Today we celebrate the feast of All Saints and recognize and honor all the holy men and women who have come before us. Our Church gives us a gift in acknowledging the great saints who have left us their examples of how to be a follower of Jesus Christ with heroic virtue. We are not left on our own to navigate what it means to be a good disciple. Studying the saints can always inspire us to live out our Christian Faith in new ways.
As difficult as it may seem at times, we too are all called to be saints. We are all called to live a life of heroic virtue in imitation of Jesus. There is a wonderful document, called Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution of Christ), that came out of the Second Vatican Council. It outlines what the Church is and her role in the world. The chapter, “The Call to Holiness,” is dedicated to our role as laity since you and I are members of the Church. This is a universal call that applies to each one of us, regardless of our state in life. In other words, the call to holiness is not just for priests and religious, or other seemingly pious people, but to each and every one of us.
The chapter goes on to explain that this universal call to holiness comes to us by virtue of our baptism. Through our baptism, we received sanctifying grace, became adopted sons and daughters of God, and partakers of the divine nature. Thus, we ought to recognize the sanctifying grace within us and the role we play in the divine life. We should work to perfect our lives in order to honor, with gratitude, these tremendous gifts given to us by God. We then draw on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which we received at our Confirmation, to help us to reach for the goal of living a holy life.
What does it mean to be holy? Paragraph #41 of Lumen Gentium gives us a pretty good definition:
The forms and tasks of life are many but holiness is one – that sanctity which is cultivated by all who act under God’s Spirit and, obeying the Father’s voice and adoring God the Father in spirit and in truth, follow Christ, poor, humble and cross-bearing, that they may deserve to be partakers of his glory.
To summarize, we are called to let the Holy Spirit act within us, listen to God’s voice, bear our crosses, and follow Jesus. If we do all these things as perfectly as we can, we are well on our way to becoming the saints we are meant to be. These instructions are very simple but, as we all know, they are not easy to follow and certainly are tough to perfect. The key is to follow the prescription in the context of your vocation and your state in life as best you can, rather than trying to achieve some perceived picture of holiness that is likely unachievable.
Essentially, examine your specific vocation and state in life and work within that context to be as Christ-like as you can. If you are married, do you bear the many crosses that come with marriage joyfully and without complaint? Are you quick to forgive your spouse and quick to sacrifice your own comfort in order to serve him or her? If you are a parent, how do you provide an example of heroic virtue for your children? In the workplace, you do not necessarily have to talk about Jesus all the time to reveal yourself as a follower of His. The way you conduct yourself can be exemplary and attractive. Being humble, helpful, and uplifting are examples of how you can bring virtue into the workplace. Another thing that saints have in common is to pray unceasingly, trusting God will use their vocations as a means of sanctification for them. As a spouse or parent, praying for your family is the single most powerful thing you can do for them. Also, praying for your co-workers is a way you can express the virtue of charity and the desire for good for those around you, particularly the ones who might drive you the craziest. That’s heroic virtue! Going back to the definition of holiness above, we see that holiness is not only about what we do or how we act, but also about listening to God’s voice and choosing to be open and obedient to His will for us in our lives. Within your vocation, whatever it is, spend time everyday asking God what it is He wants for you through your work. If difficulties or crosses arise, ask God to show you the lesson He wants you to learn from them and be open to hearing and receiving the truth of whatever that is. Perhaps God is asking you to be open to new aspects of your vocation that you’ve been resistant to thus far for whatever reason. There are stories of many great saints who defiantly resisted God’s will for their lives until they could finally resist no more. Your next step on your path of holiness could be relinquishing your dependence on yourself and giving God your “yes” with abandonment and trust.
Just a few weeks ago, the Church beatified Carlo Acutis, making him a “blessed,” just one step away from becoming a saint. Blessed Carlo was a boy who died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 15. Despite his parents not being particularly religious, he had a deep love of the Lord and it showed in everything he did. He built a website documenting Eucharistic miracles and prayed his rosary every day. He was also known to stand up for kids who were being picked on at school. Blessed Carlo is the perfect example to all of us of what it means to be holy. You see, he did not do anything particularly extraordinary. He simply lived his life within the context of his vocation and state in life, to be the light of Christ to others in everything he did. If we all do just that, we too can join the ranks of eternal sainthood!
Try exploring and learning about some saints unfamiliar to you. Examine how they displayed heroic virtue within the context of their vocations and worked toward a goal of holiness. You might be inspired to take a new step in your own life. I also highly recommend the book Introduction to the Devout Life, by St. Francis de Sales. It is known to be a particularly useful tool for us, the laity, as we live our vocations out in the world. By the grace of God, may we all celebrate today’s feast in heaven as saints ourselves someday!