Last night I finished re-reading Jesuit Father James Martin’s Becoming Who You are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints. It was a fitting way to begin celebrating All Saints Day.
Father James Martin is a prolific writer with several high profile books who is also an associate editor of America. But I think this little book is one of his best – short, to the point, and a delight to read. I encourage others to read it.
In the book, by stories from the lives of Jesus, saints, and even himself, Fr. Martin opens up for us the meaning of a quote from Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation:
For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is the problem of finding out who I am and discovering my true self.
Being a saint is not mimicking a saint, trying to be a St. Francis or Mother Teresa. Each of us is called to find, in the depths of our true selves, the saint God wants us to be – not someone else, but my own self.
When we don’t recognize this personal call to holiness, we can mistake our weaknesses and failings as signs that we can never be saints. But when we see God’s call to each of us and recognize that all the recognized saints had to face their own weaknesses and failings, we can begin to open ourselves to that call.
Saints are not just those who have lots of times for prayer. They are those who make of their lives a prayer – the mother who deals with a child with special needs, the worker who confronts a difficult situation at work with prudence, the poor who struggle each day so that their children may eat, the suffering who resiliently endure their pains. They are those who love God and their neighbors and so are perfected by God. If you want to read about some of them look at Robert Ellsberg’s All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time as well as Blessed Among All Women: Women Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Times.
And so, today, on All Saints Day, let’s remember our call to holiness, looking at the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us (Hebrews 12:1), even among our family and co-workers.
And let us remember these words of St. Francis de Sales, which Fr. Martin quotes:
When God the Creator made all things, commanded the plants to bring forth fruit according to its own kind. He has likewise commanded Christians, who arc the living plants of his Church, to bring forth the fruits of devotion… in accord with their characters, their stations and their callings…. Therefore, in whatever situations we happen to be, we can and we must aspire to the life of perfection.
Let us become the saints we are called to be.