Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Happy All Saints Day! Be Yourself

Halloween is actually a religious holiday—it’s the Eve of All Saints Day (All Hallows Eve). But the only person dressing up as Mother Teresa was the most precious little girl I saw last year at a Barnes and Noble’s costume contest. I think she won.
Whenever I think of saints, I automatically picture Mother Teresa or my patron saint, Therese of Lisieux, or Bernadette of Lourdes, or another really holy-looking nun. The barista at Hard Bean and Booksellers never comes to mind. And yet he has just as much of a shot at sainthood as does a Franciscan brother living in a monastery. Maybe more.
Because to be a saint—to be holy in the truest sense–means being the best you that you can be. And there’s only one person who can be that wonderful self. (You.)
Whenever I think I blew my call to holiness back when I opted to move in with Eric instead of unload my bags at a convent, I read what two semi-famous friends of mine wrote on sainthood. They both remind me that I need not wear a habit or even a turtleneck to become an instrument of God in this world.


Robert Ellsberg writes the following in the preface to his book, “The Saints’ Guide to Happiness“:

In the years after I became a Catholic people often asked if I planned to become a priest or a monk. But ultimately, that was not my path. Instead I got married and had three children and went to work as an editor of religious books. And it is in that context, in the frequent bliss and the occasional bedlam of family life, that I have carried on my conversations with the saints. Sometimes their lives seem far removed from the world I live in. There are times when I fall into bed and think enviously of how easy it must be to find God in the quiet and solitude of a monastic cell!
But then the principal lesson of the saints occurs to me: the fact that for all of us it is our present situation and the given circumstances of our lives that provide our own road to holiness. This is my monastery! And if there is a way to God in my present life, I must learn to find it in the midst of work, of driving children to school, of walking the dog, of washing the dishes, and of responding to a hundred other demands on my time and attention. One learns to realize, for one thing, that it isn’t necessary to flee to some special religious place to find occasions for the exercise of patience, humility, forgiveness, self-sacrifice, and generosity. A family can be an ideal place for this—better than a monastery in some respects. All this, even the writing of this book, is part of my way to God.


And Fr. James Martin writes this in the conclusion to his book, “My Life with the Saints“:

Believing that God wants us to be ourselves has been liberating for me. While I’m always called to grow, God asks only that I be myself, no matter what the situation. So when I’m listening to a friend tell me his problems, or hearing someone’s confession, or standing before a homeless man in the street, I don’t have to say, “What would Peter or Francis or Therese [not me—the holier one] or John XXIII do?” Certainly they are models of Christian action for me. But God has not placed them in this particular situation. God, in his mysterious wisdom, has placed me here, with my talents and skills, as well as my weaknesses and limitation. Therefore, a better question is, “What should I do?”
As Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “For Christ plays in ten thousand places/Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.” In other words, in your eyes and in your limbs.
Believing that all of us are called to be saints has profound implications for daily life. An acceptance of what the Second Vatican Council termed the “universal call of holiness” imbues even the most hidden moments of one’s life with a special grace.
The universal call to holiness in an invitation to be ourselves. It’s also an invitation to remember the sacramentality of everyday life and to realize the great goal that God has set for us: sanctity. It is what the saints came to realize, sometimes in an instant, sometimes over the course of many years, whether they were born in first-century Palestine, thirteenth-century France, or twentieth-century America. Whether they lived in a quiet cloistered monastery in Lisieux, in a lonely desert tent in Morocco, or in the grand papal palace in the Vatican. Whether they worked alongside the poorest of the poor in Calcutta, with the plague victims in Rome, or with the gentiles of Asia Minor. Whether they succumbed to illness early in life, were martyred in middle age, or died after a long life of perfect health.
The call to sanctity is an invitation to friendship with God. It is a call that transformed the lives of the saints into gifts to the One who loved them into being. The invitation to holiness is a lifelong call to draw closer to God, who wants nothing more than to encounter us as the people we are and the saints we are meant to be.

  • Larry Parker

    This is a lesson that is VERY hard for me to learn.
    I always feel like I am in a state of BECOMING — that I have never “become” who I really am, or at least meant to be. Logically, this actually makes perfect sense; we are always changing, we are always growing, we are always learning.
    But the sense of constantly being unsettled is, well, unsettling — particularly to someone with bipolar disorder who can’t even count (even with medication, therapy and self-care) on their moods being settled. I may be moving soon, and not entirely by choice, which doesn’t help right now … :-(
    If one puts any credence in the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, my personality type — introverted, intuitive, feeling, perceiving (INFP) — has been called the most monastic and the one where it is toughest to feel comfortable in one’s own skin because you are literally “called” (by G-d, or at least a Higher Power/the Universe if you are not religious) to so many different and seemingly contradictory things. This is of some comfort to me — but not much.
    BTW — Glad to hear Fr. Martin still call John XXIII a holy exemplar. He would be a rare one to venerate the Pope who launched Vatican II, at least in public.

  • Larry Parker

    I originally responded to the post from an All Saints’ Day perspective.
    As far as a Halloween perspective …

  • Ann Kern

    Thank you for posting such an insightful and uplifting piece. Although I am not a depressive, I have the tendency toward melancholy and perfectionism, both of which I work hard to overcome because they are very negative forces in my life. I have done a great deal of spiritual reading, including many lives of the Saints, and the best thing I have taken from those readings is that even the saints weren’t always “saintly” and had their own difficulties to overcome. They did what God asked of them in their own, best way given their circumstances. If I strive to do that also, I am well on my way to emulating the saints. By working hard to overcome unnecessary feelings of worry or anxiety about myself, my life, and my actions, and just doing my best and letting things unfold as they will, I have found that most often things do work out for the best. Trusting God — that he is in control and not us — is very difficult. But ultimately He does know better than we do and has our best interests at heart. Finally, I have a quote that I think of when my perfectionism rears its ugly head and I start feeling I am not good enough. I read it in a church newsletter years ago, and I don’t even know the source, but I find it very comforting. I think it is also appropriate on All Saints Day: “Holy is a word like whole, which means complete, filled out, with no missing pieces. Only God is whole, and therefore Holy. The rest of us are pieces which He slowly fits together.” Peace to you and thank you for a wonderful blog!

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