Life holds one tragedy; not to have been a saint

Is it just my impression, or has this year seen an upsurge in the number of people seeking to tell the Pope who can, and cannot, be a saint? The list of those people object to is long: John Paul II (because he didn’t do enough about the sex abuse scandal), Pius XII (because he didn’t do enough about the Nazis), Mother Teresa of Calcutta (because she accepted money from sinners), Newman and various of the English martyrs (because it might upset someone), St Thomas More (because he pursued those who were trying to smuggle the Wycliffe bible into England).

And nearly all of the commentors miss the point – because they don’t understand what a saint is. They think that a saint is someone who has overcome their sinfulness and who always does the right thing.

Not in this lifetime, sunshine!

I found this great article that outlines what a saint is… republished from the National Catholic Register. It says, in part:

Saints are not freaks or exceptions. They are the standard operating model for human beings. In fact, in the biblical sense of the word, all believers are saints. “Sanctity” means holiness. All men, women and children, born or unborn, beautiful or ugly, straight or gay, are holy, for they bear the image of God.

Saints are not the opposite of sinners. There are no opposites of sinners in this world. There are only saved sinners and unsaved sinners. Thus holy does not mean “sinless” but “set-apart:” called out of the world to the destiny of eternal ecstasy with God. ..

We become saints not by thinking about it, and not (certainly) by writing about it, but simply by doing it. There comes a time when the “how?” question stops and we just do it. If the one we love were at our door knocking to come in, would we wonder how the door lock works, and how we could move our muscles to open it?

Francis of Assisi once told his monks that if they were in the midst of the Beatific Vision and a tramp knocked at their door asking for a cup of cold water, turning away from the heavenly vision to help the tramp would be the real heaven, and turning away from the tramp to keep the blissful vision would be turning from God’s face.

A saint is one who sees who the tramp is: Jesus.

I’ve given you the beginning and the end – for the middle, see here.

About joyfulpapist

JoyfulPapist is an adult convert to Catholicism, with a passion for her God, her faith, and her church.
This entry was posted in Living Catholic lives, Saints and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Life holds one tragedy; not to have been a saint

  1. kathleen says:

    A lovely easy-to-read book on this subject by Paul O’Sullivan O.P., “Easy way to become a Saint”, that I read a long time ago, filled me with enthusiasm. “Yup, anyone can do these things” I said to myself as I aimed to follow the advice all the way……….. to eh, sainthood 😕 ?

    Years later, and after much and constant backsliding 👿 I’m still working at it, and still a long long way from home.
    Well, you know what Our Blessed Lord said: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak”. Couldn’t be more true than in my case, but being determined not to give up is what counts I suppose 🙂


  2. toadspittle says:

    Nice, if life only held one tragedy.

    “If the one we love were at our door knocking to come in, would we wonder how the door lock works, and how we could move our muscles to open it?”

    Personally, Toad can’t imagine wondering that, even if it were someone he didn’t love at the door.

    Toad also thought saints were people of whom one could be reasonably certain that they gone directly to Heaven at death?


  3. joyfulpapist says:

    Toad, saints are those who have gone directly to Heaven at death, as you well know I suspect. My point is that the modern world has a strange view of the qualifications for going directly to Heaven without passing Go or collecting $200.


  4. manus2 says:


    A rare slip on your part, if I may say so. The normal destination for those who do not pass Go and do not collect $200 is of course Jail, which sounds a tad closer to Hell or at least Purgatory than Heaven. And let’s not get Toad started on Catholics and their Get Out of Jail Free cards. I suppose Catholics have to prefer the Community Chest cards to taking a Chance, don’t they?

    My childhood memories of Monopoly are tinged with the deliberate mis-readings we all enjoyed, most notably “From Stale of Sock you get £50.”


  5. joyfulpapist says:

    Manus, you’re right, of course, in your correction.

    I’d have to say the ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards have been in and out of vogue over the years – they’re making a comeback here and on other orthodox Catholic sites. And Saints certainly have, as one of their few universal attributes (there being an endless variety, as I’ve said before, about goodness, but a boring sameness about badness), the interior disposition that makes an indulgence effective.

    Mind you, I’ve always preferred Scrabble.


  6. toadspittle says:

    Oh, dear, (remember Rabit’?)

    Toad must disagree with Joyful, just a teeny bit.

    First, to ask her to enumerate the endless varieties of ‘goodness’ would, if she is right, take forever, so we must let that one go, although Toad can’t see much difference between one example of ‘goodness’ and another, but that is, of course, because he’s only a Toad.

    As to the boring sameness of badness, Toad can only agree, but he knows from boring experience that millions of people can’t get enough of enough of in ‘The Media’. So we give it to them.
    Deplorable, but there it is.

    (Nobody who has not had to select the particular photograph of a half-naked nymphet to be used on Page Three, or wherever, from a pile of 50 virtually identical ‘snaps’, has any conception of what ‘boredom’ really means.)


  7. joyfulpapist says:

    Toad, careless writing on my part, and you are right to call me on it. Instead of ‘goodness’, I should have said that good people tend to become more different and more individual as they become more saintly, whereas bad people tend to become more the same as they become more evil.

    Your homework is to compare Joan of Arc with St Therese of Lisieux, and St John Henry Newman with St Damian of Molokai.


  8. toadspittle says:

    Right, Toad will get straight onto it.

    Might take a little time, though.

    Which ones are the ‘goodies’ and which the ‘baddies’ above?

    Toad suspects comparing Joan of Arc with St Teresa of Lisieux will be a bit like comparing Rocky Marciano with Muhammed Ali – a matter of opinion?

    (Except Joan had The Big Sword From God to kill the Brits.)


  9. Brother Burrito says:

    Sounds like you are wriggling on the hook!


  10. toadspittle says:

    Well, Burrguru…

    Is probably right about the wriggling.

    But, apropos of the above, Toad’s idea of Hell, apart from Other People’s Children, would, coincidentally, be an infinite game of Monopoly. He also prefers Scrabble, but gets cross with people who take it seriously. Naturally.


  11. mmvc says:

    “The most insane thing in the whole world is not to want to be a saint. Sanity is to take every means to achieve sanctity and be pleasing to God. When we think of the infinite reward God will give us for that – it is sheer insanity to do the opposite!” (St Philip Neri)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. toadspittle says:

    “The most insane thing in the whole world is not to want to be a saint. Sanity is to take every means to achieve sanctity and be pleasing to God.

    Says Saint Philip. Easy enough for him to say! No doubt, Calvin, (Not the cartoon cat, though who knows?) Luther, Gandhi, and Osama Bin Laden -to name but a few – would heartily agree.

    There are divers routes to Heaven.

    Or are there? Is through water and the Holy Ghost the only way?


  13. manus2 says:

    Now Toad,

    You stretch the limits of tolerance too far. Calvin is the kid, Hobbes is the Tiger. A wonderful set of books to have around children – our set is now in tatters. No doubt Calvin would consider himself a saint, and Hobbes would, through a mixture of kindness and sudden cruelty, demonstrate otherwise.

    Alas in the real world adults are just as guilty of Calvin’s narcisism with nothing like the same excuses – Bin Laden for example. Shame he didn’t have a Hobbes to knock some sense into him when he was a child.

    Regarding routes to heaven, the first and most obvious one is via Hell. I take great comfort from the fact that according to Peter, Christ preached to the souls of the dead – a much contested statement, I understand. But as it occurs ‘outside of time’ it might be reasonable to hope that the visit is available to (at least) all those who do not hear the Gospel in their own lifetimes. I should imagine Christ is able to baptise those who respond to his words. The Holy Spirit is a given. Water? Well, if you want to get terribly literal, this is a Redeemer prepared to spit for a cure. Or allow water to flow from his side, for that matter. But the option remains to refuse the offer.

    I can’t imagine God will refuse the possibility of salvation to those who missed out due solely to the Church’s ineptness. You can imagine Christ looking at Peter, who is wincing from the feebleness of our efforts, and saying ‘Very well then, I’ll do it myself!’ No salvation outside of the Church and baptism, but no justice denied.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. toadspittle says:

    Magnificent reply, Manus.

    Toad, as you have gathered, knows next to nothing about Calvin.
    Should have gone for Hobbes, of whom he has a smattering of ignorance – poor, nasty and brutish though it may be.

    It is surely comforting, nonetheless for infidels, like Gandhi or Aristotle or Marcus Aurelius, to be reassured that, even when it’s over, it ain’t over.

    Not even after the fat lady atheist sings.


  15. manus2 says:

    Much obliged, sir. Death may be a fat lady, but I doubt she’s an atheist.


  16. joyfulpapist says:

    We’ve been discussing this by the riverbank, with Mr Badger – a new blogger from my own neck of the woods.


  17. Pingback: Out of the Mouths of Babes – RemnantDisciplesJtM

  18. Just letting you know i linked ypur article in to a story about my son’s bedtime inspiration, brought on by a discussion around the content. And i stand by what i said: our favourite shared site too!

    Liked by 1 person

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