by Teresa Luo
“The saints live not after the fashion of the world…The dignity of the saints is so great because
they are not of this world, but ‘of the household of God.” (St. Thomas Aquinas)
As we commemorate All Saints’ Day this year, we remember and honour the people who have gone ahead of us and assumed their places in heaven. This is the Church Triumphant, who has fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith (2 Timothy 4:7). The Church recognises anyone who is in heaven a saint; the very act of cleansing their souls and aligning their wills to God’s will confers them the title of “saint”.
The difference then, between a Saint (big ‘S’) and a saint (small ‘s’) is Canonisation. Saints (big ‘S’) are officially recognised in the Church only when they meet five necessary criteria, starting with the examination of their earthly lives and writings. These heroic Saints are examples of faithful disciples of Christ and His teachings. The Saints cannot run the race for us, but they have set the path so that we may see and believe in God’s goodness.
Spiritual Heroism – The Call to Sainthood
Growing up, I had always thought sainthood was reserved for only the the holy and chosen people of God who had given their lives to Christ. However, the day I found out that sainthood was possible for everyone, it became my personal goal in life to become one. What started out as a mere desire for the supposed fame and glory of being a saint became a humbling realisation of what it truly meant to be one. I realised that it meant dying to my will every single day, forgiving those who have wronged me seventy times seven times, mortifying my desires for instant gratification, choosing the humble way instead of the wealth and power that the world offers, letting go of the desire to control outcomes, and the list goes on. What a high call it was to follow.
Upon entering the working world after graduation, I aimed to be a good Catholic even in the midst of the corporate hustle by showing kindness to others around me. The ignorant child in me wanted to prove that I could be a saint even in the most secular of places.
How true the words of Jesus are when He says, “See, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16)”. I soon realised that being Christian meant the possibility of being outcasted and despised by others. This reality hit me hard and fast.
In the next few months, I was told by my colleagues and bosses that my kindness was affecting my results, that I needed to be more aggressive, that I was a failure, I was stupid, and that my peers were better than me. Being constantly told I was worthless started to weigh heavily on me. I resisted it at first, for being brought up Catholic, I knew the truth that I was a Child of God, and in that should my worth be placed. However, slowly and subconsciously, I turned into the person that the world wanted me to be: The money-driven, selfish person I promised never to become.
It was by God’s grace that someone very close to me posed me this question: “are you currently the person you strived to be when you first started work?” At once, I knew I had strayed from the call of sainthood, and had instead followed the voices of the world. I desired to return to Him.
The Glory of God is Man Fully Alive
Over time, with much prayer and reflection, I have since re-centred my life on Christ, and constantly remind myself every day of the truth of my existence. I now know that I want to glorify the Lord with my whole being, and to strive towards becoming the person God wants me to be, a saint. The call to sainthood is painful and tiring, but the Lord promises that (His) yoke is easy and (His) burden is light (Matthew 11:30). It is in letting go of the false gods in life that I can then bask in the eternal glory of the God of love and truth.
Everyone is called to be a saint, for it is who God has made us to be and who we should strive to be. It is only when we set our eyes on things above that we can experience true joy and liberation. Sainthood requires a necessary death to our own wills, and death to the false ideals of happiness in the world, for ironically, it is in death that there is new life in God. Being a saint is a conscious decision and requires a daily transformation of the soul.
Sainthood in the Little Things
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux is a perfect example of a great Saint who lived a simple life as a Discalced Carmelite nun, and a great example for us to follow. She was sickly, died at a young age of 24, and during her earthly life did not see much prestige or fame. St. Thérèse first entered the Carmelite monastery with the ambition of becoming a saint, but soon realised how little and insignificant she was. She believed that,
“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.” (Saint Terese of Lisieux)
This was the start of her “Little Way” that shaped her spirituality. We are shown through St. Thérèse that sainthood starts from the little things, like waking up 5 minutes earlier each morning to say a prayer, smiling at a colleague who usually makes life difficult for us or giving up our seat on the bus for another. Practicing love in the small seemingly insignificant things trains us to surrender our wills to God. For it is when we can be trusted in the little things that we can then be trusted in the big things (Luke 16:10).
Becoming a saint is a life-long journey of letting go of our worldly desires and letting God increase in our lives. It is the total surrender to Christ’s will. So do not settle with transient ideals, but aspire sainthood, for we were made to set this world ablaze! Look to the saints who have gone before us as the Triumphant Church is always interceding for the Earthly Church. I encourage you to get to know more about a Saint who is like you and a Saint who is not like you, to learn from these examples for your own journey.
With that, I leave you with the words of St Teresa of Calcutta:
“I am a little pencil in God’s hands. He does the thinking. He does the writing. He does everything and sometimes it is really hard because it is a broken pencil and He has to sharpen it a little more.”