Never has any other faith group in the history of humanity had as many role models as the Catholic Church. Granted, being a universal church means having a greater number of followers and with more followers comes more human errors. Still, the miracles surrounding the stories of the saints are fascinating. We have saints for everything from illnesses, financial situations, trades, and demographic groups just to name a few broad categories. The good far outweighs the bad, or we wouldn’t still have a Church today. Why is it then, that the entire world isn’t flocking to be like the saints?
That’s easy: it’s hard! Sainthood means removing yourself and putting on Christ. It means suffering in this world for the sake of the Kingdom (Romans 8:18). Sainthood isn’t about showing off how pious you are or how generous you are; it’s about doing the Will of the Father as a form of worship to Him. Saints don’t look for recognition. In fact, most were not canonized until decades or even centuries after their death. St. Joseph fled with his family to Egypt. St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, St. Therese lost her mother, and St. Paul was imprisoned.
It’s easy to look back on the saints of the early Church and see their heavenly devotion, especially the martyrs, but what does persecution look like today in a dismissive world? Certainly, there are still martyrs across the globe literally suffering and dying because they will not denounce Jesus Christ, our Lord. We must continue to pray for them! Here in first-world America, Christians are not persecuted the same physically, but we may be persecuted in other ways.
Judgement can be a subtle weapon to wedge us further from the courage we need to proclaim our faith. Sometimes it’s simply stating our beliefs and not backing down. Sometimes it’s turning down a breakfast date to go to Mass. Maybe it’s an argument that costs a relationship or even losing your job. No matter the type of suffering, how big or small, know that God sees it all and knows your heart. St. Therese would love Jesus in her ‘little way,’ teaching us the no small deed goes unnoticed.
If you fear rejection or repercussions of standing by your faith, take heart! God has a plan for each of us. Adversity is often a sign we’re on the right path because the enemy is constantly trying to stop us. Going against the grain (that is, when the grain is going against the Lord) is rewarded later (1 Peter 2:21). Sometimes it’s much later but know that God has plans to take care of those faithful to Him.
Honestly, if we all band together and support one another, we’re stronger (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Building the Kingdom isn’t only about helping souls get to heaven. We need to build the Church daily. You never know the impact you have on another person. We may never know until all is revealed. Still, we need to continue following His Will faithfully. It may take constant adjustment (it does for me!) but He is patient and His Love will never stop.
Here’s sampling of some saints to model after.
- St. Peter – He tried to escape his own crucifixion, then requested to be crucified upside down because he felt unworthy to die as Christ died.
- St. Augustine – He was pagan until his mother, St. Monica, continued praying until he converted. He is now a doctor of the Church.
- St. Ignatius of Loyola – He suffered depression once he converted because he felt a lack of worthiness. He even considered suicide at one point.
- St. Jane Francis de Chantal – She suffered ridicule and judgement daily in an uncomfortable living situation with her father after her husband died. She dealt with it all while smiling and continuing to be gracious.
- St. Elizabeth Ann Seton – She suffered depression after losing her husband and falling into financial ruin. When she converted, her family rejected her, but she remained faithful and founded a religious order.
- St. John Maria Vianney – Beloved priest though he was, in all his intelligence he fought to see his own worth but continued to do God’s work despite feeling useless.