About two years ago I started reading the ‘saint of the day’ on the Laudate app on my phone every morning. It only takes a few minutes, but it takes just enough time to drink a cup of coffee and wake up a bit before starting my morning prayers. This has become one of my favorite parts of the day. The lives of the saints—their courage, mortifications, faithfulness, and at times, their intensity, have a way of putting things into proper perspective, and their stories can allow us to see that our daily inconveniences and crosses pale in comparison to what some men and women have endured for love of God. As much as we each have valuable suffering to offer to God, we will probably not be sawn in half or strangled to death for our faith. Besides a more objective point of view, however, what can we learn from reading about the ‘saint of the day’ every morning’?
Each saint’s life is filled with wisdom, inspiration, and the mysterious workings of God’s grace, but as a whole, what does the communion of saints teach us in their lives and in their deaths. When you begin to read about a different saint every single day patterns begin to emerge and three things begin to stand out: 1. The riches, honors, and pleasures of this world are nothing compared to the life to come, 2. There are an infinite number of ways to live and to die for God, and 3. There is a hero inside each one of us, but we have to make the choice to let him or her out.
The first point that becomes very clear when reading the lives of the saints is that every canonized person, whether a martyr or not, has given up the world. The importance of this cannot be overstated: no one has ever become a saint by clinging to worldly ambitions, pleasures, or possessions. No one. Even if a saint died a relatively painless death, which is rare, he or she sacrificed this life, whether it was through bodily austerities, giving up riches or fame to be forgotten, spending their nights in prayer, or any other number of ways of renouncing the world: we cannot serve both God and mammon, and each saint’s life, from the earliest martyrs to the saints of the 20th century, is testimony to this fact.
Second, it is important to remember that no two saints are completely alike, and each shines forth as a unique and unrepeatable reflection of God. We have great intellects like Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, and then there are saints like St. Alfonso of Mallorca and St. Andre Bessette, who spent their entire lives serving God and their neighbor through the most menial of tasks, and never even receiving a high school education.
God has created each of us to be exactly who we are, only redeemed by His cross and purified of all sin by His grace. Never fear that following God will make you lose your identity—it will do exactly the opposite. When we seek God we come to know our true selves in ways that would have been impossible if left to our own devices. Sin has a way of disfiguring our true personality, and God’s grace of giving it the freedom to express itself as it was always meant to be.
Lastly, the lives of the saints offer us a very clear portrayal of the potential contained in each human person. They were called by God, by just like each of us, they could have said either “yes” or “no.” Just like the holy men and women we call saints, there is a hero inside of every one of us just waiting to be let out. It may take 40 or more years of concerted effort, a serious illness, and/or all manner of daily sufferings offered to God with love, but make no mistake: there is a hero inside of you who wants to be bold, and to do great things for God. Let us not fear this great calling—for God’s grace is always present when we seek to do his will. As St. Joan of Arc said: “I am not afraid. I was born to do this.”
In this New Year, let us turn to the saints, read about them each day, learn from their example, and pray to them to help us!