d’ve lived a pretty sinful life and reverted back to the faith. Since
then I have been striving to become a saint, but I’m starting to get the impression I’m wasting my time.
I’m a member of a Latin Mass Community, and our priest preaches on sin and Hell quite frequently. Unfortunately, I’m getting the impression that, having been such a horrible sinner, I’m wasting my time with aiming for sainthood because I’ve have so many disorders in my soul, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, that my aim should be to die in the state of grace rather than to aim for avoiding Purgatory and perfection.
I’ve tried bringing up my concerns with our priest, but I’m left with more discouragement. When I point out the numerous saints who lived exceptionally sinful lives, or the writings of St. John on the Cross, I’m told that such is the exception, not the norm, and requires extraordinary grace from God, and that most people can’t expect to reach perfection in this life
I don’t understand. I just want to be a saint, but maybe I’m being too presumptuous and aiming for something I shouldn’t be.
I feel like I’m wasting my time and making a fool out of myself for even talking about wanting to become a saint.
What do you think?
When I get this question I am sometimes reminded of a phrase used by the famous pitcher Orel Hirshiser in George Will’s great book Men At Work. He explains that he approaches pitching with the idea that the past is past, but the future is perfect. At the beginning of the game, he is pitching a perfect game. If someone get’s a hit, that’s in the past and now he is pitching a 1 hitter, etc.
Oscar Wilde is often quoted as having said, “every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”
St. Mary of Egypt is one of the more popular saints in the Orthodox Churches. She’s one of ours, too, though she’s not as popular in the West, unfortunately. St. Mary, at the age of twelve, ran away from her family to Alexandria, where she began to live a life of great dissolution. She became a prostitute, but it is said that she often refused money for her sexual acts because she enjoyed her sin so thoroughly. After nearly twenty years of this life, she accompanied a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but not out of any pious motive. No, she went in the hopes of drumming up some business for herself among the pilgrims, hoping in her heart to entice some of holiest and most devout pilgrims away from their piety and into her sinful way of life. When the pilgrimage got to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the pilgrims entered, she found herself blocked from entry by an unseen force. Her depravity and impurity made it impossible for her to enter. Her eyes fell upon an icon of the Blessed Virgin, and she began to weep profusely, recognizing how greatly she had sinned and how foolishly she had wasted most of her life. When she asked for forgiveness, the Blessed Virgin nodded, and she was then able to enter the church, where she venerated the True Cross which was then kept there. She returned to give thanks to the icon and the Blessed Virgin told her to cross the Jordan, and “there you will find glorious rest.” She went across the Jordan to a monastery, confessed her sins, received absolution and Holy Communion – her first non-sacrilegious Holy Communion since childhood. She spent the remainder of her life as a hermit in the desert. She received Holy Communion one additional time, many years later, from the hands of a priest, St. Zosima, travelling through the desert. When he returned to her a year later, he found her dead, with an inscription in the sand near her head saying, “bury the body of Mary, the sinner.”
Many other saints were once great sinners: St. Augustine, of course is probably the most well-known, but there are literally hundreds of other. St. Hubert was a wealthy man with a cavalier attitude towards religion until his conversion, as was St. Francis Borgia, St. Thomas a Becket, and others. Bl. Bartolo Longo was a Satanic priest!
Also, remember that there is no sin that we little mortals can commit that is so bad that God can’t and won’t forgive it, provided that we are truly penitent. Angels rejoice at our conversions, every single one of our conversions! We stand in awe of angels, who are so vastly above us in the order of created beings. But I think they must stand in awe of us, who have to contend with the world, the flesh and the devil, and whose humanity now sits at God’s right in the Person of the Incarnate Word.
Don’t give up hope. Don’t strive for mediocrity. Striving for mediocrity is a subtle way of telling God that you don’t believe in His gifts of grace or in his plan for you. Whatever your past may have been, you were created for holiness. You were made by God to become a saint. Don’t let the naysayers get you down. Strive for the holiness to which you were called at the moment of your baptism. It takes effort. It’s not easy.
Holiness is, sadly, the exception, but strive to be exceptional.
And GO TO CONFESSION!