Follow the path of Faustina on her journey to sain... Read more
Lessons in Sanctity
I'm always surprised to discover that I have something — anything — in common with a saint. I know they were as human as I am, that they reached sanctity simply because they let God bring them there, and that my baptism calls and empowers me to do the same. Still, sometimes I let myself think that the saints are a different breed of people who just find it easier than I do to be holy.
Saint Faustina, after all, saw and heard Jesus with her own eyes and ears. He actually told her which convent to join, what to write down in her Diary, and which priest to confess to. True, not every saint has visions, but the voice in my head tells me that even so, I didn't get that extra something that God infuses into people at their conception if he's decided they're going to be saints. I'm just an ordinary person.
Now and then, however, God reminds me that a saint is exactly what God intends me to be and exactly what he's given me the graces to become. Recently, I read this passage in St. Faustina's Diary in which she writes, "Jesus gave me the grace of knowing myself ... I see my principal fault; it is pride which takes the form of my closing up within myself and of a lack of simplicity in my relations with Mother Superior [Irene]" (274).
Wow, I thought, I do that all the time. Sometimes it seems so much easier to clam up than to expose the rawness of my heart. I had never imagined St. Faustina would have done the same thing; she was too holy for that.
But gradually it occurred to me that the temptation might actually have been worse for Faustina than for me. If I resist being vulnerable enough to tell people about thoughts and feelings I'm afraid they'll misunderstand, how much more afraid St. Faustina must have been of talking about her visions and conversations with the Lord. My secrets are ordinary secrets. They feel unique to me, but in reality most of my fellow human beings go through the similar things I go through. How much more difficult it would be for me to be candid with a priest if, instead of reciting my list of run-of-the-mill sins, I had to confess that Jesus had appeared and spoken to me in my room the night before.
Faustina goes on to admit, "I sometimes talk too much. A thing could be settled in one or two words, and ... I take too much time about it" (Diary, 274).
Wow again. I might dole out the silent treatment sometimes, but more than once I've wondered if I might have become a teacher and a writer so that I can hear my own voice a lot. And in prayer, meditation is where I most often stumble. I could talk to God all day long; listening is a different story. Faustina listened attentively to God, but still he let her know that he wanted her to cut out unnecessary conversations and "use that time to say some short indulgenced prayers for the souls in purgatory" (Diary, 274).
At this point I was stopped a little short. Saint Faustina was the one who had heard the words, but I had to admit I didn't have a reason not to listen. The same flaws might call for the same solutions. I have lots of conversations every day that I don't really need to have. I just fall into them because I'm curious about things that are none of my business or because I'm avoiding the work waiting for me on my desk.
According to the Diary, better things could be done with that time. The prayer of St. Gertrude the Great carries a promise that souls will be released from purgatory every time it is said, and I have it memorized. When I'm tempted to seek out someone to complain to or gossip with, I could say that prayer a few times instead, and I wouldn't need to have a mystical experience first.
I admit right now that I'm out of excuses. If I share St. Faustina's weaknesses, I can probably benefit from some of her practices. That's what it means to imitate a saint. God would never call us to anything impossible, and he calls us to nothing short of perfection. As Catholics, we certainly don't lack teachers.
At the end of the entry, St. Faustina writes, "I will act as if the rule were written just for me; it should not affect me at all how anyone else might act, as long as I myself act as God wishes" (274). I can imitate her in this, too. I can act as if Scripture were written just for me and as if the Catechism and the Diary were written just for me. I've been promised that "I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me" (Phil 4:13). There's no room for excuses.