As I was speaking and showing videos to my students about Pope St. John Paul II near his Oct. 22 feast day, one student sighed aloud, “I wish he was still alive!” I agreed, but, after a moment of thought, suddenly realized, and exclaimed, “But — he is alive!” Several students replied with an excited, “Oh, yeah!” “And you can be friends with him right now.”
There is something about the lives of the saints — and in particular of the saints of our times — that is very attractive to young children. My 9- and 10-year-old students also seemed to come alive in a new way when I taught them about young Blessed Carlo Acutis, who died at the age of 15 in 2006. They have been talking about him for weeks! They are drawn to the saints’ magnanimity — their greatness of heart. Seeing the example of the saints, the children recognize their own God-given desire to do great things for Him.
What is it that keeps us from choosing this greatness as the saints did? Why do we fall repeatedly into the same sins, settling for things as they are? How often we choose pusillanimity — small-heartedness — over the generous love that desires to give ever more of itself for God! We allow fear, especially fear of failure, to dictate our choices. What if I admit I am called to greatness but then I don’t actually “make it,” we erroneously think. What if I fall short of greatness? Perhaps we find it easier to assume, in false humility, that we are not capable of greatness.
But when God created you, He said the same thing He said after creating Adam and Eve: it was not just “good,” as He described everything else He created, but “very good.” God made you “very good”! He made you for greatness! He made you for nothing less than Himself!
The saints did not become holy because they were wonderful in themselves; they became holy because God made them great through His grace! The same grace of baptism they received, you have also received. The same forgiveness of personal sins in confession is offered to you as was offered to the saints. The same extraordinary grace of eating God Himself — Christ present for us Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity — in the Eucharist is available to you. You and I are being offered, at this very moment, every grace we need to become a great saint.
On Nov. 1, we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. It is the day that is meant to be the future feast day of all of us. Let us strive to respond to God’s abundant grace magnanimously, allowing Him to convert us and transform us into the great saint He desires us to be. Let us turn to the saints — present and united with us in praise of Him at Mass every day — and beg them through their example and intercession to show us how to be truly great.
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.