COLUMN: Strive for nothing less than sainthood

Who is a saint?

I had an opportunity to ponder this question anew this week, on All Saints Day, which was Sunday.

On this question of ‘Who is a saint?’ I found several quotes I think shed some light on the matter.

Søren Kierkegaard, the 19th Century Danish philosopher, tells us: “God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” For those keeping score, that’s you and me.

Christian author Mark Hart tells us there’s a simple two-step process to sainthood: “Step 1. Write a list of reasons you just can’t become a saint. Step 2. Tear it up. God doesn’t believe in your list. He believes in you.”

Catholic video blogger Father Mike Schmitz tells us you don’t even need two steps — you just need one: “If you do this one thing you will become a saint. If you don’t do it, you never will. The one thing is this: Let Jesus interrupt your life.”

Perhaps the clearest answer to ‘Who is a saint?’ comes from Fr. John’s friend, St. Josemaría Escrivá, who tells us: “A saint is a sinner that keeps trying.”

I love that little collection of quotes because they all point to the true meaning of saints, and how we aspire to sainthood. Saints are all Christians who have fought the good fight during their earthly life, and risen in glory to be with Christ. As Pope Francis tells us — just one more quote — “To be saints is not a privilege for the few, but a vocation for everyone.”

Sainthood is our vocation. All of us. No matter how hard we’ve fallen on our face, or how short we’ve come up, sainthood is our calling. It is our Christian vocation.

On All Saints’ Day, we honor those who have gone before us in that vocation. They are commemorated as “The Great Multitude in White Robes” in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 7: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

These saints in white robes are the congregation of what we call the Church Triumphant. They have triumphed over death in Christ, and risen to eternal life with Christ.

I read that passage last Saturday while sitting beside the deathbed of Barbara, a woman I’d met and ministered to through nursing home ministry.

I read to her of the saints, who came out of the great tribulation, who washed their robes clean in the blood of the Lamb — “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

After I read her that passage, I wanted to say something profound. Something adequate to the occasion. But, all I could think to say was: “You’re almost there Barbara. You’re almost home.”

And that is what we strive for — it’s the vocation of our faith. We strive to attain the ranks of the Church Triumphant.

Barbara made that journey home to the Church Triumphant — to the ranks of the saints — on Sunday night, in the last minutes of All Saints Day. It is a journey on which I look forward to following her.

Let us pray:

Lord, let your light perpetual shine on your servant Barbara, and let us all strive to attain the ranks of the saints, that we may learn to serve you in life, that we may carry on our service to you in death. Amen.

Neal is a News & Eagle columnist and staff writer. He can be reached at and online at

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