© 2010 Vincentians Ireland
Provincial Office, St Pauls
“Lord, make me a saint, but not yet”
Saints are too good. They are pious and faithful, even-tempered, generous in spirit, always doing good deeds and acts of service and willing to lay down their lives for their faith. How can an ordinary person hope to match up? Surely in order to be a saint, a person would have to drop out of ordinary life and either join an enclosed order living in a remote area so as to devote one's life to prayer or go on mission to an equally remote area and risk martyrdom. Not that there is anything wrong with either of these routes.
The Catholic Church has always provided models of holiness. Many of these seem very different almost as stand alone examples; its one way or the other; the ascetic, the martyr, the servant, the contemplative... Yet very often, we find that saints are not one or the other, they are a combination of these types. Vincent de Paul was a man of action and also a man of deep prayer – servant and contemplative. Fr. Francis Regis Clet CM. who gave his life for the mission in China was a servant and a martyr. The very nature of the Congregation calls its members to be servants and contemplatives – action leading to prayer and prayer leading to action.
Saints are for us, concrete examples of these models of holiness. They are not mere theories or a set of rules on how to be a good Catholic. They have trod the same paths we are treading, struggled with the same difficulties, battled with their own demons and their own human failings just as we must do.
To quote “Learning to Pray – Lessons from the Masters edited by Peter Lemass: “In the devil's dictionary a saint is described as a 'dead sinner revised and edited'. It is a somewhat cynical definition, as if the canonical process of canonisation was a sort of dry cleaning, removing all stains and blemishes from the fabric of their temperaments and behaviour...But the revision and editing have been done by themselves in their lifetime. Rather I should say that it has been done by themselves for the glory of God the Father through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the working of the Holy Spirit. Vincent de Paul is a sinner revised and edited. Revision and editing there was need of...” It is important to remember that although saints are often presented to us at the end of their lives when, through trials, they have been polished and are living in deep union with God, it is infact the struggles that they endured throughout their lives that can remind us of their humanity. It is the lumps and bumps that make them seem approachable and maybe even achievable.
Infact, Fr. Robert Maloney CM. proposed a fifth model of sainthood – the couple. This is probably a model more easily connected with, after all haven't we all met a couple along our journey?
“I choose the name 'the couple' because married persons, we believe, enter into a covenant to work out their holiness together. They are to love one another as Christ loved the Church, with a love that is sacrificial, forgiving, service-oriented and faithful unto death.
“Actually, over the centuries, there have been many husband and wife saints. They have come from all strata of society. At the head of the list stand Mary and Joseph, who came from the surroundings of a wood-workers shop. Priscilla and Aquila, both regarded as saints, earned their living as tent-makers. Justinian (482-565) and Theodora, saints in the Orthodox tradition, were emperor and empress. St. Stephen and Blessed Gisela (11th century) were the first king and queen of Hungary. Isiodre of Madrid and María de la Cabeza (12th century) were farmers.
“Of course, I recognise that, ironically, some spouses become saints in spite of their husband or wife, or precisely because of the difficulties created by their partner, but that is by no means the Christian ideal. The ideal is that they walk the Christian journey together.”
Faces of Holiness by Fr. Robert P Maloney CM.