When I was a little girl attending Catholic school, reading the lives of the saints was required reading. I actually enjoyed frequently leafing through those colorful little picture books and learning about these remarkable people. I was awestruck by their courage, their fierce loyalty to God, and their willingness to die for their faith. We all know about Joan of Arc and being burned at the stake. I remember asking myself at a young age if I would die for Christ. I can’t remember what my interior answer was but I’m sure the good nuns who taught me would have encouraged a “yes”.
The Catholic Church is fond of the saints, as they should be. We celebrate their lives during our liturgical year, remembering all they did during their lifetime to draw others to God. I like to think of them as our older brothers and sisters who have gone before us and are cheering us on and praying for us to live holy lives.
All this is an introduction to something profound that my husband said recently. He is a wise man, but since he’s my husband I take it for granted a lot of times. But one day I had to write down his words and meditate on them. We were getting ready to pray together and I asked him if it was a feast day of a saint. He responded saying that it was “Ordinary Time”, meaning there is not a special feast or celebration. Then he said, “We are made saints in ordinary time.” That statement caused me to stop dead in my tracks.
All my life I have admired the saints of old; the ones who were martyred, the ones who founded hospitals and religious orders, the ones who preached the Gospel in foreign lands, and who cared for the poor and dying. But what John said made me think about the saints of today, the ones who will never be officially recognized by the Church and canonized. It made me think about all of us who live ordinary lives in ordinary times.
Most of us will never become missionaries or be asked to give up all we have for the sake of Christ. Many of us are simply wives, mothers, husbands, fathers, teachers, nurses, salesman, or whatever other daily duties we have. Is there a minute possibility of sainthood in those places? Actually, it really isn’t where we work or what our education is that matters. What counts is what we do with what we have been given. What counts is how we treat our family members, our neighbors, our co-workers, how we speak to others, how we give of ourselves without calling attention to it and without complaint. I believe sainthood lies in all of that.
So how is it possible to do that, be that, live that kind of sacrificial life? It’s only possible through a relationship with the One who gave us the example of holy and selfless living, Christ Himself. He is the One who strengthens us, encourages us, gives us the graces we need to follow His way.
The saints of old are pretty amazing. But the saints of today have many of the same challenges that they faced. We may not have to shed blood but we have an opportunity during each ordinary day to make a difference in the lives of all around us.