I Want to Be a Saint

In Catholic, Christianity on April 14, 2009 at 11:34 pm

Early in my journey toward the Church, St. Mary’s eight month RCIA program began (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).  Each Wednesday night, our group of 75+ adults met for instruction as a single group.  Then, with maybe 10-15 minutes remaining before dismissal, we divided into small groups for discussion and prayer.

On the first night of small group discussion, we were asked to introduce ourselves and explain why we were in RCIA.  A variety of reasons were offered, ranging from “just exploring possibilities,” to “feel drawn to the Church,” to “marrying a Catholic.”

One member of the group, however, offered an explanation that stopped most of us cold. He said simply, “I want to be a saint.”  

Be a saint?  What did that mean?  Weren’t we all “saints” in the protestant sense of the faithful; the redeemed?  The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible with which I was raised used the word quite liberally, with 96 occurrences of “saints” and another 5 for the singular form “saint.”  Imagine my surprise when I found only 3 occurrences of “saints”—all very much more specific—when I searched my Catholic New American Bible (NAB).

As audacious as the statement “I want to be a saint” seemed, however, the quality of this person’s life matched the simplicity and directness with which he said it.  Despite our talk of 96 occurrences versus 3, or questions about the formal canonization process, that seemed insignificant beside the the gentleness with which he spoke;  how well he listened; how he treated his children.

Obviously, three admirable attributes don’t make a saint.  But what accompanied his brief testimony was a more difficult to describe beauty of holiness—a life being lived, with as much effort and integrity as possible, pointed constantly toward God.  

“The Church is Holy . . . [and] Her holiness shines in the saints” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶ 867).  

“I want to be a saint.”  Christianity Richly.

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