It’s been nearly seven months since Easter Vigil and my journey into the Catholic Church has been very amazing! Weekly mass, Penance, and the breadth of everything in Catholicism has enabled me to never find a dull moment in my faith. Moreover, the constant encounter with grace from the sacraments of the Eucharist, matrimony, and penance always opens my heart to unimaginable new encounters with God and mercy. What’s even more exciting is this is just the very beginning of my journey. Lord willing, there will be plenty more time to be filled by grace in the future If I continue to open myself and cooperate with it.
Since it’s almost All Saints’ Day, I thought it would be fitting to express my appreciation for the Church stressing the importance of becoming a saint or embracing the divine nature through divinization, theosis or deification (whichever you prefer depending on the rite). I’m constantly bombarded with the daily reminder of me needing to become a saint. This isn’t an easy task either!
My wife and I read the daily readings and notice the words spoken from the mouth of Jesus. Words that challenge the status quo of my comfortable daily life. Words that command me to carry a cross, be more merciful to my enemy, or just assist those I would never think of aiding because of superficial opinions. Truly, these commands are hard sayings.
The Son of God, who is consubstantial with the Father, demands a higher standard for my life, one that seems utterly impossible to achieve by my own power. However, as the angel stated to Mary, with God nothing is impossible (Lk. 1:37). Jesus commands us to be perfect (Matt. 5:48), but he didn’t give us a command without a means to achieve it. Thankfully, the sacraments, especially the Eucharist, aide in achieving the standard Jesus intends we obtain.
I do see a big emphasis at times on the perfected saints in heaven, which is a central part of the Communion of Saints. However, the Catholic Church doesn’t exist to showcase the perfect but is a place in the world to call sinners (Lk. 5:32). I sin therefore I need to be within the Church, not just with any random body of believers. Pretty much any Christian can do this. Specifically, I need to be in the church that makes one holy because she is holy by its creator. The church contains the real presence of Jesus’ Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in Holy Communion. The church maintains the apostolic foundation with the successor of Peter. Thankfully, the one community that can claim this title is the Catholic Church and therefore I am apart of it.
Since this holy day of obligation is quickly approaching, I’m looking forward to being refreshed on the importance of the upward call toward holiness. The Beatitudes have that special kind of soul-stirring power. I can remember attending service last All Saints’ Day leaving mass with a deeper desire to live sober-minded and alert. The homily was captivating and asking the intercession of the saints drew me closer, a soon to be Catholic at the time, to what God ultimately wants me to become.
Although, I jokingly tell my wife as I leave the door in the morning, “I’ll try to have a good day (being a 7th-grade teacher will have that attitude), my day doesn’t fill fulfilled if I don’t give and extend mercy to at least one student out of the many I encounter. Just one act of kindness or empowerment toward someone can go a long way I’ve learned from all my years of being an educator. Perhaps, God is planting seeds in unknown areas that will develop over time.
I’ve often wondered what is the ideal image of a “Christian teacher.” My fellow Christian teachers at school and I have discussed this question a few times, but we’ve come to a consensus that what defines a “Christian teacher” is their love. This is in line with what Jesus said that the world would know we’re his disciples by our love to one another (Jn. 13:35). If I could live out what it means to be a saint not just on Sundays, but daily at the place where I spend nearly the majority of my day then I’ll be living up the to concluding rite at mass: Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.
Difficult as it may be wrestling with the stressors of the day, every new day is an option for me to embrace the pathway to sainthood. I can enter through the narrow path, life, or chose the broad way, death.
I’m thankful for the grace the Catholic Church extends that leads to sainthood. What Protestantism lacks regarding the spiritual life, Catholicism makes up with an overflowing source of ways to become closer to God. I can: attend Eucharistic Adoration, pray the rosary, pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet, pray a Hail Mary, read the about saints, perform penance, go to Confession, follow the daily readings from scripture, read a classic work, pray St. Michael the Archangel Prayer, meditate on the Stations of the Cross, engage in meditation or contemplation, or just sit in a local church and be consumed by the silence of meeting God upon the cross. Clearly, I don’t practice all of these, but I find it fulfilling to know these things are at my disposal.
Peter Kreeft in his book Catholic Christianity states “The early Church won the world mainly through her saints. She can win it back only in the same way. This means you and I must become saints-not only for our sakes, but also for the sake of our society, that is, all those we love.” I like that we’re saints on a mission. To live out this completely radical supernatural grace infused life every day should be an essential way to convert the culture. Most importantly, walking in communion with God in a state of grace ensures we will see Him (Matt. 5:8).
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