Friday, August 26, 2016

Daily Opportunities for Sainthood

Dear Theophilous,

We’re all called to be saints, and considering the alternative, who wouldn’t want to be one? That said, the goal of sainthood can seem a daunting one (as it truly is). Unfortunately when most of us look at the examples that have gone before us, we give up before even trying.

The good news is that God calls each of us to sainthood in our own unique way. Yes, some saints are called to be exemplary witnesses to the faith, but the vast majority of us are called to be a witness to sainthood in our daily lives. Thanks be to God that we can be saints in our daily life – I’m not sure if I’m cut out for the trials others have had to go through.

Opportunities for a saintly life abound all around us. We just need to be reminded sometimes of where to look for it.


The first step on the path to sainthood is to deepen your relationship with God. Just like our earthly relationships, our relationship with God is fed with good communication. The same as any friendship, it’s not enough to just bring our worries, needs and desires to Him; we need to listen to what God is saying to us as well. We have all had a relationship where one person constantly takes, while the other does nothing but give.  Experience tells us that this kind of relationship can’t last. Thankfully our God is not like this, and it’s usually us who turns our back on Him and not vice-versa.

Some saints would spend hours daily in Eucharistic adoration; most of us don’t have the luxury of this kind of time. Our daily vocations put demands on our time, but this doesn’t mean we can’t set aside time for God (we do it for our spouse, kids, friends and work – so why not for God?). Increasing our time and prayer and being aware of His answers, we cannot want but to spend more time with Him and marvel at the way He works in the world.

Penitential Suffering

At one point or another in their short lives, Catholic children have heard the expression: Offer it up! It’s the Catholic parent’s standard reply any time a child begins to whine. But there’s something to be said about penitential suffering, and bearing our daily challenges with grace.

In our fallen human state, we can’t choose not to suffer, but we can choose how we deal with our sufferings. And honestly, our daily sufferings do add up. From the aforementioned whiny child, to the annoying co-worker, to the neighbour’s barking dog, to the stone in our shoe, to the… to the… to the… There’s no escaping it.

When we let these little challenges get to us, they become insurmountable and we become miserable. When we accept these obstacles with grace, persevering quietly in our suffering, we become a witness to the peace that Christ brings us.

How does our suffering become penitential? Offer it up! Offer your suffering for the greater good. Offer your suffering as a prayer for someone who needs it, for the souls in purgatory, for the conversion of sinners. At the very least, offer your suffering up for the atonement of your own sinfulness.

At the end of the day, misery loves company; yet peace is contagious - just imagine the difference you can make in the world by suffering through your next headache with grace.


Sainthood is all about getting ourselves and others to heaven. In the great commissioning, Christ exhorted us to “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15) If we are to be Christ’s disciples, we are challenged to bring others to Him.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that we all need to get up on our soapbox on the street corner (though some are called to do this), we can evangelize in many different ways in our daily lives. Being a witness with your life can be the greatest evangelization tool of all. It suffices to ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • How do I interact with others around me?
  • How do I treat the unfortunate that come into my life?
  • Do I teach my children to pray?
  • Do I have the courage to pray in public?
  • Do I answer the questions/challenges put to my faith?
  • How do I dress?
  • What TV shows do I watch with family/friends?
  • What comes out of my mouth when I’m frustrated?
  • What music plays on my car radio?
  • What websites do I surf when no one is at home?

This kind of examination of conscience can go on much longer. The point is to become more aware of aligning our lives to Christ.

Sainthood won’t be easy. Jesus even told us that to get to heaven we will need to pick up our Cross. (cf Mt 16:24) We may never be officially recognized as a saint, but by seizing our daily opportunities for sanctity, we can become every day saints.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Answering the Call to Sainthood

Dear Theophilous,

If you’re not shooting for sainthood, you’re aiming too low!

It’s the truth! A saint is someone who, after this earthly existence, is spending eternity in heaven. And seriously, if your goal in this life isn’t to get to heaven, my understanding is that the other destination is a lot less pleasant.

Unfortunately, many of us, even the most devout of Christians, don’t see ourselves as saints. Perhaps it’s in our fallen nature to dwell on our own sinfulness. Maybe when we compare ourselves to the saints that have gone before us, we feel we just can’t measure up. There’s a certain discomfort we feel when we’re put on a pedestal, just like the statues in the church vestibule. Personally, I know I will be found lacking when held to such a high standard.

Still, the God who knows us, the God who loves us, calls us to Himself; He calls us all to be saints.

Sainthood is for everyone

In its wisdom, the Catholic Church understands that, although we are sinners, we are all called to be saints; we are all called to holiness. This call began with the creation of Adam and Eve, and their task to tend and guard the garden (cf Gen 2:15). God’s invitation to holiness was extended once more through Jesus Christ when he called the disciples to himself (cf Mt 4:18-22). Once again, in our own time, the Church has made the universal call to holiness:

Therefore in the Church, everyone whether belonging to the hierarchy, or being cared for by it, is called to holiness, according to the saying of the Apostle: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification". (Thess 4:3) (LumenGentium 39)

Yet many of us balk at the contemporary call to sainthood. We look to the saints that came before us, fear we won’t make the cut, so we quit before we even try. The truth of sainthood is startling though. If we look at a history of saints, we soon realize that most of them were not holy from birth; that they required a conversion of heart. The Church itself was founded on sinners:

St. Peter denied Christ;
St. Mary Magdalene was a prostitute; and
St. Paul murdered some of the first Christians.

The list is endless. A great read to know you’re not alone in your sinful start to sainthood is Thomas Craughwell’s Saints Behaving Badly.

Why does God use sinners to become saints? He wants us to take solace in knowing that nothing is impossible with God – even with ourselves.

Sainthood starts now

As the saying goes, There’s no time like the present to get started on your way to holiness. Most of us won’t have a conversion experience like St. Paul, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a conversion of heart. We are all called by name, the question is: will we answer the call.

We might not always recognize them, but these calls are ever-present in our lives. They are not always big and brazen, the Lord rarely works like that, but they are usually a small nudge to get us going back in the right direction. It could be a near miss on the highway, a miscommunication that blows up at work, or a lifestyle choice that leads us to harm. I once heard these small nudges referred to as a Purgatorial Pinch. Once we recognize them, we can use these moments to re-boot our path to sainthood.

Whenever she wants to try to bring me down a notch, my own mother often reminds me of my misspent youth with a quip I know where you come from and I know what you’ve done. My pat answer to this remark is a steadfast: In the journey towards heaven, it’s not where we come from that counts, but where we’re going. I know exactly what my sins are; so does the Lord. I confess and I reconcile with Him, confident He will show me the way.

It’s in recognizing our faults that we become repentant and re-orient ourselves towards God. As any sinner will tell you, the road to sainthood is long and arduous. From time to time we may slip or lose our way. What matters is getting back on the right path so we can arrive at our destination.

It’s never too late to get on the road to sainthood (cf Mt 20:1-16), but NOW is always the best time to get started.

Sainthood is a community

Teaching catechesis in both French and English, as well has having a command of both Portuguese and German to varying degrees, I love to play with language. I’m constantly looking for the ways in which God uses language to bring us closer to him. Something I enjoy pointing out to my students is the compound make-up of the word community from the French “comme” and “un”; meaning “as one”. So when we profess in the Creed that we believe in the communion of saints, we are professing our belief in our oneness with those who are in heaven.

Knowing that we are as one with the saints, both those in heaven as well as the ones still here on earth, gives us great courage. Life is difficult, and our path towards heaven is hard – we can’t do it alone. Thanks be to God that we have the communion of saints to see us through.

We all have our favourite saints for various reasons. Most of us find a personal call to devotion to one saint or the other; some popular, while others are more obscure. I have found that the internet is littered with devotions to the saints that have gone before us. There are Twitter Novenas or virtual candles at countless websites to bring us in closer communion with the saints. All designed to help bring us closer to God. Personally, I enjoy reading brief bios of the saints of the day; finding inspiration in their stories and strength from their words of wisdom.

We can’t forget about the saints here on earth, the saints who walk among us in our everyday lives. Yes, my generation has been blessed to be personal witness to the lives of St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. John Paul the Great, but we need to remember the communion of saints that we spend our days with.

Our family is our first encounter with the communion of saints. When we were married 20 years ago, my wife and I were charged with getting each other to heaven. Now that we are blessed with a son, it’s our responsibility to get him there to. We can’t stop there, however, and we need to recognize the holiness in the others around us – family, friends, colleagues, neighbours; no matter how hard that can be at times.

We live in a communion of saints. We need to rely on each other, but we also need to encourage each other on our path to sainthood.

Sainthood is infectious

Once we decide that our own sainthood is possible, no matter how tarnished our past, we will see it begin to rub off on others. When we decide that now is the time to make a change, others will like what they see and will follow suit. It’s living in this communion of saints that we will begin to see that the universal call to holiness is infectious.

Our little actions of sanctity can go a long way in helping create other saints around us. A simple please or thank-you; letting someone into your lane in rush hour; stopping to talk and listen to a neighbour going through a rough time – each of these will have a greater effect on the other than a sense of entitlement, blaring horn or cold shoulder. When we are saintly two things will happen, we will draw other saintly souls towards ourselves, and, more importantly, we will cause the conversion of the hearts in those we meet.

Following the news in the world today, it’s more than obvious that the world needs saints. Heed the call to holiness. Know that you can become a saint.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

To Tattoo or Not - A Catholic Question

Dear Theophilous,

During a recent family vacation at a waterpark my wife and I noticed that we were probably the only people between the ages of 16 and 60 in the whole complex without a tattoo. It was one of those moments (which seem to becoming more frequent) where we realized that we are the exception to the norm.

Growing up, tattoos were to be found on the arms of sailors and bikers. It was a sign that you lived on the edge of society. The guys in high school who were likely to have a tattoo were to be found smoking in the bathroom. You didn’t mess with a dude with a tattoo.

Today it’s very different… it seems that everyone and their mother has a tattoo.

Although due to a deathly fear of needles I would never personally get a tattoo, the ubiquitous display of ink at the waterpark had me pondering the Catholic teaching on tattoos.

My usual first stop in looking up Catholic teaching on anything, an on-line searchable catechism, provided nothing in the way of a formal teaching on tattoos. Further searches gave me opinions at both ends of the debate. Although the Catholic Church does not have an official teaching on tattoos, each side of the conversations has its own merits.

There are many people who would argue that body ink is a great way to evangelize. An argument supported by many of the tattoos on display at the waterpark. There were a plethora of Crosses to be seen, along with a few quotes from Scripture and a couple of Rosaries. All of these seem to be a great way to get God’s message out, a permanent expression of one’s faith; but the gift shop had a wide selection of t-shirts from Kerusso which both boldly and whimsically made the same kind of statements. I bought the shirt, so as to avoid the needle.

This being said, Catholic-Christian tattoos were in the vast minority of the needlework seen at the waterpark. The majority of tattoos fell into the acceptable realm of barbed armbands, sleeves and lower-back floral arrangements. Of course, for the parents in the crowd, there were the names of children scrolled across various body parts.

On the other side of the conversation (the side I’m more comfortable on), there is the argument that your body is a gift from God, made perfectly for you, and thus should not be disfigured. Even Pope Francis, who the relativist-modernists love to trot out in defence of their worldly actions has stated:

The acceptance of our bodies as God’s gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father… Learning to accept our body, to care for it and to respect its fullest meaning, is an essential element of any genuine human ecology. (Laudato Si, 155)

Again, not an outright condemnation of body art, but food for thought in the decision making process.

In a great little article on the subject of tattoos and the Catholic faith, Matt Fradd takes a more in-depth look at the question from a biblical perspective. He also gives some great advice to those considering body ink. His argument against tattoos is best summed up in his final line:

Would you put a bumper sticker on a Ferrari?

Those who saw me at the waterpark in my bathing suit know I no longer drive a Ferrari (don’t think I ever did), but I also would never consider putting a bumper sticker on my Volkswagen either.