I want to be a Saint. I want to be a Saint in the worst way. As long as my memory will allow, I have yearned for it. I have prayed for it and I have tried every conceivable way to earn it.
By the time I was twenty or so, I had read the lives of many Saints and I tried to fashion my doings accord to saint this or saint that. I tried to don the robe of St. Francis and sit quietly and wait for the birds come rest on my shoulder. But they seemed afraid of me and I of them. I read about the sweetness of St. Catherine and tried to make my soul as lovely as her countenance. But sweetness eluded me as I was too irascible. I read about St. Thomas Aquinas and thought that it was through mental prowess that I would become like him and I could think myself in to sainthood. I must have not been smart enough to be holy. Purging the flesh and denying all things was the path for St. Augustine and me to travel. But I was too weak to deny myself of anything. I saw priests, pastors, deacons and monastics as visions of who I should be and I tried to become like them - holy and of the cloth. But no amount of cloth, confession or absolution seemed to work. I heard of the beatific vision and squinted hard to see it as did certain saints of old. But my heart was blind. There was Dominic, and John, and Matthew, Mother Angelica and the Pope. There were the ranks of angels who had somehow made it. I saw that there were lowly everyday folk who had become better human beings than I was. They at least were serving soup. Then there were those in far way-lands who were sent to preach or set up missions or hospitals for the Haitians - peace makers all. But I did not seem to know peace. Maybe I needed hours of meditation and contemplation as did Thomas Merton in his beautiful books. I could be another Thomas. But I doubted. Ah, then there was theology. That would do it! I immersed my self the in the explanations of God, studying Him as a scholar would. They sounded so holy because they could explain how it all worked. But I suppose scholarship of God was not my gift.
It seems I have been searching since the beginning of time, always pining for the saintly life. My soul has run here and there in search of God whom everyone except me seemed to possess, but I always and inevitably came up short of the perfection that I thought my models enjoyed. I exhausted almost every conceivable means to holiness. Why, O God could I not make it work? What was it in my nature that wanted it so very badly but made it not.
There is a lovely children’s hymn, “I Sing the Song of the Saints of God” where the composer verses; “They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still, the world is bright with the joyous saints who love to do Jesus’ will. You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea, for the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.”
Maybe there is more wisdom in that little hymn than in all the searching above. Perhaps sainthood is simply in finding me - being me - doing what I can and focusing on my way rather than other’s ways. In the end it isn’t about how St. Augustine found God it is about me allowing God to find me. It about me being me. Simply.
Be, still, Thomas.