My wife, Lisa does a great job of keeping the story of the Church present in our home throughout the year. We do lots of things with the liturgical calendar so that we aren’t just experiencing the Church season at Mass, but in the home as well.
A few weeks ago she saw this idea of painting saint dolls (see the picture above). Now, I thought this was just an okay idea. Before we left our home for FOCUS’ New Staff Training, we were packing up our house, moving things into storage, putting our house on the market and buying a new house, so I wasn’t uber-excited about taking additional time to paint saint dolls.
But, this is why I married my wife. Because she is a woman, she has a genius about her that realizes that when you put saints in the lives of our children, our children learn about the saints.
Eventually, we had 16 saint dolls. As my kids (ages 3 and 5) began to learn which one is which, they start asking about the story of each saint. Who is St. Anastasia, and what did she do? How did St. Paul die? Where did St. Benedict live? I ended up telling them about some of the martyrs – why they were killed and how they were killed.
We were just hanging out in the family room, and eventually Paul my 3-year-old son asked in the most normal unafraid voice, “So, Dad, when do they come to kill us?”
You see after hearing the stories, my son put himself in the story. If they killed them for the Catholic faith, surely they will kill us, too.
Later that night he was changing into his pajamas. When I came into his room, he had his play sword out from when he was St. George for Halloween this year, and I asked him what he was doing—he told me he was being beheaded.
The story of my son Paul and the story of the saints provided me a great reminder of what it takes to be a saint—suffering. As Christians, sometimes when we face difficulties, we can quickly become frustrated at the situation or even God Himself. Why did this happen? Why is this so hard? Why won’t this problem go away?
The thing is many of us want to be saints. And when we look at the lives of the saints, there’s always a struggle.
The path to sainthood never goes:
- They have a commitment to holiness.
- They have a vision to change the world.
- Everything goes great.
- They die happily.
It never goes this way. There are always obstacles. In fact, to prove this point, I sat down to try to figure out all the ways people have become saints throughout history. I came up with seven and each one revolves around some type of major obstacle.
The 7 Paths to Sainthood
1. Parents/family are against your vocation.
St. Thomas Aquinas decided to become a Dominican. He family responded by kidnapping him, locking him in a tower for two years and then eventually sending in a prostitute to his room. St. Francis and St. Clare also have great stories of how their parents were against their vocations as well.
2. Your superiors are against you.
St. Pio (also know as Padre Pio) had an amazing ability as a confessor and was given the stigmata by God. But, at times, he was prevented by the Pope from saying Mass in public or hearing confessions. St. Philip Neri also experience opposition from Church officials as he tried to reach out to the poor.
3. Your fellow brothers, sisters, priests or spouse are against you.
At the end of his life, the friars in St. Francis of Assisi tried to change everything that St. Francis had set up. St. Rita had a husband in the Italian mob and St. Theresa of Avila’s sisters hated her reforms.
4. If it isn’t your superiors or brothers, it is those who you lead.
During the life of St. Benedict, some monks begged him to be their superior. Despite St. Benedict’s warning that their lives would be difficult, the monks pleaded and Benedict accepted. When the monks didn’t like St. Benedict’s rule, they tried to poison him!
5. There is the common route of having a deadly illness, usually at a young age.
Bl. Pier-Giorgio Frassati died of polio, St. Damian of Moloki of leprosy, and St. Faustina and St. Therese of tuberculosis.
6. Of course, martyrdom is a common route.
St. Theresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), St. Joan of Arc, St. Maxamillian Kolbe, and St. Thomas More to name a few. St. Jean de BreBeuf encountered unbelievable torture to the point where American Indians cut off his thumb and finger so that he couldn’t celebrate Mass! He went back to Europe and is granted the ability to still say Mass. Then he decided to go back to America and died one of the greatest martyrdoms in the history of the Church. I dare you to read about it!
7. Then, there are those who go through unbelievable obstacles—both spiritual and physical.
Mother Theresa and her work with the poorest of the poor is a great example of this. St. Paul sums up many of the obstacles he faced in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28.
Perhaps there are more, but those are the seven I have found.
If we want to become saints, we have to be willing to suffer. St. Peter tells us “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). For the Christian, suffering isn’t unusual. It is there to increase our faith.
The Christian life can be full of joy. The joy we have in following Jesus. The joy we have in fellowship with others. But, the next time you are suffering, don’t be surprised “as though something strange were happening.” Instead, see it as your opportunity to become a saint.