Saints are the ultimate role models of holiness and goodness. Our Church invites us to emulate the saints and to follow their example of virtue and prayerfulness. Catholic parents once had the practice of selecting a saint’s name for their children so the children would have a patron saint to guide them on their faith journey. And in the past, we invited the confirmandi to select a saint’s name for their confirmation for the same reason, only this time the children were able to make the choice themselves.
At Ash Wednesday services in my school communities, I have been known to ask folks to put up their hands if they want to become a saint. It is a simple question but not many hands go up.
People are hesitant to strive for such a high goal. I’m not. I want to become a saint. Maybe a lower case s – saint, but a saint nonetheless. In his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exultate: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, Pope Francis encourages us all to strive to be holy:
This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures. Here is an example: a woman goes shopping, she meets a neighbour and they begin to speak, and the gossip starts. But she says in her heart: “No, I will not speak badly of anyone.” This is a step forward in holiness. Later, at home, one of her children wants to talk to her about his hopes and dreams, and even though she is tired, she sits down and listens with patience and love. That is another sacrifice that brings holiness. Later she experiences some anxiety, but recalling the love of the Virgin Mary, she takes her rosary and prays with faith. Yet another path of holiness. Later still, she goes out onto the street, encounters a poor person and stops to say a kind word to him. One more step (Gaudete et Exultate, 16).
Today, on this All Saints day, we acknowledge all of those who have been canonized officially by the Church and those we have known who lived good and holy lives. Today may be a good day to read Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation to renew our baptismal promises to be all we can be for God.
Pat Carter, CSJ is a disciple, a teacher and an advocate for the poor. She has been a Sister of St. Joseph for more than half of her life and loves to use words to inspire faith and laughter. She is a cantor at her parish of St. Jerome’s in Sault Ste. Marie.