For those of you who missed it the first go-around, here’s my latest column, as printed by The Forum Saturday, August 24, reprinted with permission.
Every last one of us is called to be a saint
By Roxane B. Salonen, The Forum
“You’re meant to be holy. We’re all called to be saints.”
Around that same time our parish watched the film, “The Song of Bernadette,” starring Jennifer Jones. For a few days afterward I tried hard to be holy like Bernadette, but after a few fights with my sister, realized the futility.
But the refrain continued to resound through the years, often in sermons at church. It was as if an angel were tapping me on the shoulder, “Hey, Roxane, about that saint thing, it still applies.”
“Yeah right,” said the voice from deep within me. That saint stuff was for other, better people.
But in time, I began reading the stories of these exemplary people who have been documented as having lived virtuously and been responsible for prompting post-death miracles.
A pattern began to emerge. Not only were these saints holy but they’d also been sinners.
In fact, some of the greatest saints led particularly raucous lives prior to turning onto a path of holiness.
A lively example comes in St. Augustine, who lived in the fourth century. For the first half of his life, he shirked his good upbringing and made poor choices, like stealing even when he had what he needed. In time, his sins increased, and lust became a resounding theme, he would later confess.
As I discovered these saints, the “I could never be good enough” theory faded, and I began to adjust to the idea that perhaps sainthood can be achieved by the ordinary among us.
I recently had the pleasure of hearing a Dominican religious sister, Sister Gabriella Yi, talk on, “Understanding Our Universal Call to Holiness.” A native of Seoul, Korea, who grew up in Philadelphia, Yi was the latest to remind me we should all be saint-wannabes.
Yi approached the topic from that of vocation. Unlike an avocation, or career, which is temporary and “something you do,” she said, a vocation implies a permanent relationship, “something you are.”
Each of us has a vocation prompted by God, she reminded.
“God created us because his love overflowed,” Yi said, adding that love and its companion, joy, beg to be shared. “The more they are shared, the more they expand.”
And holiness, she said, is really nothing more than “the perfection of love,” or charity. “All of us have a general vocation of holiness to seek this perfection.”
Yi concluded that at our deepest level, we are all sons and daughters of God before anything else.
So why don’t we all become saints? What stops us? “Because we won’t let God love us,” she said. “We think we need to be perfect first.”
That, of course, is where I went wrong all those years ago. Rather than seeing myself as a saint-in-the-making and as worthy of achieving holiness as St. Augustine, I deemed myself too flawed to be saint material.
But I’m coming around, and in recent years I’ve found myself wanting to leave a mark of holiness in this world.
So I’m trusting now that despite my sins and imperfections, God is watching, waiting, hoping that I – and you too – will seek sainthood and a life with him forever, starting right here, right now.