God Calls Us to Different Paths to Perfection

One of the most comforting things about reading  about the lives of the saints is realizing just how different all these men and women were. Some lived their lives in cloisters and dedicated those lives to prayer. Others worked in the missionary fields or died as martyrs for the faith. Some were priests or religious sisters while others were married or single. Some lived their whole lives in holiness. Others were great sinners and had a profound moment of conversion. There is no one-size-fits-all path to sanctity. While the basics are the same — love God and neighbor, there are as many different ways of fulfilling those commandments as there are people in the world.

It is so easy as we go through life to look at others and think that their lives are much more “perfect” than our own. “Perfect” is not used here in secular terms, as in “She has the perfect house, car, husband, etc.” No, here, “perfect” refers to a much less tangible quality: the inner peace and holiness and spiritual wisdom that we seek. We look at others and think that they have found the “right” path. If we just imitate them then we, too, will be on the road to perfection.

Certainly, much can be learned from studying the lives of the saints. We could do far worse than to imitate some of their behaviors and attitudes. The same can be said for those we meet in our daily lives who inspire us. Yet, imitation will only get us so far. We can’t walk the same path as our favorite saint or our best friend because God gave us different gifts and different circumstances. Our task is to pray and discern where our gifts can best be put to use to help build the kingdom.

What is God asking of me today? How can I best show love? These are the simple questions with the not-so-simple answers that each of us must consider on a daily basis if only because the answers change as our lives change. What God is asking today is different from what God asked five years ago or what God will ask five years from now. All we can do is humbly offer our lives to God and attempt to do His will wherever we find ourselves today.

I find this thought very consoling. Lately, I have been feeling very inadequate, comparing my own life to others and seemingly coming up short. This isn’t hard to do when surrounded by amazing people. I’m blessed to have such wonderful people in my life and I struggle to keep up. It always seems like there is more that I could be doing. I know I am far from perfect and that I have far to go on my own road to sanctity, but I’m trying. In reflecting on this desire I have to be like others, I have come to realize that God is not calling me to be them. He is calling me to be the best me that I can be in the circumstances I find myself, no more and no less. I wasn’t called to serve in the Peace Corps, or to travel the country giving lectures, or to be the mother of ten children. At least for the moment, I have been called to serve my local parish community, write articles, be the best wife I can be to my husband and the best mother I can be to my two boys.

I was reminded of St. Therese’s image of the different  flowers in the garden. What good does it do for a daisy to want to be a rose or vice versa? We each have our own beauty to bring to the world. God calls each of us to our own path to perfection. It is our job to walk the path, one step and one day at a time.  

Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur


Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur writes from western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two sons. A Senior Editor with Catholic Lane.com, she blogs at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com

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  • elkabrikir

    In my homeschool group I’m working with a group of tweens (Middle schoolers).

    I’m free to teach anything. While pondering my topic, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, in the wee hours, “How have the most recent popes challenged young people?”

    Clearly they believe young people are an engine in the New Evangelization. “Be not afraid” challenged Pope John Paul II while assuring kids they were on a mission from God.

    Therefore, I started my first class by using as an ice breaker the question, “who is your favorite saint.” I had them retell the story of Samuel and had them focus on the line, “speak Lord for your servant is listening”. We prayed that line too before an activity where the kids wrote what they thought God was calling them to do either at this moment in time or in the future.

    Next they taped their statements on outlines of a male student and a female student. I explained that God created us as the Image of God: male and female. We are, through the Eucharist, the Body of Christ and do the work he calls us to do.

    Then I returned to the saints and explored the biographical information they gave me. For instance, St Anthony of Padua wanted to be a martyr but was called to the Franciscan order instead. St Therese the Little Flower wanted to be a missionary in the traditional sense but was called to pray for the missions in her cloister and from heaven. St Catherine of Siena loved her Tuscan hills but was called to be a hermit for a time.

    Repeatedly we must listen to the still, small voice whispering to us. The breath of the Holy Spirit is trying to kindle in us the fire of love and service to God’s unique call to each of us. Yes, we are all called to be saints through our vocation and we must listen to His promptings throughout our lives. For as Patrice correctly said “at least for the moment I was called…..”

    To live outside of God’s will for you is nothing more than pomp and pride.

    As Blessed Theresa of Calcutta said, “I am but a pencil in the hand of God.”

  • Cooky642

    Keep working, Patrice! You’re doing great!

    I wondered for half a lifetime what my “call” was. One day, in prayer, I “heard”, “What is your name?” How silly: of course God knows my name! But, I said it out loud, “Carol”. And, in reply, I heard, “And what did your mother tell you was the meaning, the reason she chose it?” “She always said it was French for ‘a little song of joy’.” DUH! I don’t need a building to fall on me–much!

    I still don’t do it well, or all the time, but I’m working on it.

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