for anyone to be lost (2 Peter 3:8).
The path to sainthood is centered on utter devotion to and worship of Jesus Christ. God gives Himself wholly to us, and the call to sainthood is that we also give ourselves with complete abandonment to Him in a holy union. As we transition from sinners to saints through our response to the graces conferred upon us by the Holy Spirit, we return to our Father like the Prodigal Son, ready and able to carry our spiritual cross.
There are a great many fruits produced along this narrow way: these include tenderness, love, kindness, humility and gentleness. The soul of a saint is infused with as much of the infinite wisdom, grace and power of Almighty God as it can sustain while in the vessel of a mortal body.
So how does one get started?
Fortunately, several centuries ago Saint Francis de Sales produced a beautiful work called Introduction to the Devout Life. It can be regarded as somewhat of a beginner’s manual and is just as relevant today as it was when it was originally written. There are many other wonderful works to inspire and guide you, including those of St. Theresa of Avila, St. Therese of Liseaux, St. John of the Cross, Cardinal Newman, Thomas Merton, and Henry Nouwen, to name a few.
What can you do today to get started?
The first answer, given by Jesus Christ Himself, is profoundly simple: forgive everyone whom you feel has caused you offence, doing so from the heart, and pray for them. “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). “I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44). According to Jesus, forgiveness allows you to love perfectly and to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Such wisdom from our Lord is unmistakably at the center of what it means to be a saint, because it is what He did when He came down from Heaven, and it is His forgiveness and love that has opened the gates of salvation for the human race. He did this with such great love that we cannot possibly fathom it: He thought specifically of you when He suffered and died on the cross, paying the price for your salvation. It is with such love that He calls you to be a saint, which is what we are called to remember as we present ourselves for Holy Communion and adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.
The good news is that you, as a faithful Catholic, have likely made good progress already! Consider how much of the following you already do, and you will be encouraged to walk in the path of perfection:
- Pray frequently, if not constantly, with sincerity of heart and spirit. The Holy Rosary and Divine Office can be very helpful. Offer daily intentions along with your prayers.
- Eliminate all mortal sin, starting with any habitual sins. Ask for divine assistance and any human help you need.
- Every day prepare to not only avoid sin but to live virtuously and gracefully in the love of God, preparing specifically for all you plan to do that day and anticipating whom you are likely to meet and how you will treat them.
- Keep your eyes at all times on Christ. To receive strength and grace, hide yourself in His wounds.
- Discern carefully the will of God in your life. Be open to the graces sent to you by the Holy Spirit and respond immediately as you become aware of them. Be sure to respond to the extraordinary opportunities to serve God and make use of the precious gifts He is offering you. Keep your senses alert for God’s signs in the world and in your life. These are important for your discernment.
- Remember each day that you cannot succeed alone, nor were you meant to: you need supernatural help. Ask the angels and archangels to protect you, guide you and intercede for you. Ask Mary, Queen of Angels for her intercessions, as Jesus will always do as she asks.
- Remain close to the Word of God.
- Go to mass as often as circumstances permit (daily if possible). The more frequently you worthily consume the Eucharist, the more often you are renewed with the divine strength of Jesus.
- Remain in the grace of God and go to confession regularly.
- Find a good spiritual director and work regularly with that person.