The lives of the saints can be so inspiring to read! Take for instance St. Maria Faustina Kowalska—she lived in Poland from 1905-1938. She conversed with Jesus during visions, experienced profound solidarity with the Passion of our Lord and He directed her to have the image of Divine Mercy painted. But it was not because of the visions granted to her or even that she gave the world the Divine Mercy image that Maria Faustina has been declared a saint. Rather, it is because she demonstrated heroic virtue. In his homily during the canonization of St. Faustina, St. Pope John Paul II said:
“Sr. Faustina Kowalska wrote in her Diary: ‘I feel tremendous pain when I see the sufferings of my neighbors. All my neighbors’ sufferings reverberate in my own heart…I would like all their sorrows to fall upon me, in order to relieve my neighbor’ (Diary, p. 365). This is the degree of compassion to which love leads, when it takes the love of God as its measure!”
Along with being a mystic and contemplative, she lived a life of inspiring heroic charity to be sure!
Sometimes, though, the saints seem to be inaccessible because of their lofty spirituality and it can be easy to believe that somehow they have been given measures of grace not available to you or me. After all, I haven’t prayed “to become a sacrificial host for sinners” today, or yesterday for that matter, as St. Faustina did (Diary, 908). Yep, it’s easy to be inspired by the lives of the saints and just as easy to put their stories back on the bookshelves thinking how they are so different from us.
This view was challenged by a passage from St. Faustina’s diary that I read not too long ago where Jesus asked her to go speak with Mother Superior about letting her wear a hair shirt:
“At that, Mother answered, ‘I will not permit you to wear any hair shirt. Absolutely not! If the Lord Jesus were to give you the strength of a colossus, I would then permit those mortifications.’ I apologized for taking up Mother’s time and left the room. At that very moment I saw Jesus standing at the kitchen door, and I said to Him, ‘You commanded me to ask for these mortifications, but Mother Superior will not permit them.’ Jesus said, ‘I was here during your conversation with the Superior and know everything. I don’t demand mortification from you, but obedience.’” (Diary, 28, emphasis added)
Obedience. This one word uttered by our Lord to St. Faustina shatters any notion that the saints are somehow different than you and me. Though we might not be asked to make inquiries about a “hair shirt,” each of us is asked to follow Christ where He leads—to be obedient. To be a saint is to follow Christ wherever He leads and that is accomplished one obedient step at a time. So the next time we are tempted to compare our hum-drum lives with the saints, let us smile, be inspired, and then put one foot in front of the other to follow our Lord in obedience.
Have a blessed Divine Mercy Sunday!