Photo: Felix Carroll
What is a saint?
I remember Dr. Robert Stackpole, STD, director of the John Paul II Institute of The Divine Mercy, telling me the story of a priest who asked this question of his congregation one Sunday morning. The priest told them that a saint is not necessarily someone famous or influential in worldly terms, but someone who practices virtue to a heroic degree. While he was speaking, however, a little girl was sitting in the pews, gazing at the saints in the stained-glass windows of the church. Suddenly, she jumped up on the pew and called out: "I know! A saint is someone who lets the light shine through!"
Perhaps there is no better description of a saint than someone so completely surrendered to God's truth, God's will and God's grace that he/she becomes utterly transparent to the "light" of His merciful love.
Saint Faustina wrote:
Today during meditation, God gave me inner light and understanding as to what sanctity is and of what it consists ... Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God ... My sanctity and perfection consists in the close union of my will with the will of God (Diary, 1107).
And on another occasion, she wrote:
My Jesus, penetrate me through and through so that I might be able to reflect You in my whole life. Divinize me so that my deeds may have supernatural value. Grant that I may have love, compassion and mercy for every soul without exception. O my Jesus, each of Your saints reflects one of Your virtues; I desire to reflect Your compassionate heart, full of mercy; I want to glorify it. Let Your mercy, O Jesus, be impressed upon my heart and soul like a seal, and this will be my badge in this and the future life. Glorifying Your mercy is the exclusive task of my life (Diary, 1242).
Saint Faustina teaches us not only the meaning of sanctity, but tells us the three most important dispositions that we must have if we are to attain it.
To begin with, we need to have a fervent desire to become saints, as the first desire of our hearts. Saint Faustina wrote:
My Jesus, You know that from my earliest years I have wanted to become a great saint; that is to say, I have wanted to love You with a love so great that there would be no soul who has hitherto loved You so. At first these desires of mine were kept secret, and only Jesus knew of them. But today I cannot contain them within my heart; I would like to cry out to the whole world, "Love God, because He is good and great is His mercy!" (Diary, 1372).
The second thing we need to have is great trust in Jesus, for His mercy is so much greater than our sins and miseries. "In spite of my wretchedness, I want to become a saint, and I trust that God's mercy can make a saint even out of such misery as I am" (Diary, 1333). Jesus told her, "The greatest sinners would achieve great sanctity, if only they would trust in My mercy" (Diary, 1784). And on another occasion, He said, "When a soul approaches Me with trust, I fill it with such an abundance of graces that it cannot contain them within itself, but radiates them to other souls" (Diary, 1074).
Finally, our journey toward sanctity is not something we have to do on our own. We are surrounded by "a great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1) who assist us by their prayers and heavenly friendship. "They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and Men, Christ Jesus ... So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped" (Lumen Gentium, 49).
Saint Faustina promised to come to our aid, writing, "I feel certain that my mission will not come to an end upon my death, but will begin. O doubting souls, I will draw aside for you the veils of heaven to convince you of God's goodness, so that you will no longer continue to wound with your distrust the sweetest Heart of Jesus. God is Love and Mercy" (Diary, 281).
As saints under construction, let us never waiver in our hope and desire of achieving great sanctity, picking ourselves up after we fall, and continually trying to run the good race.
Dr. Bryan Thatcher is the founder of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM). He is the co-host of the Cenacle of The Divine Mercy, Series II. The half-hour shows air weekly on EWTN on Mondays at 2:30 p.m. (EST) and Saturdays at 6:30 a.m. (EST).