On Oct. 12, the Church in Italy celebrated the feast of Blessed Carlo Acutis, who died in 2006 at the age of 15. Last month, on Sept. 5, was the feast of St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta, who died in 1997. Oct. 22 was the feast of Pope St. John Paul II, who died in 2005, and later this month, on Oct. 29, we will celebrate the feast of Blessed Chiara Luce Badano, who died on 1990 at the age of 18.
Lest we be tempted to think that sainthood is a thing of the distant past, possible only when Christian views and values prevailed in society, the Lord continues to raise up in our midst great saints, who witness to the possibility of living lives of heroic virtue in our own times.
It can be tempting for us to think that if circumstances in our lives changed, we could then be close to God. If only that person would stop acting annoyingly, if only this child would do what I said, if only I had not been cut off in traffic, then I would be so much more patient and kinder. If only my boss would be more reasonable or my coworkers more respecting of my boundaries, then I could be industrious and responsible and courteous. If only there were more time in the day, then I could find time for prayer. If only technology were not so prevalent in our world today, or if only restaurants did not serve such large portions, then I could practice temperance and moderation.
Part of the problem with these ideas is that they each imply that it is someone else’s fault that I am not holy.
You and I were made by God to be saints. What is a saint? What does it mean for someone to be holy? It literally means that that person is set apart for God. Saints are people who lived their lives for God by practicing virtue heroically.
While ultimately it is God’s grace that makes saints — their holiness is His work — we must respond to and cooperate with His grace in order to be holy. And so it is impossible for it to be someone else’s fault if I do not become a saint. The saints come in all circumstances and walks of life. I cannot wait for situations and people in my life to change in order for me to be able to practice virtue. I myself must choose holiness here and now by recognizing and responding to God’s grace made present to me sometimes precisely in those circumstances I would prefer to change. Daily fidelity to personal prayer and regular reception of the sacraments will help us to view those circumstances in a different light — as God sees them — as an opportunity for Him to work all things for the good in our lives.
What if, instead of seeing the disobedient child, the demanding boss, or the grouchy coworker as annoying interferences or hindrances, we sought to see them as St. (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta saw those she served — as Jesus in His “distressing disguise”? What if, instead of blaming technology for so many of our problems, we responded as Blessed Carlo Acutis did, by setting limits to our personal use (as a teenager in the early 2000s, Carlo only allowed himself one hour a week of video games!) and seeking to use technology for the glory of God? What if we were willing to give prayer the highest priority in our lives, similar to St. John Paul II, who in the midst of his busyness always stopped for visits to the Blessed Sacrament? What if we had the courage to say even in challenging times, the words of Blessed Chiara Luce as she was losing her hair from the treatment for the cancer that would kill her, “Jesus, if You want it, I want it, too”?
Think how different our lives would be if we were willing to choose virtue each moment as these saints of our modern day did. God is calling each of us to the heights of holiness in this day, at this moment! Let us not hesitate to follow Him!
Sr. Mary Martha Becnel is a member of the Ann Arbor-based Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.